You’ve been working hard on your exercise routine. You’ve been eating clean. You’ve recently made the switch to veganism (or at least a mostly vegan lifestyle) and you’re looking to get serious about putting enough protein in your body to fuel your workouts to the max.
Even though you may have heard that it’s hard to get enough protein on a vegan diet, you probably know by now that it’s totally possible. Not only is a high protein vegan diet possible, but it’s also tasty! You can enjoy a varied and delicious vegan, without feeling like you eat the same thing all the time. You’ll also feel great because of the healthy and energetic effects of the plant protein diet.
What are some of those health effects? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that the vegan diet tends to be higher in dietary fibers, lower in cholesterol and trans fats, and has a higher content of folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamins C and A.
How is this possible? Basically, the vegan or vegetarian diet is focused primarily on vegetables. Rather than serving a main course of meat and a small side of vegetables, the main focus of a vegan diet is on those vitamin-filled leafy greens.
While meat is not inherently bad from a health perspective, it does tend to be higher in cholesterol levels and unhealthy fats. In addition, most people eat too much in one serving of meat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a serving of meat to be roughly the same size as the palm of your hand. A typical steak or burger often goes twice or even three times as big. That means your body gets way more protein than you actually need.
You feel sleepy. Have you noticed after a big Thanksgiving meal or any other holiday binge everyone just wants to lay around and can’t get motivated for a walk, much less any other kind of exercise? Everyone blames it on the tryptophan in turkey. Sure, tryptophan induces a small amount of sleepiness, but that’s mostly due to stuffing yourself. The real reason is that you’ve overloaded your body with too much of a good thing.
Over time, a healthy dose of protein fuels the body with some energy, but real energy comes from carbs or healthy fats. Both of these get converted into glucose, which the body keeps on hand (or even uses right away in a pinch) for energy. When you put a lot of heavy, hard-to-digest protein into your body, you actually slow down your body’s functions, delaying your strength building and making you feel tired and weak instead of energetic and lively, the way you should feel after a healthy meal.
Your skin and hair won’t look so good: Unless you’re doing heavy, intense exercise for several hours a day, you’re going to feel a limit on what your body can ingest. If the main focus of your meal is on meat, you’ll fill up on that and deprive your body of other, valuable vitamins and fibers that you need for healthy skin and hair. If you’ve noticed some extra acne or a dull tone to your skin or hair, think about what you’re doing with your diet. Maybe you’re eating healthy overall but just consuming more meat than vegetables.
You might have heart problems: Eating a lot of meat, especially red meat, will definitely give you higher cholesterol. The fiber you get from vegetables and non-meat protein sources help you counter that cholesterol. If you’re not getting enough fiber in your diet, your cholesterol will get out of hand and end up giving you heart problems. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, heart problems will find you later in life if you’re not careful with your diet.
Too much meat is bad for the environment: One of the main reasons people try to eat less meat (or no meat) is for the sake of the environment. When farmers breed an excessive amount of cattle and pigs, they usually waste a lot of resources fattening them up and running equipment to slaughter and process them. You may not think it’s a big deal, but considering the average American’s daily meat intake, that adds up to a lot of wasted resources that could be going towards re-vegetation.
So, you’re probably convinced that a full or partial vegan diet is necessary for optimal health and environmental consciousness. Now, you need some resources and tangible ideas for how to maintain that health-conscious diet on a daily basis. One of the essential resources for a vegan is a list of the main plant proteins. If you keep this on hand, you’ll be able to mix and match products on the list to create your own innovative recipes or even have a ready-to-use classic batch of recipes.
We’ve compiled our 7 best vegan meals here for you. Remember, vegan meals do not require precise measurements since the amounts are up to your taste and your fitness needs. So we include some general measurements and ideas for combinations, but we’re leaving room for your creativity and level of preference.
Turmeric is a classic spice that’s been around since the beginning of time. In the past, it was used by mostly eastern countries, especially in Indian cooking. Its magical properties have started getting recognized in the western world more prominently in the past decade. Its benefits involve strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Many people swear by its usefulness in weight loss as well. Incorporating turmeric into your regular diet routine is a must.
To make the sauce:
Dice, grind or blend fresh turmeric and ginger. How you do that depends on what you like. Some people prefer to blend it into a sauce so that the flavors blend together nicely, while others enjoy the strong kick they get from both as an individual flavor.
Combine olive oil (you can also use avocado oil or sunflower oil) and lemon juice. Do you prefer a creamier taste or a citrus zing? Base your levels of each ingredient on the answer to that question.
Now sprinkle in a pinch of cumin, a spoonful of nutritional yeast, and some mustard powder. The nutritional yeast creates a creamy, cheesy texture and flavor, while the cumin and mustard complement the main root spices with an extra zap.
If the sauce isn’t tasting right, just try to determine which flavors are too strong and which ones are lacking. If the spices are too strong, add olive oil to spread them more evenly. If it tastes powdery like it’s too full of spices, more oil is also a good option. If you taste too much ginger or turmeric, you may need to counteract that with some of the complementing spices.
