Vegan Daily Protein Combination #1

The eternal question: where do you get your proteins?

A question I never even asked myself before I changed my diet. It never occurred to me to check how many grams of protein I was eating: apart from fats and sugars and total calories, the rest seemed taken for granted. I became a little obsessed at the beginning of my transition to meet all my goals perfectly, every day, as if my body activated an imaginary reset button at midnight, each day a lonely, self-sufficient item. It is true that protein deficiency in Western societies is pretty rare, it doesn’t mean though that we can overlook the importance of what comes in, especially as years go by and nutrition starts to have a noticeable effect on your stamina and general health.

Nowadays I’m a bit more relaxed about this stuff, even though I do try to plan my meals around a variety of sources that lead to a good-enough score. I decided to archive staple daily combinations of proteins, equations that I could easily reproduce without thinking too much about what I’m doing. I do not prepare my meals around recipes most of the time, but around what my body needs. I thought these combinations might help other people starting on this plant-based eating journey, so I’ve decided to adapt them to a general, 2000 calories diet, based on 50 gram daily intake of proteins, which is north of what most women need and south of what most men need. Of course, if you’re a 6’4 man running ultramarthons or a breastfeeding mom, adjust accordingly. These will be guidelines of combinations that will help you reach a good balance of proteins, but the quantities will need to be adjusted to your specific needs. And let’s remember that there is no reset button at midnight, so even if you don’t score your lysine one day, you can always make up for it the next! The idea is to not accumulate any deficit. Bare in mind as well that the rest of what we eat does add proteins to our daily intake: fruits and vegetables and other grains will add up in the end, even though individually each item is not necessarily considered as a source of proteins. I also try to follow a rule of thumb that the amount of calories I get from proteins do not exceed 30% of my daily needs. I never really calculate this, beyond these combinations, because I eat a pretty balanced diet anyway (not keto, paleo or any-o)

The targets have been determined with the help of WebMd and the Health Canada. If you think the chosen general targets are not appropriate, please let me know in the comments! The combinations were analysed with Cron-o-meter, a super helpful and free platform to analyse your food intake.

And for the last time, these are just guidelines that have helped me plan my daily meals, and I though that if they help me they might help other people. I have been a full time vegan for more than a year and a closeted vegan for two years prior to that, so I have a good amount of personal experience in making my own vegan meals. And my blood tests are more than fine! The thing is, I don’t cook very much on a daily basis: I prepare food, I prepare meals, so usually I’ll combine vegetables beans and grains and call it a meal. That’s why these combinations work for me, I just need to add the fruits and veggies and cook everything and that’s it! It works for me and if it can help other people, I’m happy.

So here is the first combination I chose, that include what I would eat for breakfast (oatmeal and milk), snack (peanut butter) and lunch and supper (beans, lentils and quinoa). We’ll see how pattern emerge in the next combinations…

So from these sources of proteins, here are a few recipes that I could follow that combine these ingredients. Then again, I usually don’t do that but know some people can’t function without a recipe!

Basic quick steel cut oats recipe (replace water with milk or just make yourself a nice soy milk latte like I do!)

or something fancy….

Steel Cut Oats with Roasted Berries replace the cow milk with the soy milk

 

I’m always a fan of the Minimalist Baker and I love her cookie and snack balls recipe, so here is one with a bit of peanut butter and some oats:

5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cup Energy Bites but if you want to be super minimalist, just dip your apple slices in some PB!

And now for the lunch and supper ideas:

One Pot Italian Quinoa and Lentils

Vegan Quinoa and Black Beans

If you’re like me, just make cook everything, throw in some frozen veggies with the lentils and a can of tomatoes and avocado with the black beans and basta!

And here are the results when it comes to the protein goals, for 1130 calories:

So that’s good actually! The quinoa can be used for both meals, the lentils cook quickly, the black beans can come from a can. It’s all good!

