How To Eat More Protein Without Eating Meat
HOW TO EAT MORE PROTEIN WITHOUT EATING MEAT
Struggling to eat enough protein? Well, you aren't alone. You are with the millions of other Americans that have the traditional diet that consists of mostly carbohydrates and fats but not enough protein. A lot of this has to do with availability (especially during the peak of the pandemic in 2020) as well as the financial aspect since it’s just easier and cheaper to cook a 10 minute “dinner in a box” meal such as a Stovetop than it is prepping a chicken breast on the grill or the oven.
With the amount of research that has become available to the public openly, it sometimes surprises me that more people don't understand the benefits that eating a moderate to high protein diet carries. For instance, the food that we eat carries with it particular thermogenic effects, meaning, depending upon the food source, it can directly impact the rate at which your metabolism works. Regardless whether the food we consume is primarily a carbohydrate source, a fat source or a protein source, all macronutrients impact the rate of our metabolisms. However, we now know thanks to research studies that protein carries with it (as well as fiber) a much higher thermic effect (20-30%) than carbohydrates (5-10%) or fats (0-3%).
With so many Americans struggling to eat enough protein, what happens when we decide to commit ourselves towards becoming vegan, vegetarian, or just honestly want to limit overall meat consumption for personal or health related reasons? Well, things might become a little bit tricky if you don't carefully track and/or plan out your meals ahead of time. But, before we get into the details of how to consistently eat more non-meat related protein sources, let's dive into why it's so important to make sure we are eating enough protein as well as the various sources of protein...
Why Protein Shouldn't Be Ignored
As we've already discussed, protein carries with it a much higher thermogenic effect so for the majority of us that struggle with weight management and overall body composition, protein is crucial for keeping metabolisms high so we burn more fat even while resting while maintaining our lean muscle tissue which provides a more well rounded physique. Protein (and fiber) also provide a sense of satiation so we feel fuller longer which helps reduce cravings and eating impulses throughout the day that typically has us running to the snack cabinet or vending machine at random times.
Protein can be found everywhere within the human body. With prolonged periods of protein deficiency, we may begin to experience inflammation, skin degeneration, fatty liver, bone mass decreases, muscular tissue breakdown, stunt growth within children, and increased chances of infections. For optimal health, please be sure to keep protein consumption a priority within your daily diet.
There are two protein sources, either plant-based or animal-based. If you are choosing to follow a meat-restrictive style diet, it's important to have a wide variety of plant-based food sources since the majority of plant-based foods lack at least one essential amino acid. Essential amino acids or EAA for short, aid in bodily functions such as protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption. Some may also prevent muscle loss and improve overall attitude, sleep quality, daily performance and aid in weight loss.
The main sources of protein consist of:
Meat - beef, veal, pork, venison, and lamb
Seafood - fish, oysters, scallops, crab, and lobster
Poultry - chicken, duck, goose, and turkey
Eggs - yeah you know what those are ;)
Dairy - milk, yogurt, and cheese
Legumes & Beans - all beans, tofu, lentils, and chickpeas
Nuts & Seeds - almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds
How to Sneak More Protein Into Your Diet
Now that we've covered all of the important information, lets discuss how to physically consume more protein into your daily diet even if you desire to limit your total meat intake. Regardless if you limit or even remove meats entirely from your diet, the first obvious tip I can suggest is the no brainer that most overlook...whatever protein sources you are eating such as eggs, seafood, whatever - consume more of it per meal. If you're trying not to overconsume calories or can't consume that much in one sitting, breaking your 3 main meals into 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day might work for you.
The first tip was a bit of an obvious one so let's try a less obvious one this time...whatever carbohydrate and fat sources you are buying each week, swap them out for variations that have higher levels of protein in them. For example...
- Trade out traditional pasta for chickpea pasta (Banza)
- Trade out regular oatmeal for protein oats (Kodiak Cakes)
- Trade out regular peanut butter for PB2 powder peanut butter
- Trade out your morning waffles & pancakes for protein versions (Kodiak Cakes)
- Trade out your morning coffee for protein enhanced coffee beverages (Super Coffee)
- Trade out sour cream for cottage cheese or greek yogurt
- Trade out sugary coffee creamers for healthier alternatives (Kitu)
*suggestions may be altered due to dietary restrictions. Be sure to consult your physician before altering your diet.
Another commonly overlooked strategy that I would suggest is purchasing a high quality plant-based protein shake (here's my personal favorite) or keep a stock of high quality protein bars in your cabinets such as Rx Bars or Epic Bars. The typical complaint as to why individuals don't do this already is they simply haven't found a shake or bar that they actually like the taste of. It will take some time but once you find a brand you like, that obviously isn't loaded on sugar to improve the overall taste, it will make your life incredibly simple. Keep with it and keep experimenting with different options.
The final strategy that I suggest to my clients is, assuming you aren't actively trying to avoid dairy or you aren't suffering from chronic inflammation concerns - throw in cheese to your daily meals such as your eggs in the morning or salads for your lunch and dinners. Another great and simple option is to drink a glass of milk with your meals. Over the years, milk has gotten a bad rap, mainly due to the split within the medical & nutritional fields where some doctors and nutritionists say milk should be avoided due to it's saturated fat content while some doctors and nutritionists say milk consumption is perfectly fine since it has been shown that milk may actually reduce inflammation. Unless you have a particular allergy to cow's milk or are lactose intolerant, you probably have nothing to worry about.
Remember, there is still plenty of options for protein if you choose to eliminate or greatly reduce meat consumption. As long as you are consuming a wide-variety of plant-based food sources, you will feel amazing and give your body the best chance at running at optimal levels each day. If you are struggling to know what to eat or are having difficulty achieving your weight management goals, we encourage you to reach out to us today.
"Coach Taz" aka Taylor Rodriguez is the owner and head coach of Taz Fitness & Nutrition. He is a Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach located in Deltona, FL that coaches individuals online and in person. Taylor was a former partying pro wrestler turned fitness enthusiast after the economic downturn of 2008-2010. After losing almost 70 lbs, his new passion is to help struggling individuals find new confidence within themselves to achieve any goal that they see possible. To begin coaching with Taylor or to request a free consultation, contact us today.