“If not meat, what do you eat…and what about protein?”

When it comes up in conversation, or people ask about my eating habits and I tell them I’ve stopped eating meat or fish, more often than not I receive the same response; a slightly bewildered face and “well…what do you eat then?” or “where do you get your protein from?”, some people seem genuinely concerned about my welfare 😉 and I have to say that I too used to have the same questions. Anyone who has ditched the meat and fish from their diet will know exactly what I’m talking about!

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Some non-meat eaters respond with “haven’t you heard of vegetarian burgers, fake bacon and tofu?” but I prefer not to go down the road of seeking replacements for the animal products that I used to consume, so I try to avoid “fake meat” and “meat replacements” and I also try to limit the amount of soya or almond milk I use. Instead, I endeavour to graze on the endless other options (most of which are fairly inexpensive and widely available), a few of which are…

Fruits: apples, bananas, pears, strawberries, kiwis, oranges etc…

Vegetables: broccoli, mushrooms, peas, cauliflower, spinach, aubergine, carrots, kale, beetroot, cabbage etc…

Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, parsnip etc…

Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, butter beans, black beans etc…

Whole grains: brown rice, oats, quinoa,  rye, bulgur etc…

Nuts: walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews etc…

Seeds: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds etc…

 

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This little list took me just a few minutes to think of and there are so many more things that could be added to it.

Anyway, back to the question of protein…As long as you are eating a wide variety of plant based foods and not relying on only one or two main sources, you are going to get a sufficient amount of protein without eating meat or fish. In fact, people who suffer from a protein deficiency are usually also suffering from a calorie deficiency (caused by simply not eating enough food), so as long as you are eating enough calories from a variety of food sources, you will be fine in terms of protein!

This means that unless you are an elite athlete or training hard to increase muscle mass and density, you will be just fine if you ditch the steak for dinner and just concentrate on eating with variety! Help save the planet and stay healthy = winning! It’s recommended that you incorporate whole grains and legumes into your daily meals, as they contain the most protein per serving. Dishes that use things like quinoa and chickpeas can help with this! There is an ever increasing number of elite athletes fuelling themselves on plant based diets, including NFL players, ultra marathon runners and top tennis players, which goes to show the power of plants!

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According to a variety of research (follow link for great video) into nutrition and diet, the question shouldn’t be about protein in our diet, it should be “where do you get your fibre from?” And the answer is…from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds!

So, a real balance and variety of foods incorporated into each dish from those different food groups listed above seems to be the best option in terms of health and environmental footprint! Hopefully that answers some questions for those people who have ever wondered what veggies or vegans eat and where they get protein from!

 

More useful questions and answers can be found on the Forks Over Knives website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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