Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My protein plan

A lot of people ask me what I'm going to do about protein, especially those who know I'm athletic. A lot of them stress protein shake supplements and multi-vitamins as being essential for vegetarians. I appreciate the concern, but through my research I've found that protein, vitamins and minerals are all easily attained in vegan diets. I had the exact same concerns as I was preparing to make the shift to being meat and dairy free, so I read up. What I found was that not only was it possible, but in fact vegetarian and veagn diets are healthier. And vegetarians, on average, live longer than omnivores. Protein is found in plant foods in high amounts, and is generally easier to absorb than meat protein. And, I was ingesting way to much protein before anyway, so now I'm more where I should be.

Here are a couple of online resources if you're interested. I like these because they give sample diets. This first one breaks down protein needs intricately. The second is more of an overview:
Protein in the vegan diet
Vegetarian nutrition

I'm also very interested in reading Thrive Fitness, by Brendan Brazier, an Ironman  triathlete who's a vegan. I'm interested in his intake and suggestions. Who knows, it might suck. But I don't think so, I checked out one of his earlier books at Borders last weekend and it was pretty interesting.

But, for now, my plan is as follows: Incorporate foods I know are high in protein as often as possible into my regular diet. And it's working so far. I've done cardio for hours on end, lifted weights and recovered, etc. If anything has changed it's that I have more energy. Maybe things will change, but for now I feel I'm getting adequate nutrition. I'll get a physical and bloodwork in a few months just to be sure. Here's my plan:
  • Eat 2 pieces of whole grain toast for breakfast (12 grams protein), or high protein cereal with unsweetened almond, rice or soy milk
  • A few servings of any kind of beans daily (a lot, depending on the bean). I usually make burritos with beans, or bean dip for chips, or add them to salads.
  • Vegan energy bars made mostly with nuts—high in protein.
  • Brown rice or white rice with my veggies and beans for maximum nutrient absorption
  • Soy yogurt here and there (6-8 grams protein)
  • Sprinkle various weird seeds on salads and stir fried veggies for minerals like iron, and some protein (sunflower, pine nuts, almond slivers, and these little green ones)
  • 2-3 servings tofu every other day or so with veggies and brown rice
  • Lentils on days I don't have beans. They have more protein than almost any other food.
  • As many different colored veggies and fruits as possible. Some veggies have a surprising amount of protein, like broccoli
  • Frozen dinners when in an emergency, but only ones high in protein and low in sodium, and vegan, of course
I'm still exploring right now, and I've been overwhelmed with great resources and recipes. So, I'll post what is working and what I'm liking as I figure it out. I just got my copy of Vegan Yum Yum and I'm really excited to start cooking with it.


    1. That's a good list. I admit, when I first became vegetarian and did my research, I was amazed to find there's protein in pretty much every vegetable. There's even 1g of protein in 1 cup of romaine lettuce. I think you'll do well eating a variety of foods.

      I did want to give a shout out for quinoa. Like soy, it's a complete protein. Being a grain, however, gives it a different versatility. Robin Robertson's Quinoa stuffed Avocados are tasty:

      It's faster cooking than brown rice, too, which is nice. The only problem I have with quinoa so far is you need a very fine sieve to rinse it.

      The Vegan Yum Yum cookbook has become my favorite cookbook since I got it. The recipes are easy to follow and so far everything I've tried has been amazing. I especially recommend the Marmalade Tofu with Kale and Lemon Pearl Couscous.

      Thanks again for your blog!

    2. That recipe link didn't work so well, let me try again: Quinoa Stuffed Avocados

    3. Hey. Awesome for you! I just linked to your blog from HP and I just want to say I respect what you are doing. As someone whose transition to veganism was difficult it's nice to know that people are having an easier time these days.

      You should check out the post punk kitchen and all of isa's cookbooks

      Don't forget to take your supplements.. check out garden of life's vitamin line, especially "vitamin code, raw iron" all of their vitamins are raw, organic and (obvious) 100% vegan.

