As a very active teenager, I need to constantly watch my protein intake and ensure that I am getting enough of it with every meal. I am working toward building more muscle and strength through weight training right now. I have set many goals for myself which address how I want to tone up my body and increase my ability to perform my best as an athlete. Although I understand that fitness is very important to this, I also acknowledge the huge role that my diet plays in attaining my desired physique and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
I think looking at my goal through an 80 to 20 ratio has greatly guided how I go about accomplishing it. I want 80% of my diet to be based around whole foods and clean ingredients, while I leave 20% for cravings and more processed foods.
I have really struggled with incorporating protein into my meals which is why I hope these tips and tricks help all of you!
1. Base meals around a protein source.
This has been the biggest help in increasing the amount of protein I eat because it ensures that I consume a (usually) high value protein with every meal. I try to determine what food sounds best to me and then go from there. My go-tos have been a buddha bowl or salad because they are so versatile. Some days I want a Mexican style bowl or salad, so I will put together black beans, tomatoes, quinoa or rice, leafy greens, and any other foods I am jonsing for. Other days I am in the mood to eat as sushi bowl, so I will have edamame, tofu, sushi rice, mixed greens, and lots of veggies.
I know that this is not always as easy as it seems, which is where tip number two comes into play.
2. Include a side full of protein.
I understand that it can be hard to always base meals around the protein source. But I still suggest incorporating some source of protein as a side in your meals. I does not have to be something complicated; whatever leftovers you have in your fridge or any cans you have in your pantry work. It all depends on what you want to eat.
For example, I really wanted a grilled cheese (with vegan cheese of course) and I know better than to deny myself that craving. But I still acknowledged the lack of both protein and color on my plate. I added a side of bean salad for my protein source. I combined black beans, garbanzo beans, and edamame. Not only was it delicious, but it also helped me to achieve a greater satiety level. Then I added some baby carrots and cucumber for a super refreshing green source.
3. Learn all about different plant proteins.
For me, the key to incorporating high protein into a vegan diet has been to educate myself. I needed to understand the value of different sources of protein; I learned which plant-based foods were high in protein and which vegan protein sources were highly processed.
Go check out my plant protein guide for specific foods!
4. Have fun in the kitchen!
This tip is probably the most helpful of them all. Well for me at least it was. Once I started enjoying cooking, I saw that I was able to find and make recipes which fit what I wanted to get out of my meals. I spent so much time looking through cookbooks and recipe websites to find ones that interested me. I was not always successful, but I still had fun trying. I have found that cooking has also been an outlet for me to express my creativity as I am not very proficient in the arts.
I understand that some may not agree with this, but I still hope you try to find the joy in creating something even if it does not always turn out as well as you would have hoped.
I do a lot of cooking with my family members which makes the experience all the more enjoyable. It is a great way for me to bond with my mom and take time to talk with her about anything. I would highly suggest finding a sous-chef (or being the sous-chef) to share in the adventure of the kitchen.
I hope these four tips are helpful in working to incorporate high protein into a vegan diet. It may seem like it would be impossible to eat valuable plant-based protein as just about all complete protein sources come from animal, but do not worry. There are so many more sources of plant-based protein than it seems. You just need to be exposed to them!