One of my New Year’s resolutions has been to eat more of a plant-based diet. It’s something I dabbled with towards the end of last year, as my interest and awareness for the environment began to grow. Sustainability is the poster-boy of the moment and indeed, it’s becoming less and less of a secret that our habit of convenience is funding an industry increasingly detrimental to our planet. However, the popular caveat of a plant-based diet is that by steering away from animal sources, it can be difficult to satisfy your recommended protein intake. In my opinion, this couldn’t be more misunderstood.
Where do I get my protein from? Bitch, peas.
Right now, I am training in a calorie surplus in the endeavour to build some more strength, so having enough protein in my diet is as important as ever for muscle growth and repair. Discovering more plant-based protein sources and creating balanced meals has been a real learning curve, but it really is so much easier than you might think. So, if you’re considering making small changes to make your lifestyle in an effort to be more environmentally conscious, here are some tips for ensuring you’re getting all the protein you need.
KEEP IT COLOURFUL
I have been so much more creative in the kitchen this month, discovering more and more plant-based protein sources. We still have meat or fish occasionally and I’m still eating eggs; throughout this whole process, I’m keen to steer clear of labeling myself as vegetarian, vegan etc. But there is now a plethora of new ingredients in my fridge and my enthusiasm for cooking has increased tenfold. So, first and foremost, by eating a varied, balanced diet full of whole foods, you will probably find that you are naturally consuming the recommended amount of protein. Think about stocking up on lots of green vegetables, beans, legumes, lentils and nuts. Eat the rainbow.
UNDERSTAND COMPLETE PROTEINS
Complete proteins are foods that contain essential amino acids our body cannot make on its own. Animal products such as meat and eggs are readily available examples of complete proteins, so when excluding these from your diet, it can be important to educate yourself about plant-based sources. They include things such as quinoa, buckwheat and soy, as well as combinations of foods such as rice and beans, or hummus and pita.
It is by no means a necessity to supplement your diet everyday, however a good quality vegan protein may just help to reach your goals, particularly if your focus is performance. My favourite is Awesome Supplements Vegan Chocolate Salted Caramel Protein, which I have in my oats most mornings. By reducing your meat consumption, you may also find you need to supplement with vitamins such as B12 and Omega-3s. Some vegetarian and vegan foods are already fortified with these vitamins, such as nutritional yeast flakes (B12).
MORE, MORE, MORE
If you’re cutting down on your meat intake, you will probably find that your diet isn’t as calorifically dense as it once was. Therefore, you may already be choosing a good variety of plant-based protein food sources, however not eating enough of them! For example, peas contain shed loads of protein, but are relatively low in calories by comparison. They also make a great substitute for our beloved avo on toast. So, think bigger portion sizes – winner, winner!
As more people are become increasingly environmentally conscious, there are many *fancier* brands emerging onto the market advertising meat and dairy replacements. Indeed, some are more expensive than others, however often they operate within a similar price bracket as the meat you once bought! Some of my favourites are Violife (which make incredible vegan cheese) and Tofurky (shout out to their Italian-style sausages, which are SO GOOD).