Join me as I help ASPCA spread the love for their Shop With Your Heart campaign, which helps consumers identify and demand plant-based alternatives and welfare-certified meat, dairy and egg products. Keep reading to find out my 8 favorite plant based proteins AND how to use them…
It’s no secret that I love me a good vegan meal. In fact, these days I tend to follow the Bittman way and eat vegan before 6. And even after 6 many days as well. Plus, sitting in on so many Culinary Nutrition lectures at the Natural Gourmet Institute over the last week has re-inspired me to expand my vegan culinary skills and palate.
So when ASPCA invited me to spread the love of their Shop With Your Heart campaign, I obviously jumped at the chance. Even though I don’t eat red meat or chicken, I will consume eggs and the occasional dairy and fish; but when I do so, I try to eat the most humane, sustainable sources for my conscience and my body.
The Shop With Your Heart initiative hopes to provide consumers with the resources they need to identify and demand plant-based alternatives and welfare-certified meat, dairy and egg products.
Check out their video here (scroll down).
To spread the love and protect your heart, I wanted to share my 8 favorite plant based proteins with ya’ll…But first, let’s talk about PROTEIN…
Americans over-consume protein, plain and simple. The average healthy person* requires about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (yes, we’re talking metrics in ‘merica!). In the Culinary Nutrition Certificate program at the Natural Gourmet Institute that I’ve been assisting with, we compared the student’s protein needs with their average protein consumption on a typical day. Nearly every single student over-consumed this important nutrient. While many sources of protein are extremely nutritious, consistently over-consuming protein can stress your kidneys, cause unwanted weight gain, and disrupt other nutrient metabolism.
Additionally, too much animal protein intake is no bueno for our environment. Did you know it takes 1,850 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, versus 39 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of veggies? That definitely adds up over time!
But enough about that…let’s talk FOOD. Because after all, we don’t eat isolated nutrients, we eat FOOD!
Here are 8 of my faaaavorite plant-based proteins (and how to use them!)…
It’s no secret that I have an absolute love affair with this gluten free “grain,” that’s actually a seed (gasp!)…and for good reasons too! Not only is this superfood extremely versatile, but it’s loaded with nutritious benefits. One cup of [cooked] quinoa contains just over 200 calories, over 5 grams fiber and 8 grams of complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make themselves.
Quinoa is filling and satisfying, but doesn’t weigh you down like some other grains may, making it a great choice for summer salads.
If you’re a part of the camp that thinks quinoa has a slightly bitter taste, then you may not be preparing it properly. Here’s how I make my quinoa at home:
- Rinse quinoa for at least 30 seconds.
- For each ½ cup quinoa, add 1 cup water or vegetable stock (or a combination of both) to a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for 9-10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let sit for another 10-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork prior to using.
Here’s how I use it:
- Salads on salads on salads on salads. This 8-Ingredient GREEN Quinoa Salad has been a summer favorite!
- Turn it into granola.
- Round out a power bowl with quinoa.
- Add it to any burger. But I’m biased for this Quinoa & Beet Burger (soooo good….& grillable!).
- Stuff it into anything and everything…sweet taters or peppers!
I was definitely late jumping aboard the lentil train, but you know what they say…better late than never! If you haven’t tried these gems, whatchawaitingfor?! You may have noticed that lentils are a part of many What I Ate Wednesdays because they’re a great food to batch-prep at the beginning of the week so you have a readily accessible protein source in your fridge, ready to go when you get home from a long day at work. Like quinoa, lentils are so versatile and can take on flavors from a wide variety of cuisines. Even though I have bags upon bags of lentils in my pantry, I frequently buy vacuum-packed, pre-steamed lentils and keep ‘em in my fridge for even simpler meal prep on weeknights.
So let’s talk nutrition…Per cup, lentils contain about 230 calories, 18 (!!) grams of protein, 16 grams of cholesterol-cutting fiber and virtually no fat (woo hoo for #plantbased proteins!). Plus, lentils contain a few good-for-you vitamins and minerals that vegans and vegetarians may have trouble meeting their daily quota for, like iron and folate. They’re also a good source of potassium, zinc, and B vitamins.
Here how to use ‘em:
- My go-to lentil recipe for lentil newbies is my lentil bolognese. EVERYONE loves this recipe (even carnivores!).
- Fill up a power bowl with pre-steamed lentils to have dinner on the table in under 20 minutes!
- Toss them into a salad…couldn’t get easier than this!
- Use lentils as the base of a veggie burger.
If you’re a frequent flyer ‘round here you knooooow my love for edamame runs deep. I always keep frozen pods in my freezer and recently I’ve become obsessed with crispy roasted edamame (especially in 100 calorie packs!). Although the topic of soy consumption can spark a hotter debate than what I’m expecting at the soon presidential debates, edamame is a whole foods form of this popular plant-based food, meaning, wayyyyy better for you to eat than other processed, possibly GMO-filled versions.
One-half cup of cooked edamame (shelled) contains about 150 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 9 grams of plant based protein. Plus, edamame is a good source of vitamin K, potassium, iron and magnesium.
Here’s how to use ‘em:
- Snack on boiled pods — keeping the pods is a great reminder for #portioncontrol!
- Crisp ‘em up for a great snack or salad topper. Here’s my DIY Crispy Roasted Edamame recipe.
- Throw them into a veggie stir fry (couldn’t get any easier than this!).
