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!
What is meal prepping? Meal prepping is when you take a day, night, or a couple of hours to make your food for the week. Some people prep a meal, several meals, or all of their meals and snacks for the entire week. I find that it’s very helpful to prep your meals in advance.
Meal prepping helps you make more nutritional food choices and is very helpful if you have a hectic schedule. Think about it! When you’re super busy you don’t really have a lot of time to cook food. So what do you do? Typically, most people would opt for eating out, some kind of fast food, or a processed food that is quick to grab and eat. Meal prepping helps you avoid doing that and gives you better fuel for your hectic schedule. Food is fuel and sometimes what you eat or drink can bog you down at some point. And if you’re a busy person, you don’t have time for low energy.
I also love the idea of meal prepping as an athlete. It helps me know ahead of time what I’m eating and I know that I’m going to reach all of my macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) goals for the day/week. It gives me the fuel I need to be a better athlete while still eating the foods I love.
So what do you do? Some people might just make up several different components of their meals and measure them out later, while some people pre-measure all meals out and package them in containers.
Here’s a rad video from Cheap Lazy Vegan about Meal Prepping. Check out her Youtube channel, it’s pretty awesome.
It depends on your goals and your time, both for cooking and for eating. I have a fair amount of time during the week so I usually prep on Sundays and either Wednesday or Thursday. I also only need to prep my lunches for work because I eat breakfast and dinner at home, with plenty of time to cook them. I also just bulk pack mine and measure it out real quick in the morning. I don’t have a lot of containers and have a little time in the mornings so I can do that.
What do you include? I usually have either a marinated (with a little oil for fat) baked tofu or tempeh, roasted sweet potatoes/gold potatoes/or quinoa, and some kind of steamed/no oil roasted veggies…broccoli rabe, kale, carrots, green beans, brussel sprouts, corn, squash, etc. I always try to do a veggie mix with at least one kind of leafy green veggie. Most of the time my meals have some kind of theme to keep me from getting bored. I mix the flavors up every week. Sometimes I throw hemp seeds or nuts on top for my fat. Sometimes I make nutritional yeast sauce or a cashew sauce for the top.
Here’s my very basic guideline for a tofu or tempeh marinade. Use whatever seasonings you want in it to switch it up. Some ideas:
Smoky: Add 1 tsp smoked paprika and a pinch of oregano
Italian Herb: Add ½ tsp each of oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary
Asian: Add 1 tsp of chopped garlic and ginger with some sesame seeds, or maybe a little orange rind
Mexican: Add ½ tsp cumin and chili powder
Also feel free to experiment with the flavors!
- block of tofu or tempeh, cut into squares or strips
- 1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/8 c water
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk all ingredients with whatever spices/seasonings you want, except protein, in a bowl. Add chopped protein and toss to cover.
- Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and pour contents onto it. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked to desired color.