Eight Plant-Based Proteins to Power Up Your Vegan Diet

Damn vegans, am I right?

We’ve earned quite the reputation in modern society. Obnoxious, pretentious, and unable to refrain from announcing our lifestyle at the absolute worst times.

Hey, I get it. We’re annoying. I won’t go into why we’re so proud of our diets or what a difference it can make in our environment, but I will say that if we have to sport the “annoying vegan” tag, meat-eaters have to sport the “professional FBI investigator” tag.

No matter how politely I turn down meat, I am always bombarded with a variety of questions. “Why?” “How?” “Since when?” “Aren’t you starving?” “Are you sure you don’t secretly eat meat at night when nobody’s watching?” and of course the unavoidable “How do you get your protein?”

Contrary to popular belief, meat is not the only source of protein. Relying on plant-based products for all of my nutrients has forced me to become hyper aware of what I put into my body. As a result, I’m consuming more protein than I ever did before cutting meat out of my diet.

There are tons of plant-based proteins hiding in your grocery store. You just have to know what they are. Here are eight sources that are a simple addition to any diet:

  1. Beans

Protein per cup: about 15 grams

Beans are one of the most affordable protein sources. They are super cheap and come in a wide variety. Whether you prefer white, black, kidney or pinto, you’re guaranteed to get at least 10 grams of protein with each cup. Besides protein, they come with a number of other nutrients including copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

  1. Tofu

Protein per cup: 20 grams

Tofu is a soft white substance made from pressed soybeans. At first I was hesitant to give it a try, but over time learned that tofu has the potential to be really great. It’s all about the preparation. If you’re turned off by weird textures, I would recommend marinating the tofu, then shredding it into thin bits. This works as a great substitute for meat in any dish.  

  1. Quinoa

Protein per cup: 8 grams

I had never even heard of quinoa before switching to a vegan diet, but boy was I missing out. This is a grain-like seed that primarily comes from South Africa. “A great plant-based protein is  Quinoa,” says Dr. Gregory Biren, Associate Director of Exercise Science Research Laboratory. “It’s one of the only plant-based protein that is complete with all nine essential amino acids.”

This is one of my favorite protein sources because it is so simple. No cooking is required and you can throw it on top of any platter.

  1. Soy Milk

Protein per cup: 8 grams

Soy milk is made from soybeans. Needless to say, it works best as a substitute for your typical dairy milk. Soymilk is also said to help fight osteoporosis and heart disease. I personally like to drink it with my coffee or cereal in the morning.

  1. Oatmeal

Protein per cup: 6 grams

Even if you’re not vegan, everyone can benefit from a hearty bowl of oatmeal in the morning. Oats are high in protein, plus they keep you full for a long time. You even can add dried fruit such as apricots or raisins to your oatmeal for even more protein.

  1. Green Peas

Protein per cup: 8 grams

Too often we mistake “green” for “boring.” Green peas may not be the most glamourous source of protein, but they contain so many nutrients that are essential to good health. They’re rich in antioxidants which have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Why not dump some peas into your salad if it means less wrinkles and lower risk of Alzheimer’s?

  1. Seeds

Protein per cup: Depends on the seed

There are so many different seeds and they are all high in protein. Flaxseed and dried sunflower seeds are at the head of the pack, containing about 30 grams in one single cup. But you’d be surprised at how much protein you can get from snacking on any type of seed, from pumpkin to pepita.

  1. Peanut Butter

Protein per cup: 65 grams

Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods because of the delicious taste alone. I could not believe my eyes when I looked at the nutrition label to find out this stuff contains 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. Plus, if you spread it on a slice of whole wheat bread, you’re creating a complete protein with all nine amino acids.

According to Dr. Biren, the average person needs at least .45 grams of protein per pound of their body weight each day. However, people who exercise regularly should be getting twice this amount of protein in order to support healthy muscle growth, a strong immune system, red blood cell functions and a balance of body fluid.  
Protein plays a key role in our health and is an essential part of any diet. It’s perfectly possible maintain a balanced diet without the consumption of animal products. Including these totally plant-based protein sources will keep you feeling good and pushing forward.