Essential ingredients for the base of the bowl:
Remember Cabbage Patch Kids? They were all the rage, as far as dolls go, in the nineties. The Cabbage Patch Bowl is all the rage in 2020 for those looking to fuel strength and flexibility.
Start by sauteing small chunks of potatoes and carrots in a pan. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes. Generally, 4 shakes of a typical spice jar will give you a medium-spicy dish. You can adjust accordingly depending on your spiciness preference. Add finely chopped ginger when they are halfway cooked to give it the right amount of time to cook into the flavor, but not to burn.
Chop cabbage thinly and have it ready to put in the pan. Chopping half a head will feed several people or provide you with lots of leftovers. For a more manageable portion, just chop one-fourth of a head.
In a separate pan, put a dash of oil in down and let it get hot on medium heat. Add a spoonful of mustard seeds and let them toast until they start popping. Seriously. They’ll start jumping around in the pan. That’s when you know they’re toasted.
Pop some cashews into the oven at a high temperature, or even on broil, if you’re good at watching things before they burn. They’ll be even better if you add salt, but that’s not necessary.
Add a jar of drained and rinsed chickpeas to the popping mustard seeds and let them brown. Then add the cabbage and cook it until it’s brightly colored but still crunchy, about 3 minutes or less.
Place the cabbage and chickpeas first on the plate, then add the potatoes and carrots. Finally, sprinkle the roasted cashews over the top and season the whole dish with a splash of soy sauce.
Here’s the recipe you’ve all been waiting for. Mexican food has been classically known as being generally meat-focused, but even now some of the bigger cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara feature a lot of vegan options. Vegans around the world have jumped at the opportunity to make Mexican dishes, while still sticking to their principles.
Tacos contain some of our favorite ingredients, and these don’t need to be altered for the vegan diet at all. These staple ingredients are:
Really, the only ingredients that didn’t start out as vegan are:
Making vegan taco meat is easy. There are several options you can choose from, but if you want to take a meat-alternative route, you can choose from tempeh, tofu, or seitan.
Our favorite is tofu. The only trick is to make sure you cook the tofu properly, or it will end up mushy. All you have to do is let it cook a little longer than you would think you need. When you’re cooking ground beef or steak, you need to cook it lightly to keep the moisture in and prevent them from getting tough and dry. With tofu, it’s the opposite.
Start by placing big chunks of tofu on the pan. Let some of the moisture cook out of it while getting the edges brown and crispy at the same time. Chop the chunks smaller in increments, each time cooking out the moisture and letting the edges brown. Finally, chop it up into small pieces so it resembles ground beef. You can flavor the seasonings yourself, but we think the pre-prepared taco seasoning packets add just the right seasoning.
Use a whole packet, and let it cook until the seasonings are absorbed and the moisture is gone from the tofu.
You can buy dairy alternatives for sour cream and cheese, or you can make your own versions.
You may not have considered salsa as a meal, but once you try this hefty, protein-filled rendition, you’ll change your mind. You can eat it normally with chips, but if you have a big appetite, you can eat it over the top of lettuce as a salad, or in a tortilla as a burrito.
Here are the ingredients:
Mix all the basic ingredients together first. You’ll add the juicy stuff (lime, olive oil, and vinegar) after all of it so that you can tell how much to add. You just want enough olive oil to dress everything and give it nice moisture.
This classic recipe is simple but the green apple will make a world of difference in the final flavor. Sautee the onion, carrots, and ginger over medium heat until they are cooked through but still retaining moisture. Blend all the other ingredients together, then put back on the stove to heat everything through. You can eat it right away or leave it simmering lightly on the stove for an hour to let the flavors cook together.
Right before serving, add in a generous sprinkling of slivered almonds. These, combined with the coconut milk will provide you a satisfying, mid-week vegan protein source.
The secret to getting the right texture in the lentils is to cook them separately, then add them to the sauce later.
Sautee a white or yellow onion and toast the spices. You can choose a basic spice combination, with red curry sauce and a pinch of dried red curry. Add in cumin and cardamom. Recipes typically call for one teaspoon each, but if you want a rich flavor, add more spices.
Add in diced carrots, small chunks of sweet potatoes, red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, and a Thai basil leaf. Add a can of full-fat coconut milk. If you need more liquid, add some almond or soy milk to create a full texture. Simmer until all vegetables are cooked through, then add the red lentils. If you want to limit your carbs, serve over cauliflower rice. This meatless curry is full of flavorful sources of protein and will become a must-have in your weekly meal plan.
The stir fry is perfect to use any and all vegetables you need to use up in your fridge. Just remember to start with the tougher veggies that take longer to cook, like mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and eggplant. Add soft veggies like snap peas, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli right at the end. Sautee pieces of seitan at medium-high heat so the edges are crisp and browned and the inside is still soft. Add sesame seeds and soy sauce at the end. For extra grams of protein and optimal health, add edamame beans as an extra topping.