How to Enjoy a High Protein and Low Carb Diet as a Vegan
One reason many people don’t embrace a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for weight loss is because they don’t think they can get enough protein and they have to eat too many carbohydrates to stay satisfied. But what if I told you that you can? According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a vegetarian or vegan diet can help control obesity and prevent harmful diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The Academy also stated that plant-based diets tend to be lower in cholesterol and saturated fats, and higher in certain vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Ready to get high-protein and low-carb the plant-based way? Here’s what you need to know to get started.
How to Meet Your Protein Needs
Every person requires amino acids in their bodies, proteins, for normal daily function as well as building blocks for hair, skin, nails, and muscle. It’s often believed that plants are not a significant source of proteins compared to animal products, however, that is untrue. You can find complete, plant-based proteins in soybeans, hemp seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, mycoprotein (Quorn), beans, spirulina, seitan, and even sprouted whole grain bread, like Ezekiel. For a satisfying and varied diet, it’s important to get your plant-based protein from a variety of sources, which include the ones above as well as legumes — beans, split peas, peanuts, lentils — and seeds like hemp.
What are the protein requirements for a person? Well, it depends on the person. For an average adult who is not pregnant, .04 to 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight need to be consumed each day. For a person who weighs 150 pounds, that would be around 75 grams of protein. For individuals who are looking to build muscle, upping protein requirements to around 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight is acceptable.
Amount of Protein in Different Foods
To help you understand how many grams of plant-based protein are in a serving, here are some numbers. One scoop (33 grams) of pea protein powder contains 24 grams of protein; 1 scoop (33 grams) of hemp protein powder is 14 grams; 1/2-cup almonds is 15 grams; 1/2-cup cooked edamame is 11 grams; 1/2-cup of tofu or an 8-ounce serving of soy milk is 10 grams; 1/2-cup servings of cooked dried beans such as black, kidney, or garbanzo beans clock in at 8 grams; 1-cup of cooked regular pasta is 7 grams; 1-cup of cooked instant oatmeal is 6 grams; and 2 tablespoons of wheat germ is 4 grams.
Now that you have the information let’s put it all together in a daily meal plan.
Options for Each Meal of Your Day
A vegan version of bacon and eggs could be a tofu scramble and soy- or seitan-based bacon. Seitan, made from wheat gluten, contains 31 grams of protein in a 3-ounce serving. Mash and mix the tofu into an egg-like consistency, add some olive oil, a dash of your favorite spices, and spice it up with diced onion, celery, or bell peppers. You can scramble up the tofu in a pan and add your grilled plant bacon on the side.
Another breakfast option if you’re short on time is making a high-protein smoothie with berries, almond milk, and a protein like tofu or plant-based protein powders like pea, hemp, or brown rice. Mix all ingredients in a blender with some ice. You can sweeten it up with low-glycemic agave nectar, half a frozen banana, a fistful of dates, or stevia.
Terrific lunch options that don’t require much time or imagination can include sandwiches and wraps. You don’t need meat or cheese to make a fabulous, high-protein, low carb sandwich. To keep your carbohydrates low on the bread, either use one slice, buy low-carb bread, or ditch it all together and make a wrap using romaine lettuce, cabbage, or kale. Making a filling like garbanzos with vegan mayonnaise, sea salt, and lemon juice, or use seitan- or soy-based turkey to make a terrific meal that packs a protein punch.
For most people, dinner is the meal with the meat. However, many vegan alternatives exist. For high-protein meals with a “meaty” similarity, try soy ground beef as a substitute for tacos, burgers, chili, casseroles, sauces, and enchiladas. A low-carb, high-protein version of spaghetti and meatballs, for example, could be a tomato sauce rich in savory spices drenching soy meatballs. Stir-frying vegetables, spiced with soy sauce, lemon, and garlic, with cubed tofu, is a super supper option.
For your stir-fry, many vegetables are high in protein — a cup of cooked spinach packs 5 grams of protein, a cup of cooked broccoli has 4 grams, and one 6-ounce potato has four grams of protein. Eating a recommended minimum five vegetable servings daily will net you between 20 and 25 grams of protein from these nutrient-rich sources.As always, it’s recommended to check with a physician before beginning any exercise or nutritional regime, especially if you’re over 40.
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