    4. If I recall from one of your blogs, you have a dog.

      While I am adamantly opposed to imposing my dietary restrictions on others (especially on actual carnivores), you might end up looking at the pet food/factory farming connection as well.

      For health reasons, I switched my cats and dog over to a home prepared diet many months ago. One of the side effects was that I got my pets completely off of factory farmed meats.

      It was actually emotionally harder at first, because I was incredibly aware that a specific animal was killed just to feed my pets. But the truth is that was already happening...but in the cruelest way possible. There is no "good" brand of pet food when it comes to humane raising and killing. But if you do some homework, you can support local humane farmers who try to make a difference.

      Just a thought.

    5. Thanks Tara. I'm curious, what do you make at home to feed your dogs? I have been thinking of how I don't like the idea of my dog eating meat but I'm concerned about her health. She has a sensitive stomach so sugary foods like some vegetables are hard for her to digest.

    6. I have a dog (and used to be a dog trainer) and two cats (also used to be active in cat rescue). Cats are obligate carnivores, and dogs are opportunistic carnivores. In nature, they would TOTALLY eat meat, and if I choose to live with carnies, then I feel its important to honor who and what they are even as I try to respect the animals in farming situations.

      The one thing I was *never* comfortable with was not being able to find a pet food that didn't use factory farmed or feed lot produced animal products (even the very high end, "natural" foods all use this. Its sad)

      So, I found a supplier who at least tries hard to raise animals humanely and tries to give them a quiet death when its time. Its affordable for me (especially since my dog is only 25 pounds) even with shipping, but I don't know how that would work for someone on the west coast.

      I rotate meats for my dog's meals (monthly or weekly), and always include the fresh tripe (SMELLY. I say "EWWW", but my dog thinks its Manna from the heavens). I add pressed Salmon oil a few times each week, and also add Missing Link. But I feed raw, which not everyone is comfortable doing (and I totally understand that). There are also a lot of recipes for home cooked diets available, which a lot of vets are finally starting to promote (though there is still a bit of grumbling about raw diets). Vets used to freak out if you didn't feed canned or kibble, but they've come around as people's pets have NOT been dropping dead on well thought out home prepared diets....emphasis on *well thought out*.

      What you want to make sure of (among other things) is that the calcium/phosphorous ratios are good. I don;t want to have to do all that math, so I feed whole ground animal that I get from the above mentioned supplier. That way, I'm pretty assured that the ratios are more or less ok, especially if I add the tripe and the ML.

      First thing you'll notice is that poop production will drop by about 2/3rds. Sometimes this causes a problem in the form of discomfort with the concentrated poops, so extra fiber can be helpful at first (and sometimes for always, which is why I add the Missing Link as "just in case" added nutrients, greens, and fiber). The next thing you'll notice is that the remaining poop has almost no scent at all. The third thing you might notice (less noticeable on dogs, but VERY noticeable with cats) is that the fur will become incredibly plush and soft. My present cats have the softest and plushest coats I have ever seen. A friend that started feeding her geriatric cats what I feed my guys called me after 2 weeks in shock....she couldn't believe the coat change in her boys.

      A few things to keep in mind:
      Dogs don't process raw veggies really well (if at all), so blanching and macerating any veggies that you want to include (no onions and be careful with garlic! hey can be very toxic to dogs) is important in your dog's ability to receive the nutrients.

      Sorry this is so long. I did a lot of homework on this just this year. Like I said, handling whole ground up animal for my pets was uncomfortable for a while, and took a lot of getting used to, but now I couldn't be happier to have them "off the grid" when it comes to mass produced meats. But once I got used to that, I realized that I am now MUCH more careful with the food. I waste almost none, and if I do have to throw out any unused food (which now almost never happens), I do it with a respect and reverence that is very direct. Before, it was just crap at the bottom of the can I was tossing. Another side benefit is that I am aware of what is going into their bodies and where it came from. We've given over so much power to the pet food companies, and its frightening what an awful industry that really is. I know a few people who lost pets to the melamine tragedy a few years ago. It happens a bit more often than we'd like to think.