Eat a higher protein food with most meals.
Even if you’re fully plant based, protein is super important! Its a crucial component for muscle gain, weight loss and daily performance. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! However I would like to stress that being a plant based dieter, especially when you’re in maintenance mode – you don’t have to be protein aggressive. You can still meet your daily and weekly needs without eating animals foods.
While many plant foods are thought to be low in protein, the actual percentage of protein in most plant foods is actually quote balanced. When the majority of your diet comes from minimally processed, whole foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, the carbohydrate, protein and fat ratios are quite solid. However, you still need to ensure that you eat enough total calories each day, otherwise your diet can be deficient in both macro and micronutrient content.
The following list provides the percentages of calories from protein in select plant foods. Here’s how to classify optimal and low protein percentages.
A lower protein percentage would be <12%
An optimal protein percentage would be >20%
Note: Just because a food is less than 12% does not make it a “bad” food. It just means you may want to incorporate a higher protein food in the same meal.
Now that we have that out of the way, lets talk food.
Legumes are a great source of protein. Legumes can be bought, dried and prepared at home for minimal expense. Or, for the ultimate quick meal, buy them canned. The canned varieties can be added immediately to all sorts of recipes, including salads, burritos, soups and stir-fries.
Consuming legumes at most meals throughout the day at most meals is a good goal. Options include black beans, pinto beans, refried beans, kidney beans, lima beans, hummus, tofu, peas, edamame, lentils, bean burgers and soy burgers. Tofu can be grilled, baked, broiled, steamed, or crumbled and added to sauces.
Soy foods are great sources of protein and can provide excellent health benefits. However we generally don’t recommend more than two servings of soy per day, one serving is optimal. If you’re looking for a beverage to mix a protein powder with or to pour on your quinoa or oats, try nut milks such as almond, hemp and hazel nut milk. They are nutritious drinks with tonnes of flavour. Plus, the unsweetened original versions don’t have a lot of useless carbs from sweeteners.
It’s difficult to provide a protein grams per meal numerical goal when eating a plant-based diet, as it doesn’t allow for enough flexibility or digestion time. The standard 20-30g for women and 40-60g for men per meal per day would just be too difficult with the amount of bulk that a plant based diet consists of. Simply remember to emphasise those foods rich in protein in most, if not all, meals.