Day One: Pump Up Protein

·3 min read
Photo credit: Plateresca - Getty Images
Photo credit: Plateresca - Getty Images

YOUR GOAL: Get the right amount of protein for your body.

Wondering, Without chicken on my plate, how will I get enough protein? “This is the number one question I get about going plant-based,” says nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN. “But you absolutely can get enough protein on a plant-based diet.” Here's why that's so important: Protein contains amino acids that your body uses to build new tissue (from red blood cells to muscle cells) and is responsible for many other functions in your body, including keeping you fueled. Our bodies use protein stores to make glucose when there isn't enough elsewhere (i.e., from stored carbs or fat) to provide the energy you need. It also takes longer to digest than carbs, keeping you fuller longer.

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The daily recommended amount of protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight—so if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s about 55 grams. And sure, you can boost your intake with supplement shakes, but a more sustainable, filling way to hit the mark is to make sure you're getting enough plant-based protein. Try:

Protein: 22 grams in about 3/4 cup, cooked
Made from wheat gluten, it has a dense texture that’s ideal for replacing meat in your favorite dishes. It’s also the most protein-dense food on this list—even beating some actual meats.

Protein: 20 grams in about 3/4 cup, cooked
Made from soybeans, tempeh fermented for easier digestion and has a true meaty texture. Cook it any way you would meat—grilled, baked, or pan-fried.

Protein: 11 grams per 1/2 cup, cooked
Tofu is made from soy milk, and it varies in texture from creamy to firm. It absorbs flavor beautifully, and is great in stir fries.

Protein: 9 grams per 1/2 cup, cooked
Whole soybeans, they are also an excellent source of fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, and B vitamins. Cook them alone for a healthy snack or fold them into veggie fried rice.

Protein: 8 grams per 1/2 cup, cooked
Rich in folate, potassium, and copper, these tasty little legumes shine in a variety of soups or used as a replacement for ground beef in shepherd’s pie or meatloaf.

Protein: up to 8 grams per 1/2 cup, cooked
Packed with both protein and fiber, they have a versatile texture that can be cooked in chili, shaped into burgers, or tossed onto salads.

Protein: 7 grams per 1/2 cup, cooked
Whether you eat them as hummus, on a complex salad, or in a hearty soup, chickpeas—also known as garbanzo beans—are some of the best plant-based protein sources.

Photo credit: Daring Foods
Photo credit: Daring Foods

Protein: 5 grams per 1/2 cup, uncooked
As comforting as a hug from Grandma, oats are also a high-protein grain. Overnight oats are an easy option, but you can also mix them into smoothies or muffins.

Protein: 4 grams per 1/2 cup, cooked
This chewy grain is perfect as the base for a refreshing salad topped with veggies, beans, avocado, and whatever else you have in the fridge. And quinoa pasta is delicious.

Meatless Meals Challenge: Day 1 Recipes

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