Let's Talk About Protein

The number one question I get asked when talking about my plant based diet is, 'Where do you get your protein?' A very common misconception with eating a plant based diet is that you won't get enough protein. Another very common misconception is that you won't get enough iron. I can absolutely say that you will absolutely get enough protein AND iron in your plant based diet if you eat a variety of whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. And when I say 'whole' I don't mean an entire apple or loaf of bread, I mean foods that are wholly natural - not full of additive ingredients or supplemental products. If you eat a bag of potato chips, yes they are vegan, but they are not a 'whole' food. If you eat a potato, that is a 'whole' food.

No One Cares About Your Protein

Protein can be a sticky subject. Some people believe you need more protein in your diet than carbs or fats; some people believe we don't need as much protein as others think we do. I honestly do not count how much protein I get during the day - I base it off of how I feel, and since going plant based I haven't felt a drop in my energy levels (and that including while on 20 mile bike rides, 4 mile runs, and 45 minute swim sets). According to the Centers for Disease Control 

  • Women ages 19-70+ need 46 grams of protein per day
  • Men ages 19-70+ need 56 grams of protein per day

For a long time I had low protein levels and low iron levels. When I stopped eating meat I just removed it from my diet - I didn't add in other foods to replace the protein that was lost. But now I know better.

Sourcing this information from the USDA, I've broken down what a daily meal intake is for me, and as you can see, I'm actually over the required 46 grams of protein needed per day:

I was actually amazed myself when I calculated what amount of protein I was actually getting.


Breakfast - Oatmeal & Bananas

1 cup oatmeal: 6.00 grams

1 banana: 1.3 grams

BREAKFAST TOTAL: 7.3 grams


Post Workout Snack - Green Smoothie

1 oz (2 tbsp) pumpkin seeds: 5.00 grams

1 oz (2 tbsp) flax seeds: 3.80 grams

1 oz (2 tbsp) chia seeds: 4.70 grams

1/2 apple: 0.25 grams

1 cup frozen pineapple: 0.90 grams

1/2" piece of ginger: 0.00 grams

1/2 cup kale: 1.45 grams

1/2 cup spinach: 0.45 grams

1.5 cups water: 0.00 grams

POST WORKOUT TOTAL: 16.55 grams


1/2 cup cooked quinoa: 4.00 grams

1/2 cup butternut squash: 0.70 grams

1/2 can black beans: 21.00 grams

1/4 cup carrots: 0.25 grams

1/2 bell pepper: 0.50 grams

1/2 cup tomatoes: 0.80 grams

1/4 cup onions: 0.45 grams

1/2 cup frozen corn: 8.00 grams

2 radishes: 0.00 grams

1/2 avocado: 2.00 grams

1/2 lime: 0.25 grams

LUNCH TOTAL: 37.95 grams


Snack - Almonds

1/2 cup whole, unsalted almonds: 10.00 grams

SNACK: 10.00 grams


Dinner - Thai Green Coconut Curry

1/3 onion: 0.40 grams

3/4 zucchini: 1.80 grams

3/4 cup mushrooms: 1.35 grams

3/4 cup cilantro: 0.30 grams

1/3 clove garlic: 0.06 grams

3/4 tbsp lemongrass: 0.06 grams

1 cup cooked rice noodles: 1.60 grams

1/3 can light coconut milk: 0.00 grams

3/4 lime: 0.375 grams

DINNER TOTAL: 5.94 grams


DAILY TOTAL:

  • Breakfast: 7.3 grams

  • Lunch: 37.95 grams

  • Snacks: 26.55 grams

  • Dinner: 5.94 grams

TOTAL: 77.74 grams

Well OVER the required daily need. So next time someone asks, 'Where do you get your protein?' you can easily answer, from plants!

If you'd like to read more about protein and amino acid levels, click here.

Here is a great video from former Pro Ironman and Plant Based Athlete, Brendan Brazier, with more information on getting protein from plants:

Pretty amazing how easy it is to get your protein from a plant based diet!

Read on for Part 2: Let's Talk About Iron.

Here's a full break down of common vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits and their protein levels (again, sourced from the USDA):

ProteinLevels