It’s really interesting to hear the reactions when you tell people that you don’t eat meat. For the record, I do eat fish and therefore officially qualify as a pescatarian. And I do my best to avoid referring to myself as a vegetarian to keep its definition intact. But nonetheless, when people hear about the no-meat thing they tend to fall into one of two camps. They’re either like “ohhhh you must be so healthy!” OR “umm.. what about protein?!”
I totally understand both of these statements. I think some people assume that plant-based eaters just cut the meat out of their diets and subsist on the “side dishes”. And eating nothing but mashed potatoes and broccoli would indeed be concerning (not to mention BORING). But as I think is becoming more and more recognized, it is oh so possible to base one’s diet on wholesome plant-based foods and have a thriving body.
When it comes to protein, I really think there’s a misconception as to how much we need. Even active people who are trying to build or maintain their muscle mass usually get plenty without a whole lot of effort in this part of the world. As I hope becomes clear by looking at my day of eats, protein adds up so fast! I used to look at labels and think “only 3 grams of protein in this… lame.” But I’ve come to realize how quickly those grams add up over the course of a day.
Many people are familiar with the terms complete and incomplete protein. But here’s the quickest little crash-course for those who aren’t: of the twenty amino acids that make up protein, the body cannot make 9 on its own. So we need to be sure to eat those ones in adequate quantities! The big advantage to the protein in animal-based foods is that they tend to have all 9. Most plant-based sources, on the other hand, do not. This is why variety is so important in a vegetarian diet; eating different types of foods means eating different amino acids. A person could be getting more than enough protein, but if it’s ALL coming from chickpeas, for example, they could still be lacking in certain amino acids.
But enough rambling! Onto a typical day of food. Yesterday I snapped pictures of my meals and did my best to measure everything (not a usual habit for me!) to give you an idea of how I get my protein.
Breakfast was a thick slice of fully-loaded homemade whole wheat bread (the equivalent in weight to two packaged slices).
homemade whole wheat bread // sunflower seed butter // banana // coconut // hemp hearts + milk
Bread (90g): 10 g
Sunflower seed butter (2 Tsbp): 7 g
Hemp hearts (1 Tbsp): 3 g
Milk (1 cup): 9 g
Total: 29 g
Lunch was my beloved chickpea salad from the Oh She Glows cookbook. Basically you just throw whatever you usually would into your chicken or tuna salad into mashed chickpeas instead. So quick and delicious!
chickpea salad // brown rice crackers // avocado
Chickpea salad (1 cup): 15 g
Crackers (10): 2 g
Total: 17 g
In the afternoon I went to one of my favourite coffee shops with my mom and had a small soy latte and split a cookie. Ottawa friends, Equator Coffee in Westboro is lovely!
soy latte // brown butter cookie
Soy milk (about 1/2 cup): 4 g
Dinner was lentil tacos (I just subbed the chicken broth for veggie)!
Tortilla: 3 g
Lentils (1/2 cup): 9 g
Sour cream + cheese: 3 g
Total: 15 g
The day’s grand total came to 65 grams. The general recommendation is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight; for me that equates to a goal of 45 grams daily. Ummm HOLLA!
I do make a conscious effort to include a solid protein source at each meal. But even on a day when one of my meals is lacking, it’s very likely that I’m still reaching 45 grams.
So here’s to getting everything we need from food that we love and feel good eating.