…TO CONQUER THE WORRRRLLLLLLD!!!!
Or at least for whatever endeavors you have going on… like an exercise routine, a physically demanding job, a mentally demanding job, climbing mountains, making cookies, getting through grad school, etc.
A certain Miss Amy has asked for suggestions as to what kinds of protein-rich snacks to eat, aside from her usual nuts or hummus. Gladly, I say, gladly.
First, let’s talk about protein needs, particularly in terms of the vegetarian diet (because that’s what I’m all aboot). Let me get this out of the way: non-vegetarians need to stop asking how we get protein. Well, I guess you don’t have to stop, I understand your curiosity. Rather, people need to stop assuming that protein deficiency is lurking around the corner behind a vegetarian diet. Protein nowadays, is actually a little overrated, which I would attribute to the hype of body-building and Atkins-like diets. There is a reason there are three macronutrients (aka building blocks of nutrition): protein, carbohydrates, and lipids. To function properly, our bodies need all three of these. How much exactly, I can’t say because a) I’m not a professional nutritionist, and b) I believe that we all have individual needs and we should experiment with our diets to find what feels best. Regardless, if you drastically cut out one of them, you’d likely feel less than stellar. And as far as protein goes, pretty much all whole foods– meaning unprocessed, unadulterated ingredients, be they animal or plant-based– have a certain amount of protein. Anyone who eats a good variety of food, especially of the more nutrient-dense ones, is most likely getting enough protein. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re an omnivore or raw vegan. So unless you are an athlete, a pregnant/nursing mother, or live with some kind of condition or situation that requires you to pay more attention to your diet, trying to count or increase your protein is not all that necessary.
I do know how it feels when you’re actually not getting enough protein, or some other macronutrient. You feel hazy, tired, grumpy…
Yeah, like that.
Like when I was working at a bakeshop from 6am til 3pm or later, practically non-stop. That was my choice, though. I said to boss-lady, Give me longer shifts so I can get more done. And I did. By the end of the day, my legs screamed. I got bruises on my thighs just from the stress of standing for so long. (HARDCORE!!) But anyway, despite my insanity, I had to learn how to help my brain and body cope with the workday. I had to find what foods would give me that second or third wind when I started to wilt. So, based on my experience and acquired knowledge, here are some suggestions for snacks that will make you awesome…
*Grains and legumes. I often say there is a reason that all around the world you can likely find some version of rice and beans. They have it all throughout South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, etc. And not necessarily rice, but some kind of grain food. Even in Great Britain, a traditional snack or breakfast is beans on toast (an idea which they probably picked up from the middle eastern hummus and pita, just like the British steal everything… lolz). The combination of grains and legumes offers a “complete protein”. In other words, the two components on their own don’t have all the amino acids of say, a steak, but together, they fill in the missing pieces of the protein puzzle. Do we always need complete protein in the same meal? I don’t really know. I just read that our bodies store all the amino acids wherever we get them, and will combine them anyway. Nonetheless, the grain and legume combination quickly satisfies the demands of your brain and body, as well as your taste buds. So I would suggest the following:
-Cook up a few different types of grains for the week in your off time, like quinoa, barley, millet, brown rice, whatever you like. All it takes is water or broth and a little time. Store them in the fridge, along with a variety of beans, so you can quickly throw together whatever combination you’d like. Add some seasoning and/or condiments and go.
-Or for a hand-held version, make different types of hummus, and spread them on whole grain breads. I highly recommend sprouted breads, as they are more nutrient and protein dense, and easier to digest. Soft corn tortillas are also a good variation.
–Lentils, man. They’re often overlooked because they’re seen as dull, but if you cook and season them right, you’re in happy town. Super easy to cook, by the way, so add them to your grain and bean repertoire. And because they’re so nutrient-dense, they can be a real life-saver when you want to explode or implode. I suggest them with sunflower seeds or walnuts, and your favorite vinaigrette.
*Nuts! And seeds. