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Plant-Based Protein

This fall, I began counting my macros and focusing on increasing my protein so that I could start to really build muscle. I hadn't sat down and concentrated on planning out protein filled meals so it took some getting used to. And I also realized that if I didn't think about what I was eating, I would reach for sugary, carb heavy foods. Plant-based protein...that's what this blog post is all about. I'm going to give three meals as an example and list some of my must-have protein-filled foods.

Protein is a macronutrient that is important for the body's tissues, for the maintenance of muscle tissue and is also a fuel source; protein provides as much energy density as carbs-4kcal per gram of protein. Proteins are amino acids linked together with peptide bonds. They are found as both animal and plant sources and they help slow down the digestion of carbs and keep us fuller longer.

My journey through the fall was focused on consuming between 125-137g of protein per day. It was super difficult at first because that is a much bigger amount of protein I was used to eating and all my meals had to contain 1-2 servings of protein. Eventually I realized that planning out each day the night before and cooking ahead of time was going to help me stay on track and get everything I needed each day. Tracking your meals each day can be time consuming and very burdensome and is not for people who have disordered eating. I fell totally off the wagon at the end of my 3 months of tracking, which I talked about in the previous blog post. It's ok though because nothing is really a total loss-you always learn something from everything you do and I've realized the simple fact that I can choose to track my foods and stay consistent or I can choose to eat whatever I see and impede my progress.

During this whole process (or any process of self improvement/life transition), you need to be patient with yourself and treat yourself lovingly. That seems completely impossible some days, there are days when you're not in the mood or you don't see changes in your body, you feel down or you can't even look in the mirror...BUT you can't expect change to happen overnight, in fact it DOESN'T happen overnight and no amount of wishing or punishing yourself will change that fact. Fat loss takes months to years and so does muscle gain. When you add in mastering new foods or a new way of eating, you have alot of changes at patience and loving kindness is key. But back to protein....

Eating more protein than you're used to requires preparation and sometimes willingness to try new foods. I have a few favorite proteins that I rarely deviate from. I've also learned that you need to concentrate on incorporating foods with double digits of protein in them...and believe it or not, that does not include vegetables. Veggies have protein but not as much as high protein tofu or edamame. You do, however, need to round out your plate with veggies so make sure you include them at every meal. But eating a plate or two of veggies won't give you a huge amount of protein.

My favorite high protein food that I eat daily:

High protein tofu
Mock meat made with soy protein or seitan
Beans (chickpeas and lentils)
Peanut butter

I also sprinkle foods with nutritional yeast which contains about 3g per tbsp. My favorite veggies are leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli and kale.

Each meal I prepare at home combines two of the above proteins so that I have 3 protein rich meals along with high protein snacks.

Here are three examples of protein rich meals, some of my favorites and they combine protein with carbs and healthy fat.

168g of high protein tofu, 71g of soy chorizo, 1 cup of mixed greens, 1/2 everything bagel with butter and jam=47g of protein
1 piece of sriracha tofu, 1/4 cup of lupini beans, 1/2 avocado on a bed of mixed greens=27g protein
2oz of red lentil pasta, 5 broccoli florets, 6 meatless meatballs=30g protein
As you can see, each meal is different, each meal can be eaten at different times of the day and each meal contains two high protein foods. High protein means that a food contains 15 or more grams of protein for one servings. You want to pack in alot of protein in one serving of the cleanest food you can buy.

Some snacks to consider when you are building muscle: carrots with hummus or peanut butter, a protein bar with 20 or more grams of protein, a smoothie with protein powder, lupini beans, high protein bread with avocado and tofu and much more Make sure each snack contains a protein, fat and carb and is about 200ish calories.

Adding protein to your diet means looking at what you're eating and replacing certain foods with higher protein foods (replacing pasta with red lentil or edamame pasta). It means adding higher protein foods to your fridge or freezer (keep frozen edamame in your freezer or buy beans in bulk). It helps to make a list of the foods with the highest amount of plant-based protein and adding them to your shopping list. Depending on your protein goals, a few small changes to your diet can add a good amount of protein to your diet.