Ethical eating

In the past few years, thinking more globally about my life and my actions has become an interesting topic of cogitation for me. It has led to decisions such as leaving my old job, going vegan, meditating somewhat daily and consciously trying to become a less judgemental person as a whole (the most difficult part of my journey!).

Some define ethics as a branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and the motives that support said actions. Unofficially, we tend to add a little thing called reflection, reinforcing the fact that ethics is mostly a process, a verb, constant and continuous.

My journey into veganism and onward is built on this idea that there isn’t a set of rules but the one I impose upon myself, and that reflection and thought should guide me, day after day, on how I should consume food and goods. The best solution one day may not always be the best one the next. I want to generate the most positive impact on the world from my actions and my intentions: I am not a religious person, and spirituality is still an uninteresting topic for me, but I clearly see it as my duty as a human being, for my fellow conspecifics, to be the best version of myself at all times. What I eat three times a day, 365 days a year seemed like an easy way to make a big change towards that goal.

It has been said and demonstrated with supporting data that the way we consume animal products in North America would not be sustainable if the whole planet joined in: even though meat production is more «efficient» in developed countries, we are still currently eating animal products at a rate that monopolises a third of our soft water and that generates one of the biggest amount of pollution. The rest of the world is catching up: according to the World Health Organization, meat and milk consumption in developing countries has more than doubled since the 1960’s. The numbers are growing for the industrialised country as well. The steaks are just getting bigger! Not only that, but animal cruelty has become the most bizarre topic of conversation ever in our western societies: on one side you are not allowed to hit a dog (meaning, it is illegal!), but shooting a veal in the head is considered okay. People carry spiders on a sheet of paper bringing them to safety outside, but grinding male chicks alive because they won’t produce eggs is considered completely normal. I find it very incoherent to say on one hand that this not acceptable and on the other whisk an omelet. I couldn’t just do that.

It came to a point where the pleasure of my taste buds was not a justification anymore to participate in that industry, especially since I am lucky enough to have the resources available, the money and the time to eat and consume differently. It came to a point where my belief that a human life is above all else was not a justification anymore to make other beings suffer, especially if said human life does not necessitate others constant suffering. And the more I studied animal cognition and behaviour, the more it seemed unjustifiable to eat some of them and be amazed by others. I’ll admit, these conclusions are clearly oriented by my situation and the opportunity that I have to make conscious decisions for most of the things I do. There are very few things that I choose out of necessity, and this privilege that I have needs to be used in the best way possible. It is not sacrifice, and it has nothing to do with self-discipline, it is deciding what values are more important to me and making the changes in my life that will express these values. It is taking the time, every time, to think things through.

What fascinates me is that a lot of people who go vegan for ethical consideration go back to eating animal products in greater numbers than the ones who make the change for health reasons. I don’t know how scientific these research and results are, but it does concur with the fact that most of us will easily adapt to a change for our own benefit more than for the benefit of others. Another argument that the articles linked above mention is that people who make the change for ethical reasons may not embrace the whole «eat whole foods» type of dogma that the other type may follow. Switching from meat to faux meat and cheezes made of 100% plant fat is not the healthiest choice ever and in the long run, it may have an adverse effect on one’s health. I try to not fall into that trap: the motive behind my diet is an ethical one, but what drives how I prepare the food I eat is, I hope, a health conscious one.

In the end, I’ll say that this has been both an easy and a difficult decision. Easy because it ended up being a very instinctive decision, and difficult because you do start to present yourself as different from the rest and people treat you differently for it. It is amazing how people can mock or judge this lifestyle change, as if you were doing something illegal or immoral when you are on the contrary trying to live a better life. The majority of my entourage are curious, interested and supportive, and I guess this also is a relfection of the goodness I try to express with a more ethical way of living.

I would love to hear about your reasons for eating and consuming goods the way you do, whether you have reached the same conclusions as me or not. This is and should be an on-going discussion, not a dogma.