No soy, no nuts, no problem! Getting Your Protein On.

Getting enough protein isn’t as hard for vegans as some people would have you believe. It can get more complicated, however, if feeding children (who can sometimes be picky – go figure) and then even more so if those children have food allergies or intolerances.

Soy and nuts are well-known sources of protein for vegans. But, soy and nuts are also common allergens or irritants. But, no fear! There are plenty of other sources of protein that can easily fit into a vegan diet. Here are just a few.

Beans, Lentils, and Peas

Chickpeas, navy beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, peas, and more. Beans are a great source of protein and when combined with a grain can even make a “whole protein” (less important to do in a meal than you may believe). Children may not be into the idea of pea soup – though mine were. But that’s ok. There are many other options to try. How about:

Hummus and pita
Tacos, nachos, or burritos with beans
Navy bean soup
Minestrone soup
Chili
Black beans (or any other bean) and rice
Uncrabby patties
Black bean and sweet potato patties
Sloppy Lennys

Seeds

If nuts are off limits, how about seeds? Hemp seeds and flax seeds can be ground and sprinkled onto or into other dishes including smoothies or even mac and cheese. Chia seeds go nicely in overnight oats or a pudding. Quinoa (which acts like a grain but is really a seed) can be easily substituted for rice. Sunflower seeds can be a fun snack and also make a good addition to cookies, salads, granola, or even pasta dishes. Pumpkin seeds go very nicely in Mexican food. And tahini is a good started for dipping, using as a sauce for veggies, or thinning with lemon and oil for a salad dressing.

Grains

You might not think that grain-based food would ever have protein, but it definitely can. Brown rice has protein, as does whole wheat, buckwheat, wild rice, cornmeal, and even oats. This opens up many options for adding protein to the diet, like:

A sandwich on whole wheat bread (or check the protein values of Ezekiel bread!)
Dishes made from/with seitan
Whole wheat or buckwheat pancakes (substitute almond or coconut milk for soy)
Overnight oats with your choice of add-ons

Vegetables (besides beans)

This throws people off sometimes, but yes, non-bean vegetables can have protein. Broccoli, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, sweet corn, arugula, asparagus, and artichokes (avocado, which isn’t exactly a vegetable). Potatoes even have some protein. This is why a varied vegan diet that contains a good amount of food close to its natural form means that there is little to fret about with regard to getting enough protein. You could whip up a little:

Roasted vegetables
Lemon miso kale
Guacamole
Artichoke dip
Asparagus tips with tahini sauce
Or even mashed potatoes

So, even if you are feeding picky kids or are a picky adult, and have to contend with allergies to soy and nuts, getting enough protein isn’t a barrier to eating vegan!

A Well-Aged Vegan: Eating for Heart, Brain, and Gut Health

Rumor has it that I am getting older. The fact that my oldest “child” is going to be 30 in less than six months suggests that this might be true, but I am not sure I believe it. However, the medical establishment assures me that it is true.

That being the case, I am having to make some dietary adjustments to attempt to deal with medical issues that apparently come with age. I’m not going to bore you, or me, with a list of the medical nonsense that I have been dealing with.

But, I will share some info about some of the quality choices you might make, and that I am making, for vegan gut health and heart/brain health.

For Gut Health and Beyond

Really, this applies to everyone, not just vegans. But, if you are vegan and aren’t really doing much for your biotic wellbeing, now is a good time to start. And, as you get older, this gets even more important, as hormonal changes can create biome issues beyond the gut, #ifyouknowwhatImean.

So, what to do? Decrease your sugar intake and your processed food intake, take a probiotic, and then incorporate some or all of the following regularly into your diet:

  • Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Sauerkraut (look for good sauerkraut, not the kind that comes in a can)
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir (obviously, look for vegan kefir; it does exist)
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles (again, the less processed the better)
  • Yogurt (unsweetened; you can even make your own)
  • Tempeh

The doc who I worked with on this advised me to work these foods into my diet like it’s my job!

For Heart and Brain Health

It’s much easier to get omega 6 in your diet than omega 3, and research suggests that you want to keep the right ratio (ideally not more than 2x as much omega 6 than omega 3) and that supplements don’t work well for the omegas.

Reducing your processed foods (see above) will also help decrease your extra omega 6. So will cooking with oils lower in omega 6 (like avocado oil, olive oil, or even coconut oil). After that, the key is to add more omega 3. You can do that by adding the following to your diet:

  • Chia seeds
  • Ground linseed
  • Hemp seeds or oil
  • Ground flax seeds or oil
  • Walnuts
  • Sea vegetables
  • Purslane
  • Cauliflower and brussel sprouts

You don’t have to get all crazy with it, as limited amounts make a difference.

So, I’m trying to work some of the foods from the first list into every meal, and get a good amount serving or two from the second list a day. My recent strategy has been to have: for brunch, overnight oats with walnuts, chia seeds, and soy yogurt; and then for dinner, another food from the good bacteria list.

What are your strategies for these pieces of healthy vegan eating?