If you're in the weight training/fitness game like I am, you may be well aware of the necessity of protein in your diet to help you gain strength and keep muscles healthy.
But did you know that protein is also essential for loads of other functions of the body including;
⦁ improving metabolism.
⦁ lowering risk of osteoporosis
⦁ reducing cravings and late night snacking
⦁ lowering blood pressure
⦁ helps heal injury
⦁ and lots more!
But if, like me, you're wanting to move more towards a vegetarian or even vegan diet to help reduce your carbon footprint and stop the whole world heating up so much, it's especially important to make sure you're getting enough.
So how much protein do we need?
Well I'll give you the maths (thanks to GoodnessMe Nutrition) but don't let this put you off. Below I'll give some tips for how to get more protein without weighing and measuring your food (who the heck has time for that anyway?).
So, just to maintain your current state/support health you need approximately;
0.75g of protein for every kilo of your body weight.
If you live an active lifestyle and want to build/repair muscle, you may need double that; 1.5g / kg of body weight.
So, if you weigh 60kg (9 stone 6) you would need 45g – 90g protein per day
If you’re 70kg (11 stone) you would need 52g-105g protein per day
Of course it all depends on your sex, your age (we need more after 40 by the way) and various other factors so this is just a rough idea. And below is a rough idea of how much protein you get from different food sources. I recommend using this info to get an idea of how close you are to your recommended daily intake.
100g chicken = 30g protein
100g cod = 22g protein
100g tofu = 15g protein
100g lentil = 9g protein
1 egg = 6.3g protein
100g chickpeas = 7-9g protein
100g full fat Greek yoghurt = 4g protein
As you can see, it's much easier to get your protein from meat that from non-meant sources but please, don't let that put you off! And don't bother weighing yourself or your lentils either. Instead, here are my ...
Five Favourite Ways to get more protein into your day (veggie/vegan style);
1. Build a better breakfast
Most of us don't get a 'breakfast of champions', or even a breakfast good enough for functioning as a half-decent parent throughout the morning. Let alone a breakfast that'll help us concentrate at work and not having us reaching for coffee and biscuits by 10am (that's you right?).
So building protein in to your breakfast is a great way to get more protein generally, and reduce carb cravings and energy dips later in the day. Keep it simple by pimping your porridge with seeds, nut butter or protein shake powder, or having SKYR or Soy yoghurt with your muesli and adding some extra seeds (including chia) & nuts.
But some mornings, when the kids refuse to get dressed and you can't find your sodding keys, breakfast is a luxury. So on those days I grab toast with Whole Earth nut butter or a protein shake (more on these later).
2. Protein-pimp up EVERYTHING!
I add seeds or nuts to salad, soup, toast, homous, roast veg, porridge, muesli, etc etc. Do it all day, every day, till it becomes a habit and before you know it you're full of protein and healthy fats.
3. Get creative with carbs.
One thing that crowds out our ability to get more protein is the amount of carbs we generally eat. So you can either fully swap a lower protein carb like rice and pasta, for something like quinoa or even fancy pasta like red lentil or edemame from Aldi.
OR you can just throw a tin of lentils/chickpeas in to your rice or pasta when it has nearly finished cooking. The kids will complain at first of course so you decide whether to serve their's up without (personally, I just started with small numbers of lentils then gradually added more and more. They still complain but they mostly eat them).
And if you just need some recipe ideas, or prefer a bit more info, I recommend this High Protein Vegan Diet Plan.
4. Swap your snacks
This is a particularly easy way. Every time you reach for a snack think protein first. Then think 'veg' as your carb source. So nut butter on celery, homous and carrot, cheese and cucumber, nuts & dark chocolate etc etc.
Again, protein shakes make good quick snacks too, especially when you turn them into an ice lolly like in this delicious recipe!
5. Protein Shakes
An almost-daily shake for me (almost because half the time I forget), is my easiest way to get more protein, with the added benefit of hydration (who ever drinks enough anyway?) and a variety of vitamins. Especially on days when I train (cycle, weights, running classes), I make sure to get a shake in afterwards.
I've tried a few vegan shakes and certainly my favourite at the mo, both from a taste AND a sustainability perspective is BOXD Health shakes which are designed especially for women. And guess what? After I tried and loved them, they kindly gave me a discount code to give to you (and yes I get a little commission from this and it all goes to my local climate action group, so it's good for you, and the planet).
Simply head to the shop then use the code HEATHER to get 20% off a single purchase or HEATHERSUB to get 15% the first 3 months of a subscription.
There are loads of ways to use protein shake powder from straight-up to smoothies; add to porridge or plain yoghurt; freeze into lollies or add to pancakes.
So there you have it. My 5 fave ways to get more protein without the stress. Of course these things take a little time to become a habit, but focus on this for a couple of weeks and you'll develop new ways of eating that will soon become normal. And your whole family, as well as the plant, can benefit.
PS If you're suddenly wanting to switch to a vegan diet, or have any health concerns, it might be wise to speak to a qualified nutritional Therapist first who will help you do all the boring calculations and get you set off in the right direction. I recommend Anna of Goodness Me Nutrition. (PS Anna doesn't give me commission, she just knows her sh** and I think she's ace).