Do you think you get enough protein in your diet? Many people don’t eat a quality protein source until lunch, or even their evening meal. In this blog post you will discover how to easily and deliciously incorporate protein into every meal. PLUS, a free meal plan to put it all into action.
Protein is essential to your body. Millions of reactions happening in your body right now require proteins. Enzymes, hormones, antibodies, cell receptors – they are all proteins. The chemicals that diffuse between your nerve cells to transmit impulses around your brain and body – proteins. So how do you think your body and mind feel if you neglect to provide the vital building blocks (amino acids) needed to make these proteins?
There are 20 different amino acids that the human body uses and, of these, half are considered ‘essential’ in the diet because they cannot be synthesised in the body.
The best thing you can do to ensure your diet contains all of the essential amino acids is to eat a good variety of protein sources. Always mix it up and ensure every meal or snack contains some protein.
Here are my personal favourite 7 sources of protein:
Boiled eggs make a great snack on the go and are quick and easy to prepare in advance. I also love to crack an egg in at the end of a stir fry, let it cook a little then stir it through for an egg-fried stir fry effect.
Any nuts would be good. A mixed handful is nice. However, almonds are particularly awesome, but remember to avoid the salted or sugar-coated varieties. I love almond butter; better for you than peanut butter, so tasty on apple slices or rice cakes and such a simple addition to a smoothie to ensure it is a balanced meal with decent protein content.
3. Hemp seeds (shelled)
For those with nut allergies, seeds are a good alternative as a go-to handy snack but also a great way to give a last-minute protein addition to a meal. I love to scatter a tablespoon of shelled hemp seeds over my veggie soups for some nice texture. Keep them in the fridge as the fantastic unsaturated omega-3 oils in the seeds quickly degrade at warmer temperatures. Other good options include pumpkin, sunflower, chia and sesame seeds, in whole, ground or paste forms. Give them a go!
Made from protein-rich ground chickpeas, healthy unsaturated fats like olive oil, plus sesame seed paste (tahini) (another fantastic protein source, with an additional kick of calcium!); everyone loves hummus. Have it as a snack with vegetable sticks or add to a salad or in fact, any meal to act as the protein provider. Making your own is super easy and unbelievably delicious. Although hummus is my favourite, use whole chickpeas, beans or lentils (stuffed into peppers they are great!) in your meals to easily add to your daily protein totals.
If you haven’t heard about the great properties of quinoa yet, where have you been?! High in essential vitamins and minerals as well as having lots of protein, plus it only takes 15 minutes to cook. Simply rinse it then add to double the volume of water in a pan. Bring to the boil then simmer only gently for 15 minutes, lid off, don’t stir. All the water should have been absorbed and there’ll be little holes/craters forming on the surface. Leave to rest for 5 mins then fluff with a fork. Enjoy hot or cold. Try it with my warming chickpea stew. Other great grains include buckwheat or brown rice and they can all be used interchangeably. Quinoa is the best one for salads though really.
This one isn’t so well known yet but it’s a great addition to veggie meals to satisfy that craving for a chewy texture that can sometimes be missed without meat. It’s mostly only available in health food shops but well worth tracking down. It is fermented tofu so as well as providing good protein it is also good for the gut, containing probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’. Works great in a curry (see the menu plan below for an idea).
Most people would probably discount vegetables when looking for good sources of protein but some do have a reasonable protein content, and spinach is a perfect example. Add a bunch to smoothies, juice it, make a salad, slightly steam or add a big bunch to a stew and stir through just before serving. It’s very versatile. Other good greens with decent protein content include peas, kale and broccoli.
Putting all this into practice, find below a free sample meal plan providing all the protein you need for a day. Notice that every meal or snack features protein in some way. It is perfectly possible to get all the protein you need from non-meat sources but it does require some thought and effort. I hope this sample meal plan will give you an idea of what is required. This might seem complicated at first but you’ll soon get into the habit of considering how to incorporate protein into everything you eat. Let me know how you get on!
SAMPLE MEAL FOR PERFECT PROTEIN PROVISION:
Contains 45g protein (the RDA for an adult female). Up the portion sizes slightly to reach the 55g protein recommended for an adult male.
Porridge made from whole rolled oats, with half an apple, cinnamon, coconut oil and topped with 1/2 tbsp flax seed and 1/2 tbsp shelled hemp seeds.
Simple bean salad: 1/2 cup chickpeas, 1/4 cup cooked puy lentils, 1/2 cup chopped broccoli, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rocket leaves, sundried tomatoes.
1 handful (approx. 3 tbsp) almonds or mixed nuts
Tempeh curry with sweet potato, coconut milk, spinach and green beans. Served with brown rice.