Vegetarian, Vegan, Carnivore- it's all labelling again. One thing I hate is labelling myself or putting myself into a certain group because of my lifestyle and food choices. Out of my own choice I've recently cut meat out of my diet. The reasons are purely personal and it's not a case of jumping on the yogi diet bandwagon or following the latest trend. It started out as a trial, to see how my body reacted. For the last few years the only meat I really ate was chicken in various forms- breast, burgers, sausages etc. I'm partial to the occasional steak or pulled pork but I'm not reliant on meat and don't ever need a 'meat fix'.
I was suffering from poor digestion and generally feeling sluggish and heavy (not weight wise just in my body). So I did some research and found out that switching to a more plant based diet may help relieve some of these symptoms.
One thing I was a little concerned about was how I was going to make sure I was still getting enough protein in my diet. The years of counting macros or grams of protein are long gone and as long as I feel good then I go with it diet wise but from my nutrition training I know the importance of protein in the diet.
Protein isn't just to build muscles. The common misconception that too much protein will turn us into Arnie has long been quashed. Every single cell in the body contains protein. This protein helps your body repair your cells and make new ones. Protein also preserves muscle mass to enable your body to use fat and carbohydrate stores for fuel. As we age we need to hold onto as much muscle mass as possible to help protect our bones and joints.
From a weight control perspective protein helps satisfy you and helps you feel fuller for longer as it slows down digestion. Protein has a thermic effect meaning your body has to work harder to digest it so you're actually burning calories as you digest your food!
So when we think protein we automatically think meat. Since cutting meat from my diet I've had to explore other ways to make sure I'm getting enough protein, so meat aside here are some other source of great quality lean protein you may not have thought of`;
- Dairy- think greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, milk - all contain good amounts of protein and also have low fat versions if calorie control is your thing. My favourite is Arla Skyr Honey Flavour
- Protein Powders- whey, pea, hemp there are more possibilities than ever on th market now. Whey is a milk based protein however there are more options if you avoid dairy such as hemp and pea. I love to add whey to my oats to add flavour and get a protein hit at one go! I'm currently using SheProtein FIT in strawberry and coconut and adding it to coconut milk and banana for an afternoon snack
- Nuts and nut butters- again there are so many options and varieties on the market now with flavours and no sugar and natural. My personal go to nut butter is Meridian Coconut and Peanut Butter for flavour and consistency its amazing and tops greek yoghurt perfectly!
- Quinoa- Another favourite of mine for it's sheer versatility. From porridge to curry quinoa does it all and aswell as a good source of protein, it contains fiber too. You can find one of my favourite quinoa recipes here
There are so many protein enriched foods on the market now from protein coffee to protein nut butter to protein pizza to name but a few but if you prefer to get your protein from more natural sources then you may want to avoid these are they can be quite processed.
It just proves that it's easy to get enough protein in your diet even if you don't eat meat, you just need to give it a bit of thought and get creative!
What are your favourite non-meat protein sources? Comment below- I'm always on the lookout for new ideas!