This post is for you, whether you are vegan, vega-curious, or just interested in #MeatlessMonday. It's also for you if you have loved ones who are vegan or vegetarian so that you can stop asking them where they get their protein from! Seriously, stop asking.
These are my top three tips for getting enough protein - and no, it's not tofu, tofu, and tofu.
1. Protein is in basically everything
There is even protein in broccoli! No, it's not a lot, but be aware of the fact that you are giving yourself little bits of protein with almost every bite you take.
You also don't need to have a meal centered around protein to have a meal that contains multiple protein sources. Consider these add-ons to pasta dishes, salads, smoothies, stir-frys, and pretty much anything else: hemp hearts, hummus, spirulina, chia seeds, flax seeds, nutritional yeast...just to name a few.
2. It's okay to cheat sometimes
Sure, we want to eat all whole foods all the time. But there are days/weeks/months in which life is a little crazy, and you have neither the time nor the brain power to create a healthy, whole foods-based meal. Luckily, there is an abundance of plant-based protein powders on the market, with varying degrees of "clean" ingredients and good taste. Some literally taste like dirt. Some are pretty delicious. I recommend Vega products from my own personal experience. They are best when mixed in a smoothie, not when on their own, but they aren't bad. I will do a full review of plant-based protein powders in the future - stay tuned!
3. Choose a pairing
Most vegan sources of protein are considered incomplete proteins - this is the only nutritional disadvantage, in my opinion, of eating exclusively plant-based rather than animal-based protein. You can get around this disadvantage pretty easily by knowing which foods to pair with which protein sources to create a complete protein. For example, beans (or chickpeas, or lentils) and rice combine to create a complete protein source. So while it may take more thought and more ingredients, you'll be fine.
Additionally, even without fretting over complementary proteins, you may be fine. Some newer research asserts that so long as you are consuming enough grams of protein, you don't need to stress over the amino acid counts in each of your meals. Learn more about that research here.
The main message that I hope you take away is that fear of a lack of protein should not deter you from pursuing a partial or complete plant-based diet. As with any approach to eating, you can achieve a healthy diet by simply being mindful of what you are consuming at each meal. If you have serious concerns about the health of a meatless diet, your doctor or a registered dietician should be able to offer further guidance.