A Look at Protein

As a vegetarian, it is important to make sure that your body gets the appropriate amount of protein for basic daily living. As an active vegetarian, it is even more important to make sure your body gets the nutrients it needs to help recover and grow stronger after a long run or an intense resistance training session. If you’re busy like me, it may be tricky to get proper protein intake while you’re on the go. According to Nutrition for Sport and Exercise (Dunford & Doyle, 2015) recreational athletes are recommended to have a daily intake of 1.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight. For higher-level athletes, the daily intake is even higher. The table below provides more specifics for different level of activity.

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In this post, I am going to briefly review different vegetarian friendly protein sources, specifically ones that are quick and conducive to a busy lifestyle, such as nutrition bars, green smoothies with added protein supplements, and grab and go snacks.

 

 

Nutrition Bars

There is no doubt that energy bars are an excellent snack for people on the go, however, with so many options out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with choosing the right one for you.  There is the option of protein bars, energy bars, high-carbohydrate bars, meal replacements bars, diet bars, brain-boosting bars, and bars made especially for women.   It is important to make sure that you examine the nutrition labels carefully and have an idea of what you’re looking for in a bar. A study out of Ohio State University compared two different types of energy bars with endurance athletes and their performance after eating the different bars (Hertzler, 2000).   The Ironman PR Bar demonstrated increased blood sugar levels that remained steady, which can provide a readily available energy source for increased performance. The Power Bar did not have this affect. Instead, it produced a rapid increase in blood sugar that then decreased quickly (Hertzler, 2000). Hertzler also explains that the composition of the Ironman PR Bar of 40% carbohydrate, 30% fat, and 30% protein may have contributed to the increased endurance performance.

But how do you choose the right bar for you? Here are a few tips for consideration when making your selection (Vogin, n.d.):

  • Limit fat to less than 5grams
  • Pay attention to portion size
  • For a meal replacement bar, look for a bar that has 15grams or more of protein along with some fiber and 35% of the recommended daily allowances for vitamins and minerals
  • Are you going to like the taste and actually eat it?

Although nutrition bars are handy, it is important not to rely on them for all your nutritional needs. Many dieticians will emphasize the importance of not letting them replace whole foods (Vogin, n.d.). It is even recommended to eat a little whole food with your bar, such as some fruit or vegetables.

Smoothies

First of all, yum! Smoothies are great because with a little prep work a head of time, they can be a quick and easy on the go snack or meal. The added beauty about smoothies is that you can completely customize the recipe to include flavors you like! Green smoothies are growing in popularity and you can find many recipes by using Google or Pinterest. I searched the term “protein smoothie recipe” in Pinterest and hundreds of options appeared giving me a range of flavors and ingredients! Smoothies are great for providing additional protein in your daily diet in two ways:

  1. Adding whole, protein rich foods into the smoothie or
  2. Mixing protein powder supplements into the smoothie

If you choose the natural food route for added protein, foods like spinach or other leafy greens, oats, milk, low-fat Greek yogurt, hemp seeds, flax seeds and peanut butter can be added to your smoothies. I must admit, it took me a little while to come around to the idea of adding spinach to my fruit based smoothie, but I promise you, once it’s all blended, you don’t even taste it! Only the fruity goodness of your nutritious smoothie!

One tip I have is to create pre-made single servings in freezer bags with all the ingredients you need so whipping up the smoothie is a breeze! And bonus, the ingredients are already cold, so no need for ice! If you choose to add leafy greens to your smoothie, you have the option to pre-blend and freeze ahead or add fresh greens directly into the smoothie.  I found this great tutorial here.

Should you decide that adding a protein supplement to your smoothies is more up your ally, then there are a lot of options for that as well!  Many dietitians will recommend a person getting their nutrients through food rather than relying on supplements, however many acknowledge that athletes find it difficult to consume all their protein requirements through food alone (“Whey Protein, ‘Whey’ Worth It | Mary Rodavich, MS, RD, LDN,” n.d.). This is often when using a protein supplement is useful.

Vega is a plant based protein powder that comes in five different flavors and can be added to a smoothie or combined with water. The product advertises a single serving (1 scoop) is 90 calories and contains 15g of protein from a plant-based blend of peas, SaviSeed, hemp seed, and sprouted whole grain brown rice. There are many products on the market out there that could be added to a smoothly to increase daily protein intake, it is important that you read the labels to make sure you’re not adding excessive sodium or sugars to your diet.

Click on the image below for some ideas for smoothie recipes! Some recipes include protein powder while other do not.   (“7 Meal Replacement Smoothies,” 2015)

smoothies 2

Quick Snacks

For those that have the time to do a little more prep-work for on-the-go snacks and meals, getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet is totally doable! By eating whole foods, you’re able to get creative with your meals and snacks and also eat foods that you like!

When you’re planning your meals for the week, it’s important to make sure that they are foods that you will eat. Something that is important for me is to buy individual servings of things like cottage cheese and yogurt. I know it’s better for the environment to buy in bulk and use Tupperware, but in being honest with myself and my schedule and cleaning habits, in order for me to eat the healthy snacks I buy, I need them individually packaged.

