I get it. When you go plant-based, whether that is vegan, vegetarian or simply cutting out the meat, you start to wonder how you’re going to get enough protein. Can the kale smoothie you are drinking really provide enough? How about that bowl of lentils and brown rice? Did you eat enough nut butter to reach your protein goals for the day? These are the common questions I hear when going plant-based, and good questions at that. So we are going to discuss being plant-based and what a day of adequate plant protein looks like.
When you decide to cut out the meat, it is more than possible to get enough protein in a day from plant sources. But, and that is a but, you have to be sure you are doing it right. Many people who cut out meat and opt for a veggie plenty diet, forget that they must be more diligent about eating the right foods, the foods rich in protein. If not, protein deficiency can easily occur. How do I know? Because I was one of them. Low energy, hair loss, and a lack of strength when exercising is how my protein deficiency manifested, but the good news is that it is easy to correct. That is why I am going to show you exactly what a day of adequate plant protein looks like, and what you need to eat to make your protein goals happen. To get us there, I am going to use my plant-based protein chart. Feel free to refer to this when organizing your protein needs.
The following is an example of how to meet your protein needs while on a plant-based diet. While each person’s needs vary based on weight, age and exercise, I am going to use a standard example for an adult weighing 160 pounds who exercises moderately. And how do you know how much protein you need to eat a day? The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, but may increase to between 1 – 1.8 grams. Your protein needs will increase if you are pregnant, are trying to gain weight, consistently exercise or if you are on a high-intensity weight lifting program.
How to Calculate Your Protein Needs
1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.
Use a lower number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8). Use a higher number (between 1 and 1.8) if you are under stress, are pregnant, are recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training.
Example: 160 lb male, consistent exercise routine
160 lbs/2.2 = 72 kg
72 kg x 1.2 = 86 gm protein/day
Daily Protein Needs: 86 grams of protein
Plant-based? What a Day of Adequate Plant Protein Looks like
Example: Green Protein Smoothie
includes the following:
8 fl. oz almond milk (1 gram of protein)
1 cup kale (2.5 grams of protein)
2 tablespoons almond butter (7 grams of protein)
1 tablespoon chia seeds (4 grams of protein)
1 scoop plant-based protein powder (17 grams of protein) (check out my favorites here)
total protein for breakfast: 31.5 grams
Example: Broccoli and Lentil Veggie Bowl
.5 cup lentils (9 grams of protein)
.5 cup wild rice (4 grams of protein)
1 cup broccoli, steamed (4 grams of protein)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (4 grams of protein)
1 tablespoon hemp seeds (4 grams of protein)
1 medium avocado (4 grams of protein)
total grams of protein for lunch: 29 grams of protein
Example: Plant-based protein bar (here is a list of my favorites) or packaged kale chips
1 bag of kale chips (12 grams per bag)
1 plant-based protein bar (12 grams per bar)
total grams of protein for the afternoon snack: 12 grams of protein
Example: Spring Asparagus with Mushroom Quinoa
.5 cup quinoa (4 grams of protein)
.5 cup sauteed mushrooms (2.5 grams of protein)
5 spears roasted asparagus (2 grams of protein)
1 cup sauteed swiss chard (3 grams of protein)
2 tablespoons of pine nuts (2 grams of protein)
total protein for dinner: 13.5 grams of protein
Total Protein for the Day: 86 grams!
There you go. Now that wasn’t so hard was it? If you need to boost your protein intake quickly, try adding in a scoop of plant-based protein powder (here is a list of my favorites). You can take it straight in almond milk, or add another scoop to a smoothie, oatmeal or chia pudding. If you are not strictly vegan, eating a half cup of organic Greek yogurt or a hard-boiled egg is a fast way to boost your protein needs.