- Start your meal off with boiled pods with a spritz of lemon juice and chili powder instead of salt.
4. CHIA SEEDS
You know what they say…great things come in small packages…and chia seeds DEFINITELY confirm this notion! These tiny aztec and mayan warriors are an absolute FAVORITE of mine (if my love for chia pudding weren’t enough proof!). These tiny creatures that are #twinning with poppy seeds are 23% protein! ONE tablespoon delivers 3 grams of plant based protein, plus 6 grams of fiber, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats! Now that’s a nutritional hashtag superstar!
Here’s how to use ‘em:
- Throw them into your overnight oats.
- Make puddin’ ← click for my favorite bloob-ilicious version.
- Turn them into JAM! (FYI – chia seeds “gel,” absorbing 9 times their weight in liquid).
- Use them as an egg substitute in vegan baking.
- Add them to energy bites.
- Sprinkle them on top of ANYTHING! Smoothie bowls, oatmeal, pasta sauce, anything!
5. BLACK BEANS
Although I’m a fan of all beans, black beans by their lonesome have a small corner of my heart because of my love for Mexican cuisine. While you could just throw a handful of rinsed canned beans into your salad and call it a day, my absolute favorite way to eat these bad boys is in veg burger form. Hence allll the bean burger recipes up in herrrre.
Black beans contain just over 100 calories per half cup, with 7 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and about zero grams of fat. But more important than the nutritional stats, consuming this carbohydrate-rich source of protein has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar, keep us (errrr) regular, and promote a healthy heart, reducing “bad,” LDL cholesterol levels. If that’s not #winning, I’m not to sure what is!
Here’s how I use them:
- BURGERS FOR THE WIN! Try my black bean sweet potato version or my classic Triple B or my Quinoa Beet Burger (with black beans!).
- Make a bean-ilicious salsa or guac. Try my Mango, Black Bean & Avo salsa or my totally loaded guacamole.
- Chili for the win…but maybe wait til it’s actually chilly to make ze chili!
- Stuff ‘em into a tater!
- Black bean pasta. Although I haven’t made it myself ((yet!)), it’s one of my favorite ways to bump up the protein content of a pasta dinner. You can buy it online HERE!
- Use beans for breakfast! Check out these great ideas from Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean Blog!
6. SNAP PEAS
Newsflash: VEGETABLES HAVE PROTEIN TOO! It may be hard for you to believe, but our veggie-rific friends alone can provide up to 4 grams of protein per cup (broccoli, I’m talkin’ bout you!). Peas, specifically, are considered a starchy vegetable (like potatoes and corn), but they also contain 2 grams of protein per cup…in the pods! While my new favorite snack is to eat them raw, you can steam, roast, broil, saute, stir fry, and boil them too. Peas and carrots, anyone?
Surprise…Sunflower seeds are on my list of favorite plant based proteins! If you know me at all, you know this is so NOT surprising! I don’t think a day passes by that I don’t eat sunflower seeds in some form or another. Coming in at 50 calories per tablespoon, they provide 1.5 grams of protein, but that’s not the only reason I love these kernels of deliciousness! They are an excellent source of vitamin E and a good source of thiamine (vitamin B1) and selenium. But most of all, I love ‘em because they contain heart-healthy polyUNsaturated fat, which boosts satiety and satisfaction.
Just be sure to watch your portions because they are calorically dense and even too much of a good thing can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Here’s how I stay sunny on a daily basis…
- Trail mix! Swap out some nuts for seeds to change things up (& make a school friendly snack…food allergy approved!).
- Whip up your own sunflower seed butter and CHOCOLATE sunflower seed butter ← soooo good!
- Make a sunflower seed butter noodle sauce.
- Add them to homemade pesto; like my Arugula & Sunflower Seed Pesto! Mmmmm
- Sprinkle them onto a salad or smoothie bowl.
- Add them into birthday cake energy bites!
- Stuff ’em into chocolate in my sunflower seed butter cups (obviously my favorite use!).
If I’m eating bread, it’s usually sprouted grain (ezekiel) bread! Why? Slice for slice, there’s no comparison between the nutrient-dense sprouted grain bread and any other bread on your supermarket shelf. If you’ve never heard of the good stuff, it’s made with SPROUTED 100% whole wheat, barley, millet, rye, oats, brown rice, lentils, soybeans and spelt, and it’s a COMPLETE protein. Sprouting has been shown to improve digestibility and boost your body’s ability to absorb the vitamins and minerals in these grains and legumes.
Per slice, sprouted grain bread typically contains 80 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.
You can use sprouted grain bread the same way you would any other bread, but here are some of my favorite ways…
- Avocado toast. #staytrendy
- PB&J (or lezzbehonest, sunflower seed butta & ch-ch-ch-chia jam)
- For homemade breadcrumbs. It’s a thaaang, SO easy, jumponit!
- In bread pudding….mixed in with challah bread, of course (‘cuz you gotta live a littttttle!)
So if you haven’t already jumped aboard the #MeatlessMonday train, I think it’s time you give it a go! Plus, take the pledge to join ASPCA and Shop With Your Heart!
Question of the day: Do you have a favorite plant based protein? Share with me below!
As always, if you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you! Have a great start to your week!
*Note: Not meant to be substituted for health advice from a personal Registered Dietitian or physician. Please speak to a qualified individual about your individual needs before making any changes to your diet.