By Tara Brooks (Naturopath)
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in people switching to a vegetarian or plant based vegan diet. There are a number of reasons for this change, whether it be for animal welfare, health, environmental or that it just feels right for you. To note: A vegetarian will abstain from eating meat itself. This means no red meat, poultry, pork, fish or seafood. A vegan, however, only eats plant based foods, so on top of no meat, they also do not consume anything derived from animals: milk, cheese, eggs, honey (although honey is debatable in the vegan world).
I was raised vegetarian and have been a healthy vegan for the last 13 years. While it may sound quite simple to keep a healthy diet without eating animal products, there are certain things that you need to be aware of to ensure you’re not missing out on essential nutrients. To be a healthy vegan or vegetarian, you need to be committed to your health!
The biggest area that vegetarians and vegans need to think about (and the area I’ll focus on today) is protein.
Protein is essential for every cell in the body, from muscle cells, blood cells, bone cells, skin cells and most importantly – organ cells. It is also involved in hormone production, digestion, mood regulation, sleep and wound healing. Without adequate protein, health issues WILL start to arise.
The easy rule for protein is 1g of protein for every kilo of body weight, per day. So, if you weigh 65kg, you need 65 grams of protein a day. Protein can be found in grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and a small amount in vegetables for vegans and also in eggs, milk and cheese for vegetarians.
My trick to staying on top of protein is ensuring that it is included in every meal of the day. This means oats, nuts and seeds in your breakfast, tofu, tempeh or eggs for lunch and rice and beans for dinner, as well as a few protein dense snacks throughout the day – nuts are my go to!
To get you started, below is my recipe for a protein-packed breakfast. This will set you up and allow you more ‘breathing room’ throughout the day.
Muesli is a great way to start your day. You can make this muesli ahead of time (except for the chia seeds, flaxseeds and berries) and store in an airtight jar in the pantry. I simply put a big bowl on top of some kitchen scales and weigh each ingredient as it goes in. The below is for a single serve, so multiply this dependant on how much you wish to make in bulk. You can also replace or increase any of the nuts if you don’t have the full variety, or add more seeds to make up for what nuts you don’t have – but keep in mind their protein levels and replace with the equivalent amounts.
Tara’s Protein Packed Muesli
100g Raw Oats (12.7g protein)
10g Sunflower Seeds (2.6g protein)
10g Pumpkin Seeds (3g protein)
10g Almonds (2g protein)
10g Cashews (1.5g protein)
10g Hazelnuts (1.5g protein)
10g Brazil nuts (1.4g protein)
20g Lupin flakes* (8g protein)
Cinnamon to taste
On the day:
10g Chia Seeds (1.6g protein. Soak your chia seeds in a little water for 5 minutes before adding them in).
10g Ground Flaxseeds (1.8g protein. Flaxseeds should be ground before eating, and always kept in the fridge to maintain their nutritional benefits. Simply add just before serving).
Top with fresh berries and your preferred milk.
The above recipe will deliver your body approximately 37g of protein!
*Lupin is an amazing nutrient dense legume that is only just starting to gain popularity. Ask for it at your health food store, and if they don’t have it – ask them to get it in!
So just to recap: protein literally is the power house that every one thinks it is, as it relates to so many areas of your bodies health. You can ensure adequate protein intake on a vegetarian or vegan diet, you just need to be mindful of what you are putting in to your body. My tip: ensure you include sources of protein in each meal!
If you want to work with me to improve your diet, or begin the transition to a vegan or vegetarian diet – it is my speciality! Simply contact the team at In Symmetry and book in an online naturopathy consult with me.
I look forward to working with you. x Tara
If you would like to book an appointment with Tara you can call the clinic on (03) 5429 3610 or book online by clicking the link below.