Here at the NHCAA, we know that diet is key to good health.
Typically we recommend a diet that consists primarily of high-quality meats, vegetables, and good fats- we do not recommend a vegan or vegetarian diet. Although it is possible to do a meatless diet in a healthy fashion, it is very difficult to get adequate protein while simultaneously keeping carbohydrates low.
Even though we do not recommend a vegetarian diet, I do understand that for some individuals, vegetarianism or veganism can be a strong personal or religious conviction. If you are one of those individuals, I highly encourage evaluating your macronutrients (macros). How many carbohydrates are you consuming in a day in relation to your protein and fat intake? I also recommend you examine the sources of your protein.
The app we recommend for tracking macros is Cronometer.
Cronometer is our app of choice because it is comprehensive and, most importantly, has a very accurate database.
The minimum protein I typically recommend is 60-80 grams per day while the maximum amount of carbohydrates I recommend is usually between 75-125 grams per day. Fats should be enough to keep you satisfied and full, so you don’t need to snack (see my video Good Sources of Fat for more). Your diet can accommodate more or less fat depending on how many carbohydrates you are consuming (more fat if your carbs are lower and less if your carbs are higher).
Many vegetarians rely heavily on soy-based products to get their protein, as these products are protein dense. I do not recommend soy as the basis of any diet. Soy proteins are typically GMO (genetically modified organisms) and highly processed. When consumed in high amounts, soy products can also negatively impact hormonal balance. I also do not recommend mock meats because they often contain soy or gluten and are highly processed.
Getting enough protein while avoiding soy and keeping carbohydrates down on a Vegetarian or Vegan diet is tough! There is less room for error on these diets. Although balancing macros on these diets is a challenge, it is still possible. I have created a list of higher protein items that can assist with a meatless diet.
VEGAN PROTEIN FOODS:
|SOURCE||QTY||PROTEIN (gm)||CARBS -net (gm)||FAT (gm)|
|Hemp Hearts||3 tbs||9.47||1.4||14.6|
|Chia Seeds||2 tbs||4||1||9|
|Flax Meal||2 tbs||2.56||4||6|
|Pumpkin Seeds||0.25 cup||9||2||15|
|Banza Noodles||2 oz||11||30||3|
|Peanut Butter||2 tbs||7||5||16|
|Ripple Milk- Unsweetened (pea)||8 fl oz||8||<1||4.5|
|Kite Hill Greek Yogurt- Unsweetened (almond)||1||11||4||10|
|Great Northern Beans||0.5 cup||8.3||14||0.5|
|Black Beans||0.5 cup||7||11.7||0.4|
|Green Peas||0.5 cup||8||7||0.3|
This high-protein foods list was designed to fit both vegans and vegetarians. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian- eggs and some dairy, like Greek yogurt, can be great sources of protein as well.
Health is not a one size fits all concept, there are many pathways to health. However, there are basic nutritional truths that apply to every person and every diet. For good health, you need enough protein for tissue repair and muscle building, and you need to limit carbohydrates and sugars to keep inflammation down and the immune system balanced. I hope these vegetarian protein ideas help you to find a better balance with your macros.
Your Holistic Pharmacist,
Dr. Amanda Childress, PharmD – Bio