It seems as though more and more people are starting to catch on to the benefits of a plant-based diet. More and more vegan and vegetarian options are sprouting up everywhere, which is great news for us plant-charged powerhouses.
The word vegan conjures a number of images to those meat eaters: frail, skinny, pale, weak, celery, protein (or “lack thereof”).
But here’s the thing. Vegans have been around for years, and they seem to be doing just fine.
As a fitness athlete, most people ask the same old question when they hear I’m vegan: but where do you get your protein from?
Granted, it’s a legitimate questions considering most people are born and raised to think that your only protein sources are meat and dairy.
But take a look at the current USDA Food Pyramid. Dry beans and nuts fall into the same category as meat as they all provide a valuable source of calcium, iron, zinc, and...you guessed it...protein.
When I talk about protein, most meatheads link it to muscle growth. But there is more to protein than “gains”, as they call it in the bro world. When people go vegan or vegetarian, many miss out on key macro- (protein, carbs, and healthy fats) and micronutrients that keep the body functioning properly.
Did you know protein deficiency is a real thing? And it can cause a number of health problems including hair loss, exhaustion, muscle dystrophy, and more.
When powering your body with plants, it’s important to consume a proper balance of key nutrients. I only mention protein because, well, I’m an athlete and personal trainer, and protein is an extra important component to my diet.
Whether you’re a gym-goer, a classic vegan or vegetarian, or someone looking to cut down on their meat intake, there are a number of nutritious plant-based food options to fuel your lifestyle.
Despite what people think, vegans consume more than just bowls of romaine lettuce and frozen corn. Our foods are packed with nutrients and can be extremely tasty and satisfying. There is more to a vegan lifestyle than fruit and veggie trays.
Here are five of my favorite vegan snack options, most of which are clean (consisting of whole ingredients) and portable for those individuals who are always on the go.
1. Veggies, fruit slices and hummus
So basic, right? But here’s the thing. Hummus is a great fiber rich, protein powered food source that’s perfect for a midday pick-me-up or a post-workout treat. Go ham by overloading on your fruit and veggie options. Fresh squash, cucumbers, cauliflower, peppers, apples, dates, and dried apricots all go great with hummus. Make yourself a plant-powered platter of goodness! Chickpeas serve as the main ingredient for your basic hummus recipe, but there are other options out there too such as black bean, white bean, edamame, and more.
2. Quinoa Brittle
Before you get all upset about quinoa ruining your sugar-rich brittle, just know that this alternative is even more satisfying. Why? Because it’s packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, and just the right amount of sweetness. Nuts, quinoa, maple syrup, chia seeds, and oatmeal come together to make up this delectable concoction that works well as a snack or dessert. Check out the recipe from Minimalist Baker.
3. Chickpea “Chicken” Salad
If you form just the right texture, your friends won’t even realize you’re serving them a plant-based chicken salad. The best thing about this super easy recipe? Versatility. Trade out Veganiase for tahini, add in nuts, apple chunks or grapes, or change up the herbs and spices to suit your mood. The possibilities are endless! Goes great with whole wheat pita bread, fruit and veggie slices, sprouted toast, or a bed of greens. Check out the recipe here!
4. Nut Butter
What else is there to say? Sunflower, almond, cashew, peanut. There are so many options these days. Pair it with fruit slices or stuff it inside pitted dates. Just don’t overload you daily calorie intake with these healthy fat options. Also, go for a fresh ground option if possible to limit the amount of salt, sugar, and oil added. Want more from your nut butter? Try out these homemade protein bars from the kitchen of Yuri Elhaim.
5. Chia Pudding
Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, iron—just a few key nutrients in this high(er) protein chia pudding recipe from the Simply Quinoa Blog. This version consists of three healthy ingredients: chia seeds, quinoa, and hemp hearts. One serving provides a powerful source of antioxidants, which protect the body from damage caused by harmful free radicals, and 13 grams of protein. Just toss the ingredients in a small mason jar, stick it in the fridge, and let the plants do the work. All you have to do is enjoy.
Sarah Cole, NASM, CPT
Pittsburgh Fitness Project