To help with some of your high-protein meal and snack prep, here is a list of a few of my favorite foods that are high in protein:

  • Cottage cheese
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts (I have an allergy to tree-nuts, so unfortunately I have to miss out on almonds and other yummy nuts)
  • Low-Fat Greek yogurt
  • Spinach
  • Tofu

For a more detailed list of vegetarian friendly foods high in protein, you can visit this site (Eubanks, n.d.).

Also, I just had to add a link to this list below for 21 High Protein Snacks I found the other day while mindlessly clicking through Buzzfeed. Although the list isn’t all completely vegetarian friendly meals, many of them are or could be made veggie friendly with some substitutions.

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Being protein aware is something that is relatively new to me since becoming a vegetarian in 6th grade. I’ve had to do some research and be very mindful of my shopping and eating decisions.

What kinds of things do you do to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet? Please share in the comments below and hopefully we can all share some information with each other!

 

Thanks,

Katie

 

References

7 Meal Replacement Smoothies. (2015, June 8). Retrieved from http://www.blendtec.com/blog/meal-replacement-smoothies/

Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2015). Nutrition for Sport and Exercise (3rd ed.). Cengage Learning.

Eubanks, A. (n.d.). Where Do Vegetarian Athletes Get Their Protein? Retrieved from http://schreiner.edu/academics/majors-and-programs/exercise-science/performance-articles/2-vegetarian-article-ptj.pdf

Hertzler, S. (2000). Glycemic Index of “Energy” Snack Bars in Normal Volunteers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100(1), 97–100. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-8223(00)00030-4

Vogin, G. D. (n.d.). Nutrition Bars: Healthy or Hype? Retrieved March 26, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/nutrition-bars-healthy-hype

Whey Protein, “Whey” Worth It | Mary Rodavich, MS, RD, LDN. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2016, from https://maryrodavichwvudietetics.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/whey-protein-whey-worth-it/

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7 comments

  1. Brittanie Lockard · April 4, 2016

    Nice job! This is great information for vegetarians and non-alike! I think it is great for EVERYONE to know some non-animal protein sources, and your information is so user friendly with grab and go snacks, smoothies, etc!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilson · April 10, 2016

    Hi Katie,

    This was an excellent blog post on non-animal protein sources. I think athletes that do require more protein for optimal recovery and performance should also look into adding more vegan friendly protein sources for health. The resources and suggestions provided in this post was amazing. I will definitely look into some of the snacks and foods that you have suggested.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sean Daugherty · April 11, 2016

    I think the information you gathered and graphics made for a great interesting blog post! The hardest thing for me personally is thinking of new ways to make quick grab and go meals and snacks so this was very helpful. I like that you also made sure to get across that just using meal replacements may not be a good idea in the long run but have a place when making the decision on what to eat and when. The recommendations that you provided on what to look for in a nutrition bar were also very helpful. While Buzzfeed may not be the best place to get nutritional recommendations, they certainly have a large amount of creative and fun recipes when considering what kind of smoothie meal is best to incorporate in one’s diet which you utilized very well!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alyssa Cross · July 6, 2016

    Thank you for posting about protein! A lot of people aren’t aware and try to self teach. Its hard to balance how many calories should come from protein and since many people can’t they end up constantly hungry. Your blog is so easy to read and full of good information. Just to testify I love that you brought up Vega protein. Once I was cleared to run again I found Vega and it gives me natural energy but also keeps me full. Not to mention it can serve as a great meal replacement or recovery drink. So if anyone was curious about how that works, it works great. Great job on your blog and good luck on your masters!

    Like

  5. Neal · July 7, 2016

    As a vegan I found this article interesting. I am a huge fan of smoothing and get the majority of my food through them. I know as a vegetarian it is possible to eat animal by products that allow for easy protein. A fun article to play with if you every want to read about proteins and veganism is “The Myth of Complementary Protein” by Jeff Novick. The article talks about out all plant based proteins are actually complete contrary to popular belief. At first I did not agree with the article and honestly Im still not sure if I agree with it but there is evidence agreeing with the statement. Take a look and see if you agree.

    Like

  6. John B. · July 11, 2016

    This was a very informative post. Thank you for sharing. I am wondering if any studies have been done to compare athletes who consume their protein from animal and plant based sources vs. athletes who only consume their protein from non-animal based sources. Also, based on your personal experience, have you found one protein bar to be tastier than another? I typically haven’t found many of the healthier ones to taste very good so I usually avoid them all together, but I can see how it would be helpful for someone on the go. I think in the same way that you suggest making single-serving smoothie bags, you could probably consider making pre-made protein bars and then storing them. The largest benefit to doing this would be you would know what ingredients you were eating. Thanks again!

    Like

  7. Niki · October 18, 2016

    Hi Katie! As a vegetarian and a colliegate athlete I always seem to struggle to get the required amount of protein in my diet, especially with a busy schedule. I learned that vegetarian athletes do require extra protein than meat eaters because of digestibility of plant sources. With this in mind, all your smoothies and snack choices are great ways to quickly throw something in your bag and get that extra protein!
    I recently downloaded my fitness pal onto my iPhone and it has really helped me see exactly what meals I’m missing my protein from. Food logs are a bit tedious, but having the accessibility on my iPhone has really helped me! You should check it out.
    Great post and thanks for the information!
    -Niki H.

    Like

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