“But, where do you get your protein???” and other questions I get about plant-based eating

If you’re just starting to think about dipping your toes into the world of plant-based eating (come on in! The water’s great!), chances are you have some of the same questions that I’m often asked about this way of eating. Let’s dive in.

But, where do you get your protein?

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Somehow, the biggest and strongest animals in the world don’t consume protein shakes or bars—or meat, eggs, or dairy—yet in the case of the African Bush Elephant, they still manage to grow to 13,000 POUNDS on an herbivorous diet.

Somehow, the biggest and strongest animals in the world don’t consume protein shakes or bars—or meat, eggs, or dairy—yet in the case of the African Bush Elephant, they still manage to grow to 13,000 POUNDS on an herbivorous diet.

On a plant-based diet, you get your protein the same way these giant beasts do…through eating plants. This morning I had some steel cut oats for breakfast with a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and one-half cup of lentils mixed in (trust me on this one, it’s tasty and packed with fiber and protein). That breakfast had over 18 grams of protein! I would have had to eat three eggs to get the same amount of protein, and the eggs provide no fiber (my breakfast had 15 grams of fiber), and are high in cholesterol and fat. A healthy diet of tofu, soy curls, beans, nuts, seeds, whole-grains, and even broccoli and other fruits and vegetables provides all the protein you need for optimal health.

Not convinced? Learn more about protein needs, sources, and other science-y stuff here.

What do you eat for breakfast?

There are so many tasty breakfast options on a healthy diet! If I’m not too hungry, an apple with some peanut or almond butter will do. If I want something I can grab out of the refrigerator in the morning, some overnight oats are perfect.  Whole-grain toast with nut butter is a quick and tasty option, as is whole-grain toast with smashed avocado, sprouts, tomato, a little balsamic glaze, salt, pepper, and pumpkin seeds. Serving a crowd? This tofu breakfast casserole is a hit and can even be prepared the night before. Can’t live without your bagel and cream cheese? Try this cream cheese recipe, made out of cashews (yep, cashews. I make mayo out of cashews too!).  Looking for a sweet treat for a special occasion? This French toast casserole is sure to please. Love breakfast sandwiches? I make a double batch of these lentil breakfast patties and keep them in the freezer. When I’m ready to eat, I just pull one from the freezer, microwave it for 30-45 seconds, and put it on a whole-wheat English muffin with mustard and vegan mayo.

What about snacks?

The plant world offers a plethora of ready-to-eat snacks…an apple and a small handful of almonds, carrots with hummus, a Kind bar, or some frozen “Nice” Cream!  I make these Oatmeal Cookie Dough Bites once a week and keep them in the freezer or refrigerator for a quick snack.

How do I entertain and follow a plant-based diet at the same time?

I love showing guests just how delicious plant-based eating can be. It’s also important that the bulk of the work can be done ahead of time so I can relax with my guests and just put the prepared food in the oven when the guests arrive.

One of my favorite meals to prepare for guests is this stuffed shells recipe. I can even make them a day ahead of time and put them in the refrigerator until I’m ready to bake them. Everyone I’ve made them for has loved them and asked for the recipe! Serve it with a nice salad and voila! An impressive meal.

You can’t forget dessert! No one will believe there are no animal products in this amazing chocolate pie. And again, you can make it ahead of time! I love to serve it with a dollop of coconut whipped cream (I get CocoWhip at Fred Meyer) and some fresh raspberries.

As you try more and more amazing vegan/plant-based recipes, you’re sure to find several favorites that you’d love to serve to company.

What about……gas?

Some—though not all—people who are just starting out on a plant-based diet experience bloating and gas due to the increased fiber intake. I remember feeling very bloated on my evening walks for the first few weeks of my new way of eating, but I’m happy to report that your body does get used to all the wonderful, delicious, healthy foods you’re feeding it and it will get better!

I travel a lot for work. Can I find foods that don’t have animal products in them while on the road?

Yes!  I highly recommend the “Happy Cow” app or website. Enter any city IN THE WORLD and Happy Cow will list restaurants that offer vegan options. I’m going to Poland with friends next year and have already checked out where I can eat in each city (a girl has to have her priorities!). Be sure to leave a review of any restaurants you visit so future travelers can benefit from your experience!

What’s the difference between plant based and vegan? Aren’t they the same?

Back when I was in school, I learned that all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. It’s kind of the same in this situation. Everyone who eats plant based follows a vegan diet, but not every vegan eats plant based. Allow me to explain…

A “vegan” diet is typically adopted for ethical reasons (animal welfare) and described as one that contains no animal products (meat, dairy, or eggs). That leaves a whole wide world of vegan junk foods at their disposal…Oreos, potato chips, Sour Patch Kids, etc. These foods are vegan, but not exactly healthful. If one is following a plant-based diet, and particularly a whole-food plant-based diet (WFPB), it is usually for health reasons and focuses on a preponderance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and small quantities of nuts and seeds.

But really, who needs to be picky about terminology? I follow a mostly WFPB diet, with the occasional Oreo. When I go to restaurants, I ask what their vegan options are, since more people are familiar with that term. I adopted this lifestyle purely for health purposes, but appreciate the benefits it has for animals and the environment.