Record numbers of people are thought to be embracing the Veganuary movement this January, stripping their diet of animal produce for the first month of the year. But as January also tends to coincide with a refreshed approach to a healthy lifestyle, a balanced diet also tends to be at the top of the agenda, too.
So how do you navigate getting the amount of protein you need when you're on a vegan diet, and avoiding eating meat? Author and Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert has all the advice you need on the best vegan-friendly foods packed full of protein.
1. Beans and lentils
(Approx. 20g protein per 100g)
"Beans and lentils taste great in curries and soups and are also useful for thickening sauces or dips. They are an excellent source of fibre and some B vitamins," says Rhiannon.
2. Nuts and seeds
(Approx. 20g protein per 100g)
"Whether sprinkling over porridge, throwing into smoothies or snacking on in the afternoon, nuts and seeds are a good source of plant-based protein," advises the nutritionist. But that's not all they've got going for them: "They have the added benefit of containing fatty acids, calcium, zinc and selenium. Be creative and pack lots of different varieties into your diet," suggests Rhiannon.
(Approx. 7.2g protein per 100g)
"Chickpeas are incredibly versatile as a protein source – they can be made into hummus, added to curries, blended into soups, roasted in a little olive oil and paprika for a healthy afternoon snack…the list goes on!" says Rhiannon, adding: "They also double up as a source of iron and fibre."
4. Soya foods
(Approx. 8g protein per 100g)
"Soya foods such as tofu provide an alternative plant-based protein source with a good amino acid profile, as well as fatty acids and calcium," advises the nutritionist. "Tofu can be a particularly tasty addition to Asian inspired curries, noodle dishes, and also when fried in a little soy sauce, oil and cornflour to become crispy. Try it out if you haven’t already!"
(Approx. 19g protein per 100g)
"Tempeh is an Indonesian plant-based protein source. It has a chewy texture not too dissimilar to meat and is a good addition to salads," says Rhiannon. "It also has the added benefit of being fermented which may be beneficial for our gut microbiome." And well, anything your gut microbiome wants, it should get...
(Approx. 75g protein per 100g)
The word might sound like the devil, but the food product is far from it - it's a very effective source of protein. "Seitan contains a high amount of protein and is made mainly from wheat gluten. Its meat-like texture means its often found in curries and burgers," explains Rhiannon.
7. Nut butter
(Approx. 20-30g protein per 100g)
"Nut butter on rice cakes or on toast works really well as a delicious and satisfying snack," says Rhiannon, and I can personally vouch for this. There's no way it should be as healthy as it is, given how good it tastes. "Nut butter is also great in smoothies and with fruit dipped into it (or just straight out of the jar, let’s be honest)! It contains healthy fats, although beware that some may contain added sugar; always check the label," warns the expert.
8. Meat substitutes eg. vegan sausages
(Approx. 8-20g protein per 100g)
Never dabbled in meat substitutes? Give them a try, says Rhiannon. "These types of products typically contain mycoprotein if quorn based, which is derived from fungi," she explains. "As well as being a protein source, they also contain fibre. Other sausages such as Heck sausages contain lots of vegetables helping you towards your five a day. Some vegans cite missing the ‘chewiness’ of meat, therefore these products can be great alternatives."
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