Most who choose a cruelty free diet will come up against this at some point, but the truth is that managing your protein intake as a part of daily nutrition is difficult for everyone- even meat eaters. It’s useful to start with a few home truths, and that includes the amount (and type) of protein that you actually need to stay healthy.
Different authorities calculate protein requirements in different ways, but a good general rule is that sedentary people (those who sit at a desk all day and don’t work out a whole lot) should have about 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day. Endurance athletes may need up to 70% more than this. To be safe, if you work out at a moderate level three to four times per week, you should aim for between 1 and 1.2 grams of protein per kilo you weigh. So for example, if you weigh 70kg and you want to maintain your weight, you would eat 70 – 84 grams of protein per day.
It is important to note that this doesn’t mean X grams of protein-rich food- it means total protein intake. That means you need to pay attention to the protein content, which for most whole foods is less than 50%. You also need to take into account the quality of the protein, namely what else comes along with it (in terms of fat, carbs and other nutrients), and whether it is a ‘complete protein’- i.e. whether it includes the 9 essential amino acids your body cannot synthesise itself. Now, you may also have heard that no vegetarian protein source is complete, but this is incorrect- all proteins are complete, they just have different levels of each amino acid, and it is important to get a balance by eating a variety of protein rich foods rather than relying on the one source.
The other problem is finding the time to cook. There aren’t many nutritious home cooked dishes that are both balanced and keep well. The trick is to find the ones that are, and then take it in turns to cook your favourites throughout the week. Below is a recipe for a high protein, high fibre, low fat and very tasty vegan chilli that will keep in your fridge for days.
This recipe serves 2, or one very very hungry vegan.
There is approximately 45-50g of protein in each serving (when you add the beans- 40-41g without), and under 450 calories in total.
- 1 can Sanitarium nutmeat (available in the health food section of most supermarkets
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 1 can of black beans
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 cup of red cooking wine (make sure its vegan & not processed with shellfish)
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 can of corn kernels
- 1 packet of taco seasoning OR make your own spice mix with 1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin, chilli, coriander, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, adjusted to tasteOptional:
- small quantities of other vegetables to taste (try grated carrot & zucchini for more fibre)
- fresh chilli to taste
- Heat oil in a small saucepan
- Add onion and spices, fry until onion is translucent
- Crumble nutmeat into onion, spice & oil and fry over medium heat for 1 – 2 minutes
- Add red wine and cook off alcohol at same heat
- Add everything else: beans, tomato, tomato paste, corn and optional ingredients
- Simmer until slightly reduced (approx. 10-15 min), stirring regularly. You may wish to add water as it goes, and adjust the levels of tomato paste, salt and chilli to taste.