What I learned from the Plant Protein Challenge

July 27, 2017

Last week marked my very first facebook challenge: Plate Half Full RD Plant Protein Challenge. The idea was simple: One week, one meal a day, replace meat with a plant source of protein.

First off: I was SO excited that so many people were involved, shared recipes, ideas, asked questions, and just had fun with the challenge! Thank you to everyone who participated!

I challenged myself to give up meat for the WHOLE week. I did 4 days with no animal products, but then on the fifth day life happened and I threw some chicken tenders from the bar on my salad. The challenge was not meant to be restrictive in any way, just a way to find alternative foods/condiments/beverages to increase plant consumption. So, day 5-7 I stuck with 1-2 meatless meals per day.

the preparation
SO many fruits and veggies!

Making a new recipe when preparing meals can stretch out meal prep time significantly. Making SEVERAL new recipes.. I felt like I was prepping all day! A little here, a little there, it wasn’t so bad. I had enough prepared that I did NO cooking for the first three days of the week so it was WELL worth it. My food processor saved me a TON of time: all the shredding, chopping and mincing for a quite a few dishes was done in just a few seconds.

 

The WORST part of meal prep: I am obviously NOT                  a “clean as I go” type of cook.
the meals

All of the dishes that I made for dinner or lunches came from the Oh She Glows Cookbook and the Thug Kitchen Cookbook. I highly recommend both books if you are looking for great vegan recipe options. Note that Thug Kitchen probably isn’t one you will want to use for family baking time. (Click on the link and you’ll get why!)

The easy thing about cooking meals for only 1-2 people is that a few recipes can last all week long.

A few of the recipes I made for the week:

Oil- free baked falafel bites with tomato cucumber salsa. Page 95 of the Oh She Glows cookbook.

I ate this for all my lunches for the week- served with chopped romaine and balsamic vinegar. Usually I eat a lot at lunch, but this really filled me up, I ended up saving my banana and peanut butter for a snack later.

 

Lentil Walnut Apple Loaf from Oh She Glows. This is on page 167 of the cookbook, but you can also click the link for the recipe from the website.  The very first time I ever ate a lentil was with this loaf. So basically I had never even heard of a lentil until the year I graduated college. I was missing out.

My all-time favorite part of this meal? My meat-loving hubby had not ONE but TWO servings of this the night I made it. TWO. So this will definitely be a new staple.

My favorite recipe tester: If I can get him to like something with NO meat, it                  must be good.

 

BBQ Bean Burrito with Grilled Peach Salsa from the Thug Kitchen Cookbook. I also made the spanish rice to go along with it. There was probably a sign at Meijer above the peppers desperately trying to warn me how hot serrano peppers are. Of course I ignored this bold attempt at saving my mouth and added two of these fire peppers to my peach salsa. I am usually a 1/2 the amount of jalapeno type of girl and I added two serrano peppers. SO, needless to say my mouth and fingers burned for the rest of the night. I really liked the flavor of the burritos the next day without the salsa, but Jeff’s comment was “I don’t hate it”. Which basically means he is trying to be nice to me but letting me know he would rather never have to be subjected to eating this meal again.  The burritos will probably not be a frequent flier in our house, but the beans were actually quite good so I can see myself making the beans as a side dish in the future.

protein consumption

So the real question that all you meat lovers out there are wondering (like I was): Did I get enough protein eating only plants?

I am not a HUGE fan of recording my meal intake because: A) It takes 20 years to enter food when you are making recipes with a lot of ingredients. and B) The accuracy is not really that great.

BUT, to see how this plant protein business measured up, I buckled down and recorded two days of the week.

Monday (Day 1):

On Day 1 I managed to get 55g of protein. Of course I do not know exactly how much protein I need, but using estimation equations, my best guess is that 65 to 75 g would be optimal for me. So I fell a little short on day one.

Tuesday (Day 2):

On Tuesday I was able to hit my goal for optimal protein intake by still only eating plant foods. What did I do different? I included Vega Protein Smoothie Powder in my oatmeal in the morning. Cheating? Maybe. But I seriously love this protein powder (the only one I have used for the past several years). I have a hard time feeling full by drinking my meals, so I tend to use the powder in oatmeal, energy balls, and of course, yes, the occasional smoothie.

How does this compare to a day full of dairy and meat? I flipped through Myfitnesspal to find a day that I recorded in the past.

On a day full of meat and dairy, I consumed approximately 87g of protein. Truly, this is not that different than the protein that I consumed on the days of plants only. So if someone tries to snuff out your desire to eat more plants by saying “You won’t get enough protein”, tell them to mind their own business. It is totally possible.

