One of the first questions as a Vegan, that I hear, is “but where do you get your protein?”. It is assumed that because we eat no meat, dairy, fish or eggs that we must either eat vast amounts of beans and tofu or we are sickly and weak. I remember many, many years ago, meeting my first vegan and he WAS skinny and DID look weak and unwell. That might still be the perception because not so many years ago, plant based eating was uncommon and often lacked balanced nutritional intake.
As we evolve, we are learning that the protein requirements are much different than initially perceived and that despite popular belief comes in many plant forms other than just beans and tofu. We have also learned that we do not need a “complete” protein at every meal; the key is to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the day and you will get it.
Just how much protein does the average person really need? Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a leading vegan authority, writes that an easy way to calculate your own daily protein requirement is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you weigh yourself in pounds divide your weight by 2.2 and then multiply that number by 0.8. That number is how many grams of protein you require per day. An average 140 lb woman for instance only requires 51 grams of protein. By contrast the average meat/dairy eating person consumes in excess of 110 grams of protein daily which puts stress on their kidneys as well as causing other health issues, especially as they age.
If you Google “Vegan Sources of Protein”, you can find all kinds of charts breaking down the protein content in a variety of foods from fruits and vegetables to nuts and seeds. Again, the key thing to remember is to eat a wide variety of all of them. The bonus to this is usually vegetable protein doesn’t carry the same calories that its meat alternatives do so you can eat more food and feel very satisfied without gaining any weight.
Along with a wide variety of produce, SPUD carries some great products such as tempeh, smoked tofu, vegan milks, cheeses, other meat substitutes and even desserts with excellent sources of protein. For a light dinner, we often eat a large salad made with a variety of lettuces, cucumbers, onions, celery, fresh tomatoes or other fruit, olives, nuts and some cooked Smokey Maple tempeh or smoked Tofu on the top. Delicious! (And it leaves us room for some yummy vegan “ice cream” for dessert too!)