Review of The Spot

Seven months ago I ditched the whole “meat-eating” thing and dove into the wonderful world of vegetarianism. Though my body is thanking me, my wallet is not. Forget craving chicken nuggets and cheesesteaks – the hardest part of this whole adventure has been finding food that I can actually afford.

Dining out can be pricey, period. Throw some diet restrictions in there and you can kiss that dream goodbye. I’ve found it almost impossible to pay a reasonable bill at any of those “specialty” vegan or gluten-free restaurants, so I was pretty stoked when a co-worker told me about The Spot in Northfield.

Located inside The Shop on Tilton just outside of Atlantic City, The Spot is a local staple for both vegetarians and meat eaters. In 2012, it was launched by Jonathon Sands and Erin McGee with the intent of bringing creative dishes to a casual atmosphere. The Spot guarantees the use of fresh food, so no need to worry about paying $10 for a pizza you could have just bought from the freezer section of your local ShopRite.  However, if you’re a regular food consumer like me, you have probably developed some trust issues over the years. I mean Wendy’s slogan is “fresh never frozen,” but we all know that’s not the truth. I wanted to put The Spot’s “fresh food” guarantee to the test, so I stopped in for some lunch.

I walked in and sat myself. The restaurant was pretty empty, as most shore places are after Labor Day. It was empty, but not vacant. It still felt cozy. “Fix You” by Coldplay softly filled the room providing a coffee shop feel. I was really digging the atmosphere.

My young waitress was very friendly. I could tell she had a genuine knowledge of the food as I asked different questions about the menu. I decided to start my lunch off with a cup of dairy free cashew broccoli soup, per her recommendation. (Okay, I know what you’re thinking- Cashews and broccoli?) It’s a weird combination, I know. I was nervous too. But I had to find out if cashews were really these magic little tree nuts capable of producing a dairy-like substance- and they were. The soup was great. It resembled a thinner version of the typical cream of broccoli. But without the dairy, I still had room for my main dish.  

Choosing a main dish was hard, because the menu was overwhelming. Aside from the standard menu book, The Spot also has a specialty page of options that changes every single day. The first thing that stuck out me on this specialty page were the drinks.They had over 10 variations of fruity refreshments including cranberry acai lemonade, pineapple lemonade, thai tea, thai coffee, and even a nonalcoholic cucumber mojito, all at a standard $6. I was turned off by the price, until I saw the size of these things. All beverages are served in an enormous mason jar, big enough to last through a meal and the drive home. Sidenote: They do provide to-go cups. Plus, we all love to post artsy mason jar photos on Instagram.

I flipped through the menu about a dozen times, amazed at all of the unique dishes I had never before heard of. However, I kept going back to one dish in particular- the quinoa quesadillas. This is because a.) I love mexican food and b.) I cannot find quinoa at any other restaurant. As a committed vegetarian, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

The quesadillas totally lived up to my expectations. They encompassed the perfect cheese to quinoa ratio, mixed with juicy peppers and onions. Perhaps the best part of it all was the crispy black bean tortilla. The dish also came with side of sour cream and quinoa, all for $11.

If you’re not into the whole vegetarian-mexican thing, The Spot still has a lot of great options. Their menu includes burgers, wraps, salads, starters and an extensive list of entrees. Some of the more distinctive dishes include sweet potato wontons, thai chili wings, four cheese grilled cheese, and blueberry cream cheese wontons. They also serve breakfast until 11 a.m. and all day on Sundays.  I’m excited to go back and try their “banana fat boy french toast.”  Plus maybe this time I’ll have room to fit dessert, because their homemade cookies sound incredible.

The Spot is a perfect place to stop for a casual meal. You get the luxury of gourmet food, without having make reservations, dress up, or pay a ridiculous price. Their menu offers something for everyone. Plus you’re guaranteed to leave with enough leftovers for an entire meal. So if you’re looking for simple and cozy, you’ll have to stop by The Shop on Tilton.