This should not be surprising, but guess how much fiber I got daily during this challenge? FORTY TWO grams a day, 42g! that is three times the amount the average american gets in their diet per day. Need to get more fiber in your diet to stay regular or lower your cholesterol? Eat more plants.

What I am taking away from this challenge

I have obtained a  lot of new recipes from the other wonderful participants in the challenge, have cooked with new foods, tried new flavors and learned a lot about different types of plant proteins. Am I going vegan? No. Vegetarian? Nope. I enjoy being able to eat what I feel like eating when I feel like eating it. Not being able to enjoy something because of some self-imposed restriction is not a way for me to improve my relationship with food. I have no qualms with those who do choose to eat a certain way, it just isn’t for me.  Prepping and planning for several meals during the week using beans, lentils, tofu, etc will be a lot easier for me now after this challenge, as I hope it is for everyone else who participated and joined in on sharing recipes and ideas! I want to share with you something I posted to the facebook page that describes perfectly why I did this challenge in the first place:

“I want to make a few things clear about my Plant Protein Challenge starting next week:

1. I am NOT advocating a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, don’t eat anything that moves in the wind diet. If you follow any of these diets- that is FINE (except maybe the last one), but I am not suggesting anyone do this in order to improve their health. The point is to try new foods and find some alternatives to meat for protein for people (like me!) that use it every day at each meal for the protein star. In turn, we can increase the amount of plant food that we eat, which is something most of us should be doing to increase our intake of the vitamins and minerals they provide as well as vary our diets.

2. I am challenging myself to give up meat for all meals for the week. NOT because I am going to give up meat indefinitely or because I think I need to in order to be healthy. I want to try as many different types of foods and recipes during the week so that I can have some honest conversations about the foods, their nutrients, and the ease (or unease) of getting certain nutrients in my diet by doing this. You can bet I will be documenting my journey. And you can also bet my hubby Jeff Lorencz (who will be eating the dinners along with me) will be dragging me out for a Brant Bar burger the night it’s over 😂 And that’s okay! (I’m actually hoping he reads this so he takes me out to do just that 😉👌)”

I also shared a post that my former classmate, Tasha Brickhouse, RD had shared to her facebook page. This article is written by a dietitian about the “What the Health” documentary and the Religion of Nutrition. A worthwhile read if you are concerned about some of the claims that the documentary had made.

What are your favorite plant proteins to use?

Disclosure:This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase using said link. If you are uncomfortable using the affiliate link, but wish to make a purchase, I encourage you to visit the site without using my link! As always, opinions of products are my own, and I only promote what I would/do use myself and for my family!

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18 Comments
    1. Great post godsister! I love Oh She Glows:) What flavor of the vegan protein powder do you like / dislike? I have been meaning to buy some. Did you see the price on Amazon? It’s marked down right now.

      1. I had been using the vanilla chai vega one, but the last one I bought was the smoothie type and I got the chocolate.. it was amazing!! The smoothie ones don’t have all the greens, but the flavor is really good! Thanks for the heads up on the price, I always try to buy it when it’s discounted!

      1. It is seriously amazing! If my husband liked it knowing that there was no meat in it… fool proof 👌

    1. It is great to explore with new ways of eating! Sounds like you learned a lot!

      1. I did it was so much fun to hear everyone’s ideas and tips! A lot of really good ideas were shared for people trying to eat more plants.

      1. Thank you! It is always a challenge to go outside your comfort zone in the kitchen.. this was a great opportunity to learn about a lot of great plant foods!

    1. Such a well written post. We started Meatless Mondays awhile ago for the reasons of wanting to add more veggies, save money at the grocery store and try new foods/ingredients that we normally wouldn’t think twice about.

      Love that you challenged yourself to try it for a full week!

      And I’m right there with you on the mess in the kitchen after meal prep…definitely not a clean as you go girl either.

      1. Thank you! I really like the idea of doing a consistent meatless Monday, but so far I’m not that organized (hopefully some day)!
        I would put the money in saving by meal prepping towards someone to come clean up behind me as I go.. seriously the worst part!

    1. Such a well written post. We started Meatless Mondays awhile ago for the reasons of wanting to add more veggies, save money at the grocery store and try new foods/ingredients that we normally wouldn’t think twice about.

      Love that you challenged yourself to try it for a full week!

      And I’m right there with you on the mess in the kitchen after meal prep…definitely not a clean as you go girl either.

    1. What a great article about plant protein from a different perspective! My husband is a lifelong vegetarian and have learned a lot about plant protein sources! The BBQ burrito looks delicious!

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