With the emergence of the Netflix documentary ‘Game Changers’ and veganism become widely advertised, there is an increased focus on ways people can change their diet. This commonly involves exploring a plant-based diet, also known as vegan. Many, especially those into fitness, do however worry about the potential lack of protein in plant-based ingredients. But this couldn’t be more wrong. There are plenty of high protein, vegan foods that can be incorporated into your diet without your protein intake being hindered. Whilst we aren’t suggesting you make your whole diet plant-based, using alternative non-meat ingredients a few times a week can be of benefit to both you and the environment. If you are looking to follow a fully plant-based diet, this post can help you discover what’s out there to ensure you’re getting all the vital goodness you need in your diet. Here you can uncover a few plant-based ingredients that are rich in protein and other goodness.
Tofu sits among some of the richest protein sources in the plant-based diet. Tofu is an easy substitute for meat products such as chicken and beef. As well as being rich in protein, soy-based products, of which tofu is one, contain good amounts of calcium and iron, which also makes it a great alternative to dairy products such as cheese and eggs.
Ways of preparing
Tofu is extremely versatile and can be prepared in multiple ways to give it lots of flavour. This makes tofu an easy go to alternative as you can simply switch out the meat product you would usually use and replace it with tofu. It can be marinated in an array of sauces such as soy sauce, maple syrup, teriyaki sauce, and of course some herbs and spices of your choice. It need only marinade for 20 minutes before you then fry it in a pan. This can then be put in a sandwich, sliced and served for brunch, or simply served with rice or another grain.
Scrambled tofu- https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/tofu-scramble-0
Lentils are an excellent lunch and dinner protein source. If you are reluctant to have a meal without meat, the tender, juicy and ‘meaty’ texture of lentils makes them the perfect alternative for your traditional favourites such as Bolognese and lasagne. They are not only tasty, but also extremely nutritious and versatile, whilst being cheap and filling. You can buy packets of dried lentils in almost any supermarket at a relatively low price. To speed up the cooking process, you can also soak the lentils in water for as little as 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. This means there is no excuse not to opt for a plant-based alternative due to it ‘taking too long’. With a little bit of organisation and preparation, you can walk in the door after a long day at work followed by the gym and have a wholesome meal ready in no time. Additionally, lentils are a great source of fibre, as well as protein, therefore they are perfect for kickstarting the recovery process after your workout.
Ways of preparing
Initially, lentils need to be boiled, but once cooked the opportunities with them are endless. Lentils can be added to curry’s or casseroles to bulk them out as well as to give the dish a pleasant texture. Whether you use green or red lentils, your dish will have a slightly different taste and texture. Green lentils tend to hold their form better and have a slightly firmer feel, whereas red lentils disintegrate more, giving dishes a thicker, lumpier feel. Lentils can also be mixed with other beans and added to casseroles or used to make homemade burgers.
Lentil Bolognese- https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/lentil-ragu
Lentil Burgers- https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/user/410950/recipe/lentil-burgers
Beans and chickpeas
Different beans and legumes such as chickpeas, are a staple food in the vegan and vegetarian diet. As well as being rich in protein, they also contain many vital vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fibre. Beans are severely underrated and when experimented with, they can be added to almost any meal! Like lentils, they can be added to dishes to give them extra texture and to bulk them out.
Ways of preparing
Once again, beans can be used in all sorts of ways. They can be eaten raw in salads or other dishes, or cooked. When slow cooked, beans adopt a thick, soft texture, great for echoing dishes such as meat chilli’s or pasta ragu’s. They can be cooked for a shorter period of time, so they stay firm and whole.
Chickpea curry- https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/kadala-curry
Homemade beans on toast- https://simpleveganblog.com/vegan-baked-beans/
Edamame beans themselves are immature whole soybeans. They provide a surprisingly high volume of protein and unlike many plant-based protein sources, they provide all the essential amino acids your body needs. Whilst they are not as high-quality as animal proteins, they are a fantastic substitute to incorporate into your diet. Edamame beans can be found frozen in most supermarkets and also fresh in some places. They also contain calcium, a much-needed mineral which is tricky for those on plant-based diets to consume enough of.
Ways of preparing
Edamame beans are traditionally used in Japanese and Chinese dishes. They can also be served with a pinch of salt as a snack, in noodle recipes, or stir fry’s. If frozen, they can be tossed straight into the frying pan with your other veg, or if fresh they can be eaten raw. If you are feeling creative, edamame beans can be blended to make fresh dips, sauces, or salad dressings.
Edamame and tofu stir-fry- https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/spicytofuandedamameb_89267
Edamame pesto pasta- https://rhitrition.com/our-recipe/edamame-pesto-pasta/
As well as providing large amounts of protein, nuts are also a complex carbohydrate with a low glycaemic index. They are high in fatty acids and are a source of much needed fibre. Pistachios, almonds, and peanuts are among those with the highest volume of protein in them. Nuts are also a great source of calcium, meaning you don’t need to look to animal products to provide it. As well as providing plenty of goodness, nuts add huge amounts of flavour to a dish and the intensity of the nuttiness can vary depending on the nut.
Ways of preparing
Nuts are ready to go in their natural form! You can get very imaginative with nuts, as well as with which nuts you use. Don’t limit yourself to the standard peanuts or almonds, explore what’s out there and eat macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, or even… Nuts can also offer the ideal solution when you need a snack. A handful of nuts on their own, or nut butters on rice cakes or fruit, such as bananas or apples, acts as a simple but healthy snack option. They can also be used when baking, such as inside a vegan banana cake or on top of a vegan frangipane.
Cashew sauce (substitute for cheese sauce) in macaroni cheese, lasagne, or as a pizza base- http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/262082/creamy-vegan-cashew-sauce/
Sprinkle on salads or in pastas- https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/spinachfetaandpinenu_12396
There’s no suggesting that you should fully commit to a plant-based diet. As with every food, it’s all about everything in moderation. By simply committing to two or three vegan or vegetarian meals a week, you will be doing a little something extra for the planet we live on without limiting your protein intake. These are only a few vegan alternatives to meat, once you begin to feel more comfortable with plant-based meat alternatives, there are lots more out there for you to explore!