If you’re like many of our clients, you’ve heard about Meatless Mondays and the cultural movement to eat a little less meat, which is based around animal rights issues, sustainability benefits for the planet, and health benefits for those eating fewer animal products. More and more Americans are realizing the advantages of plant-based diets, including lower risk of heart disease and cancer, and are opting to go “meat-free” at least once a week.
Personally, we’re huge proponents of Meatless Mondays and love the fact that making a weekly commitment is realistic and doable for most people. It also opens up people’s mind to new foods and menu options. When we discuss delicious vegan meals (which are animal and animal product-free) with our clients, they often ask us if they really can get enough protein without eating animals, fearing that their hard work building lean muscle at the gym will be undone.
There are a lot of misconceptions about protein Many of our clients are surprised to learn that they don’t need as much protein as they think, as most Americans actually eat too much protein, which can contribute to consuming too many calories and possible weight gain. The reality is that vegetarians can easily get more than enough protein in their diets. In fact, unless you're pregnant or training to be a bodybuilder, you likely will consume more than enough protein on a vegetarian diet without even trying. While a complete animal-free diet won’t make it as likely that you’ll overdo the protein, it’s definitely easy to meet your protein needs as a vegan when you include wholesome foods.
After all, why rely only on meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy foods and other animal-based foods for protein when beans, split peas, lentils, seitan, soyfoods—like tofu, tempeh, soy yogurt and edamame—nuts and seeds are also great, delicious, affordable protein options? Did you know that even grains like brown rice and vegetables like broccoli provide some protein? One cup of brown rice offers 5 grams of protein while a cup of broccoli provides 4 grams, making it easy for a vegan to meet the protein recommendations provided his or her calorie intake is adequate.
As an added bonus, plant sources of protein also come with other benefits like phytonutrients—protective plant nutrients that help to ward off chronic diseases—and fiber, both of which you won’t find in animal protein. Hello, Meatless Mondays!
To get you started, here are two great vegan recipes that you can include in your Meatless Monday menu:
This simple stir-fry is adapted from our book The Secret To Skinny)
3 ounces firm tofu (we prefer to use an organic lite tofu, as this version lowers the calories while upping the protein compared to the original version)
1 clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 cup snow peas
1/2 cup carrot coin
1/2 cup broccoli
1/2 cup bell peppers, sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice, for flavor
Your favorite barbeque, soyaki or lower-calorie stir-fry sauce (preferably low-sodium)
- Slice the tofu into 1-inch cubes.
- Add canola oil to stir-fry pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant (about a minute).
- Add the vegetables and continue to stir over medium heat for several minutes until lightly cooked.
- Gently stir in tofu.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of sauce and stir. Remove from heat and serve over brown rice or quinoa.
Note: One of our favorite grains is quinoa, as one cup of cooked quinoa provides 18 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber! Unlike many sources of vegetarian protein, quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a "complete protein."
This recipe is great because even if you “don’t cook,” you can easily assemble this healthy vegan meal)
1 small whole-grain tortilla (**see note below)
1/2 cup black beans or kidney beans
3 tablespoons grated soy cheese
1/4 cup cooked quinoa, optional (**see note below)
1 small tomato, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped cucumber
¼ cup chopped zucchini
1 ounce avocado (3 slices)
2 leaves romaine lettuce, shredded
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon veggie sour cream (optional)
In a bowl, mix the vegetables and olive oil with juice of lime. If planning to make an open-faced burrito, spread beans over tortilla and mash beans lightly with fork. Otherwise, spread beans in the middle third of the tortilla and mash them. Mix soy cheese and quinoa (if using it) and add on top of beans. Put burrito in oven and heat at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes or in microwave for about 45 seconds or until hot. Evenly distribute veggies over the open faced-burrito or add them to the middle third of burrito and fold up the tortilla. Top both versions with veggie sour cream and salsa and enjoy!
**Note: If you like it to feel as if you’re eating a really large portion (as we d)o, don’t bother to fold the burrito--simply eat it open-faced. If you don’t have the tortilla at home, simply turn this meal into a bean salad and add ½ cup cooked quinoa to the ingredient list, which we do frequently. Then, if you want to get creative, add a dash of cumin and chili powder to it and stir it up.
The Nutrition TwinsContributor
Tammy Lakatos Shames and Elysse (“Lyssie”) Lakatos, The Nutrition Twins®, share a passion to teach people how to eat healthfully and exercise so they'll have energy to live happy lives. The twins have been featured as nutrition experts on Good Morning America, Discovery Health, Fox News, NBC, Bravo, CBS, The Learning Channel, FitTV, Oxygen Network, and Fox & Friends. They co-wrote The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy and Beauty, The Secret to Skinny: How Salt Makes You Fat and the 4-Week Plan to Drop A Size & Get Healthier with Simple Low Sodium Swaps. The twins are both ACE Certified Personal Trainers, and members of the American Dietetic Association and several Dietetic Practice Groups.