Can you get enough protein on a plant-based diet?
One of the concerns I had when switching to a plant-based lifestyle was whether I would get enough protein and some other key nutrients. It did not take me long to discover that I indeed would be able to get enough protein eating plant-based.
It’s also important to note that regular doses of protein throughout the day are much better than loading them into a particular meal. On a plant-based diet, it’s fairly easy to spread out the protein throughout the day with nut butters, seeds, beans and other foods. And, of course, vegetables themselves do come with protein.
My running coach, David Roche, doesn’t dish out specific nutritional advice other than to eat whatever you want. He does ask his athletes to get 100 grams of protein daily.
For most days, I believe I am pretty close to that. But for an experiment, I wanted to see what a typical day would bring me in terms of protein. So I logged all my meals and snacks this day (except for water, which I sip on throughout the day). Let’s see how I did.
Breakfast: A healthy granola and fruit bowl
After my morning run, I generally start out my day with a bowl of fruit, granola, chia seeds mixed either a nut butter, plant-based milk or apple butter. It really hits the spot and delivers my body the carbs it needs for recovery. Below is what I paired with a half cup of coffee and a Vitamin B multivitamin.
½ cup of blueberries
2 tablespoons of cranberries
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
½ cup of Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax granola
1 cup of Oat Yeah Oatmilk
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Morning snack: Peanut butter with apple and toast
As someone who works out first thing in the morning, I typically front-load my calories during the day. And since this morning’s run burned a lot of calories, I was craving a larger-than-usual snack a few hours after breakfast.
This snack sometimes also serves as a breakfast. For this one, I toasted the bread, and put the apple and nut butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds to soften them up since both were in the refrigerator beforehand. A nice warm snack with a balance of carbs, protein and healthy fats. I also had an Orgain protein drink.
Ingredients: One apple One slice of B Free gluten-free bread, toasted
3 tablespoons of Kirkland almond butter
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Lunch: A little greens and a lot of flavor
Salads don’t have to be boring fields of just green leaves. Use kale, spinach or other leaves as a base and then add veggies, fruits, some beans for protein and whatever else looks good. This was simple to prepare and great to eat. I’ve recently become a big fan of pomegranate seeds – there are so many in a single pomegranate! I topped this salad off with cherry plum flavored kombucha from Remedy. I’ve tried a wide variety of kombuchas and this one tastes great and is sugar free.
1.5 cups of kale 1 Roma tomato
½ cup of garbanzo beans
2 organic rainbow carrots A half dozen corn tortilla chips
A sprinkle of pomegranate seeds
Hummus for dipping
Afternoon snack: Yogurt, berries and homemade bread
A positive development for me due to the work from home movement, created by the coronavirus, is that my snack game has dramatically improved. I used to have a granola bar or apple mid-afternoon to get me through the end of the workday. Now, I can visit the kitchen and put together something even tastier. Today’s mid-afternoon offering includes a piece of homemade gluten-free cranberry-walnut bread, vanilla cashew yogurt, blueberries and hemp seeds.
Ingredients: ½ cup of blueberries 5 ounce of Forager’s vanilla cashew yogurt 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds 1 piece of homemade cranberry-walnut bread
Dinner: Beyond Burger with rice, veggies and salsa
Processed food like the Beyond Burger isn’t a staple in our household but it does help the protein intake in a healthy way. I am a big fan of bowls so when we are having Beyond Burgers, I ground it up and mix it with rice (or potatoes), some veggies and top it off with salsa.
Of course, the Beyond Burger accounted for quite a bit of my protein on this day. I don’t have fake meat nightly for dinner. So on most other nights, I would be having some combination of rice, potatoes, vegetables, beans, tofu, a salad, or something else healthy and delicious.
Ingredients: Beyond Burger
1/2 cup of organic black beans from Fresh Thyme 1/4 cup of Nature’s Blend mixed rice
1 cup broccoli
A few Roma tomato slices cut up Tablespoon of Fresh Thyme medium salsa
Conclusion: 99 percent of the protein goal I almost made the 100 grams of protein goal, falling a single gram short. The 2,432 total calories are in range of the 2,000-calorie daily recommendation, once you figure in the 600 or calories I burned during my morning run. I’m not a calorie counter, but the food I consumed this day filled me up and kept me going without any sugar rushes or crashes. The overall sugar total appears to be high but most of that total is from natural sugars found in fruits.
If you are interested in other ideas, including some recipes from a couple of top ultra runners, check out this previous post.
This was a pretty typical day for my diet overall. I try to have either a nut butter of actual serving of nuts daily so other days would show cashews, almonds or a mixture at some point in my log. The Beyond Burger was also atypical but overall this was a pretty good representation of what I eat on a daily basis.
For harder workout days, I would normally fuel my runs with a Honey Stinger gluten free waffle, gel or some combination for harder workouts. Those days might also include a pre-run BCAA drink from Gnarly Nutrition and/or their recovery carbs and protein drink.
As the totals below indicate, yes, you can get enough protein on a plant-based diet. Just as importantly, you get the benefits of eating clean, being environmentally conscious and tasting amazing food throughout the day.
Totals for the day:
Trans fat: 0g