This is part three in my Sweet Vegan How to Guide! Are you interested in becoming vegan but feel a bit overwhelmed about what you can eat or what you can use/wear? How exactly do you navigate how to swap out awesome vegan items for the non-vegan items you no longer want to buy? I can totally help you. Relax, it’s a definite process and like I said in part one…you will make mistakes and that’s totally ok. Don’t beat yourself up and just keep on doing your best.
Let’s start with food because I love it! This post will focus on protein and how to replace it.
Making the decision to become vegan can seem really weird and like you’re starting over learning how to eat BUT there are many vegan protein options. Here’s my handy dandy guide to navigating the vegan protein scene so you can handle it like a champ.
First off, unless you’re an athlete, you don’t need to overthink the protein “issue”. Most people eat more than enough protein, even on a vegan diet. You just need to make sure you are eating enough food in general. Just make sure you eat some protein and a wide variety of food.
My favorite protein is tofu! It’s so versatile and there are so many different kinds! You can make breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert with it. I love to make tofu scrambles, tofu frittata, tofu quiche, or baked tofu for brunch or breakfast. Baked, or fried, or grilled….it’s really good. It’s also like a sponge so marinate it or coat it in your favorite sauce. If you’ve ever eaten tofu and it was terrible….chances are the person who made it didn’t flavor it or cook it very well. Tofu is made from straight up soy and is gluten free. Some tofu comes pre-marinated so if you have a gluten allergy be on the lookout for that. Here are some yummy tofu dishes.
Tempeh! Tempeh is made from fermented soy and is also pretty versatile. Some people think it tastes bitter so sometimes it’s recommended to poach it in boiling water for a few minutes then to marinate it or cook it in a sauce. You can fry or bake it and it’s delicious. I love to make tempeh bacon or tempeh steaks with mine. You can also crumble it to make a meat sauce for pasta, or for tacos, make sloppy joes or even use it for stir fry. Tempeh is gluten free. Here are some delicious ways to cook tempeh.
Textured Vegetable Protein (or TVP, TSP)! Yeah, it sounds weird BUT it’s basically dried soy chunks that rehydrate when thrown in something hot with some liquid. It’s chewy and basically sucks in any flavor it’s cooked in. It’s yummy and works great for anything that calls for a crumble like protein. Some TVP is contaminated with wheat but there are some that are certified gf if you need. Here are some interesting things to do with TVP.
Soy Curls: These are very similar in method to TVP but I like them better. They are long and shaped like chicken strips. They work well for making philly cheesesteaks or in anything honestly. Soy curls are gluten free.
Edamame (immature soy beans in the pod or can be out): Edamame is delicious. You can get it steamed from many Chinese/Japanese restaurants or you can buy it yourself. You can get it in the pod or unshelled. You can eat it as a snack or throw the unshelled beans into a nice quinoa salad or use them in a stir fry.
Straight up Wheat Gluten or Seitan! Seitan can be made a couple of ways, one short way and one longer way. The short way involves using vital wheat gluten, seasonings, and liquids to make a dough which you cut up into small or large chunks and either boil or steam. The long way involves wheat flour and kneading it over and over ( I think?) until it’s glutinous. There are also premade packages of seitan so all you have to do is open them and put in your favorite dish. You can do some pretty amazing things with seitan honestly. Check out some of these recipes!
Combination Protein Sources: These items are a mixture of proteins combined to create a product. Some are gluten free and some are not.
Vegan Deli slices: There are many commercially made vegan deli slices that are available in many mainstream grocery stores now. They all seem to be made from a combination of soy and wheat gluten proteins. You can get ham, bologna, turkey, pepperoni, and more! Some brands include Tofurkey, Yves, Field Roast, and Lightlife. I have yet to find any that are gluten free.
Vegan hot dogs, sausage and kielbasa : Yes seriously!!! The big brands here seem to be Tofurkey, Field Roast, Smart Dogs or Tofu Pups by Lightlife, Soy Boy, Gardein, and Sol. The Tofu Pups, Soy Boy and Sol brands have gluten free items.
Protein Powders: There are A LOT of vegan protein powders on the market. Soy, hemp, pea, rice, peanut and some are mixtures of various proteins. There are many different brands but the big ones that offer vegan powders are Vega, Plantfusion, Sunwarrior, Rawfusion, Orgain, and Nutiva. I like to use protein powder right after I workout. You can also throw it into smoothies, oatmeal, banana ice cream, pudding, bake it into cakes or pancakes, etc! The possibilities are endless.
Beans: Most beans have a higher carbohydrate to protein ratio, so keep that in mind. Lentils, soy beans, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, navy beans, split peas, black beans, chickpeas….and so many more! Check out this list of bean dishes.
Nuts and Seeds: There are many nuts and seeds that have a small amount of protein. Nuts are more fat than protein so keep that in mind. Some of my favorite are hemp seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, almonds, and more!
SO there’s a pretty good (hopefully comprehensive) list of vegan protein sources. Here is a really long but awesome list of protein in vegan foods. Be sure to use some of those big proteins like tempeh, tofu, seitan, and various veggie meats with the rest of the others, especially if you’re an athlete. They have a higher protein content and pack a bigger punch.
Now get out there and eat!