A lot of you want to reduce your meat consumption or stop eating it altogether, but struggle to know how to replace it whilst ensuring you are still getting the micronutrients you need and enough protein!
I get asked the question a lot and there are a number of plant based foods that are high in protein that you can include in your diet, however, this might be difficult if 1. You don’t like them and 2. You don’t know how or what to cook with them (two of the main challenges I’m faced with when speaking to clients). This leads to an excessive consumption of highly processed vegan/vegetarian food products which contain some protein but are often high in fat, salt and sugar (these are okay now and again, but including more whole plant based foods is beneficial for your health) or missing out on an entire food group altogether!
Why do I have to include proteins in my diet? Because proteins are the building blocks of the body, helping to build and repair our muscles. They are essential for the growth as well as renewal of body cells and they help in the management of body processes and metabolism (as the enzymes that help food break down, hormones that control appetite & growth and haemoglobin - the oxygen carrier in our blood, they are all proteins). It was also found that including more plant-based proteins in the diet will prevent ovulatory infertility, improve fertility (for women) and improve sperm quality (for men).
The daily recommended intake for adults is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which means around 45g/day for women and around 56g/day for men. You can also easily calculate it in order to find the exact number according to your weight. Here is an example: if you weigh 60kg then your protein intake in a day will be: 60 (kg) multiplied by 0.75g which will make 45g of protein per day (i.e. the protein intake you should consume in a day).
There are many options of plant-based proteins that you can include in your diet.
Pulses and legumes white beans, kidney beans, mung beans, black-eyed beans, soy beans, edamame beans, lentils, chickpeas and peas are great sources of plant proteins;
Soy products: tofu, tempeh, soy yoghurt and soy drink;
Whole grains & cereals: seitan, bran flakes, wholemeal bread, white pasta (boiled), brown rice (boiled), rolled oats, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt and amaranth;
Nuts: peanut, almond, cashew, pistachio, walnut, brazil nuts, hazelnut, pecan and macadamia nut;
Seeds: hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds;
Vegetables: brussels sprouts, sweet yellow corn, leafy green vegetables and potatoes;
Meat alternatives: such as those from Quorn, Vivera, Richmond, Cauldron and Garden Gourmet are just some examples of companies that make meat alternatives that you can find in your local supermarket. Before buying, read the ingredients list and try to choose those meat alternatives that have a low or at least medium amount of saturated fat, sugar and sodium intake.
Have you tried to cook your pulses/beans in a different way, other than just boiling them or have you tried some new recipes? If not, here are a few cooking tips that will make them tastier and who knows, maybe you will include them in your diet again.
Add them into a creamy soup (you can blend the boiled beans such as white beans/kidney beans with the other vegetables to make the creamy soup).
Roasted peas, lentils and/or chickpeas are super tasty and go really well as a snack! You can also use it as a garnish adding them on top of your creamy soup, salad, hummus or avocado on toast. Use them boiled and well-drained. Add some salt, oil and/or any other spice/s that you like (e.g. smoked paprika, chilly or garlic powder, black pepper etc) and then put them into the oven until becoming crunchy.
Make some hummus - Why not try using half chickpeas (as in the original hummus) and half peas or kidney beans or any beans that you want to include in your diet. You can add even some beetroot, dried tomatoes or olives into your hummus and your favourite spices. You can even add some lemon/lime juice, chilli, coriander or garlic!
Mexican salad - I recently made this and realised that kidney beans are much tastier this way. I put some corn, spring onions, olives, beetroot, cucumber, tomatoes, kidney beans, dried parsley, a pinch of salt & pepper, some lemon juice and olive oil. It’s not the original recipe but this is how I did it and it was super tasty. You can do it in your way too, including the veggies and spices that you like. Some extra ingredients such as jalapeno, dried herbs, lime juice, garlic or fresh cilantro can add even more flavour to your Mexican salad. Try to see what works for you!
How to increase your protein intake in a meal? Here are a few tips:
Add to your porridge some plant-based drink or vegan greek style yoghurt, some chopped almonds or any other nuts that you like, chia seeds/flax seeds or pumpkin seeds;
Add to your wholegrain bread with peanut butter and banana slices or any other fruit some chia seeds or a mix of seeds (e.g. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds);
Add to your salad some quinoa or brown rice and nuts of your choice (e.g. walnuts, peanuts or almond);
Add some sesame seeds and roasted chickpeas to the hummus;
Add some peas or lentils to the pasta sauce and mix it with wholewheat pasta.