Updated: Jul 26
Various versions of the plant-based diet are more popular than ever. Whether you're vegetarian, vegan or aiming to work more plants into your regime, it's a great choice for your personal health and for the planet. When considering a plant-based diet, sufficient protein intake is a common concern. Generally speaking, many of us were raised with the understanding of meat as protein. That idea tended to lead balanced meal planning, with vegetables, grains and starches as 'side' to the star meat dish. Luckily, plant-based recipes and products are more accessible these days, as is accurate nutritional information on what our body needs to thrive.
To get started, a protein calculator can tell you exactly how many grams of protein per day is optimal based on your age, height, weight and activity level.
Once you know how much protein you need, there are plenty of plant-based options to choose from! No processed meat alternatives necessary.
We collaborated with Maui based Naturopathic Physician Nancy Lins, to provide some basic education and meal planning around plant-based proteins.
"Whether you make the choice to become vegan for philosophical, religious, spiritual or physical health reasons, it is important that you prepare your food and have a plan to have a balanced lifestyle and diet." Says Dr Lins. "Often people will go grain heavy and this will not bring balanced nutrition."
Eat Your Veggies
Dr Lins is quick to note that protein exists in vegetables and even provided us with her list of the top protein providing vegetables (and avocado which is technically a fruit), illustrated in the graphic below.
The Complete Plant-Based Protein Combination
Beans or legumes married with a grain creates a protein balanced in all the amino acids. As a plant-based restaurant, Choice Health Bar designs meals with complete protein in mind. Soup specials containing lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas, white beans etc. can be combined with a scoop of golden rice or coconut quinoa to provide all 9 essential amino acids in one delicious meal. Other all star foods deliver a complete protein on their own, like quinoa, buckwheat and tofu (see tofu scramble recipe below). Choice's 'benny mac burger' features black beans and rice for complete plant protein. The 'buddha bowl' combines quinoa with the featured soup, so if that soup contains a legume (which it most likely does), you have yourself a perfectly protein packed plant-based meal my friend!
Plant-based protein powder is a super easy way to be sure you're getting enough protein worked into your daily meals. Using the protein calculator provided above and the specifications of your powder, a smoothie can be super charged to provide everything you need for the day. Protein powders are versatile and can also be utilized in baked goods such as muffins and pancakes! Choice Health Bar recommends starting the day with a high protein meal and uses Sun Warrior Vegan Protein Powder in smoothies. Mikuna chocho powder is a new, lectin-free favorite for baking.
Berries & Fruit
Surprising, but true! While not as protein dense as beans, nuts and legumes; berries and fruit contain significant sources of protein. High protein fruits include guavas, apricots, kiwifruit, oranges, bananas, cantaloupe, and peaches. Blackberries and raspberries top the charts on protein for the berry family.
There are a ton of plant-based pastas to choose from. These alternative pastas offer fiber and protein while keeping the comfort of a traditional hearty pasta. Chickpea twists or penne products from Banza are a home cooking favorite that can be combined with a vegetable sauce like pesto or marinara and topped with seeds or nuts and the tofu scramble recipe provided below.
Seeds & Nuts
Hemp seeds contain all the amino acids and are considered a complete protein. They also
happen to be super versatile and can be easily added to smoothies, top a salad or mixed into
baked goods. Chia is also one of those magical complete proteins and can be used in much the same way. Chia seeds aid in hydration and add a pleasingly 'viscous' gel texture to drinks or pudding.
Too lengthy to list, basically any nut or seed is a winner in the protein game so sprinkle generously. You'll find cashews in many plant-based meals thanks to their creamy texture for sauces and spreads. Alternative nut and seed butters are readily available on grocery store shelves. Nut and seed milks are also plentiful, easy to consume in a smoothie with your fave protein powder.
Plant-Based Protein Meals at Home
Choice Co-Owner Emily Kunz shares her tofu scramble recipe below. This plant-based protein is great on salads, stirred with vegan aioli as a mock chicken salad, or eaten in place of scrambled eggs!
Plant-Based Protein Resources
If you're looking to transition to a plant-based diet or integrate more plant-based protein into your meals, knowledge and preparation are key. Fill your feed with high quality resources, invest in a few inspiring plant-based cookbooks, schedule a nutrition consultation, and try some of the complete protein combination meals at any Choice Health Bar location on Maui!
Dr Nancy Lins can be reached via email DrLins@DrLins.com, text or call 808.333.9554
We love @earthyandy for practical, plant-based recipes using local produce from Hawaii
@julianhierro is a good source for protein specific meal ideas and nutritional information
The Proof with Simon Hill digs further into the science behind plant-based eating