When starting out, many new vegans struggle with getting enough protein in their diets. As you take meat out of your diet, it’s important to replace it with other protein sources. It takes some time to learn what plant-based foods are highest in proteins, but there are some easy options. Remember these as you strive to keep up a good protein intake!
There are plenty of protein supplements on the market, but be careful: some of them contain ingredients derived from animals. Many powdered supplements contain milk or eggs. Some supplements in pill form contain whey, which is derived from milk. They may also be encased in capsules made of gelatin, which is not vegan.
Vegan supplements, on the other hand, are usually based on legumes such as soy, garbanzo beans, and lentils. Some also contain milks or pastes made from seeds and nuts. Look for a protein supplement fortified with vitamin B-12, which is a special need for vegans.
Replacing meat with beans is a good first step in becoming a vegan. Plant-based options like beans are healthier than animal products. In addition to being high-protein, they are high in fiber, low in fat, and rich in micronutrients like calcium and potassium. Beans are also amazingly versatile. You can eat them whole in a soup or casserole, add them to a salad or pasta, or use them to make hummus or plant-based burgers. Beans are inexpensive and easy to prepare; canned beans are just as healthy as prepared dried beans.
Add Soy Products
Many of the plant-based packaged foods you see in the supermarket are soy-based. These are good sources of protein, but like any processed food, should be used sparingly, as they tend to be high in preservatives and sodium. Soy comes in many forms, such as tofu, tempeh, and miso. Tofu is an especially good choice because it will adapt to any style of cooking. There are also soy powders and milks that can be used in recipes. Edamame beans, which are whole, green soybeans, are delicious when added to salads, stir-fries, and other dishes.
It isn’t difficult to get enough protein in a vegan diet, but you do need to educate yourself about what foods to choose. Explore some favorite recipes and see how you can substitute beans or soy for the meat, and take supplements as needed. And don’t forget to always read labels!
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