Plating More Plant-Based Protein

By Mary Beth Wallace

 

If you associate protein with chicken and steak, it may be time to rethink your protein sources. A varied plant-based diet can truly deliver on the protein front – without the cholesterol and fat that meat often provides. Plus, by upping your plant protein, you should notice a positive change in your health and your grocery bill!

What is protein?

Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is a core macronutrient, but unlike them, the body doesn’t store it – which means it’s important to take in protein throughout the day. Your body uses protein to repair tissue, build muscle, and make vital chemicals like enzymes and hormones, all while curbing your hunger.

Are you getting enough protein?

In our meat-centric country, consuming adequate amounts of protein is not a problem. Adult women need at least 46 grams of protein a day, and the average chicken breast alone contains over 30! Of course, how much protein you actually need depends on several factors, including your age, size, activity level and fitness goals, and whether or not you’re eating for two. Talk with your doctor to determine how much protein you should be consuming for your lifestyle.

For vegans and vegetarians, or those focusing on a more plant-based diet, getting enough protein requires a little creativity and knowledge of wholesome, meatless protein sources. Fortunately, when eating a combination of the following foods, meeting your daily requirement should be a breeze.

Legumes 

Perhaps the most recognized source of plant protein, legumes like lentils, black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas ought to be a staple in your diet. In addition to their numerous health benefits, cooked lentils provide a whopping 18 grams of protein per cup, while beans range from 12 to 14 grams of protein per cup. Inexpensive and versatile, beans can be incorporated into soups, tacos, curries, salads, and more. Another legume, soybeans, is used to make tofu and tempeh – both high-protein meat alternatives.

Whole Grains 

Whole grains like farro, spelt, and oats are known for their high fiber content, but you can also use them to meet your daily protein requirement! Boil up a batch of grains at the beginning of the week, and pair with your meals for energy and prolonged satiety. Protein-packed quinoa, while technically a seed, is often lumped into the grain category because it’s used and prepared like a grain; at eight grams of protein per cup, this nutritional powerhouse can be added to salads, chili, and veggie burger patties for extra fuel.

Nuts and Seeds 

At seven grams of protein per serving, peanuts reign supreme in protein content, followed closely by almonds, pistachios, and cashews. Nuts make for a healthy and satisfying portable snack, and their nut butter varieties can add a spoonful of protein to your morning toast. In the same family, seeds like chia seeds and hemp seeds pack a solid protein punch; sprinkle them in smoothies and oatmeal for an effortless boost.

Nutritional Yeast 

A favorite in vegan cooking, nutritional yeast has become a kitchen essential in recent years. These powdery flakes work wonders as a cheese substitute, and at eight grams of protein per 1/4 cup serving, they’ll provide a high-quality dose of protein to any dish. Try the flakes on popcorn, pasta, pesto, or eggs to bump up the flavor and nutrition.

Vegetables 

Popeye may have been on to something with all that spinach! Vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach contain two or three grams of protein per serving, proving to be a modest, but important, source of protein.

Eating more plant-based protein provides some incredible health benefits – just ask these local ladies! Here, they share their experiences and tips for incorporating more plant foods into your diet. 

 

Eating more plant-based protein provides some incredible health benefits – just ask these local ladies! Here, they share their experiences and tips for incorporating more plant foods into your diet. 

 

Cindy Hollie Ringgold GA plant based protein chattanooga

“I have focused on eating  whole, plant-based foods for seven years and find it easy to get all the protein that I need. All plant foods have protein, but foods like legumes and whole grains are especially packed with protein while also being excellent sources of fiber and phytonutrients, which are lacking in animal protein. Most of my protein comes from legumes, which are cheap and easy to find whether it be dried or canned beans. One cup each of cooked beans and brown rice totals to 20 grams of protein, accounting for nearly half of my daily requirement. A pot of black beans is surprisingly versatile; there are excellent online recipes for burgers, brownies, soups, tacos, enchiladas, salsa, and dips, all with black beans as the core ingredient!”

Cindy Hollie, Ringgold, GA

Tara Taymore Chattanooga plant based protein“There are so many ways to get plant-based protein into your diet! For my children’s breakfasts, I will top avocado banana pudding with chia seeds or add hempseed powder into a chocolate smoothie made with cacao powder. For dinner, my family usually eats a cooked vegetable and carb-based meal plus a raw vegetable salad, sprinkled with nutritional yeast and hemp seeds for added nutrition and protein – hemp seeds are great because they are small and flavorless as a topping! Sprouts are another source of protein that are inexpensive to purchase at the grocery store and easy to throw on top of salads or sandwiches. Most people don’t think of vegetables themselves as a great source of protein, but when eaten in large amounts, they can help you reach your protein goals.”

Tara Taymore, Chattanooga

Ari Sanchez NorthShore Chattanooga plant based protein“A plant-based diet doesn’t have to be restrictive or deficient in protein. With the right meal planning and prep and a little creativity, you can stay nourished and satisfied. An apple with almond butter is a great, easy-to-carry snack, and a simple handful of mixed nuts can go a long way as well. I try to include greens daily – a salad with beans, avocado, tofu, or quinoa is easy to throw together! These add-ons can be combined in a variety of ways for dinner: tofu pasta, veggies with quinoa, avocado tacos. Adding chia seeds in smoothies and munching on quinoa chips and hummus are all great ways to stay fueled on the go. My biggest tip? Find what works best for your body and what keeps you feeling good from the inside out!”

Ari Sanchez, NorthShore  HS
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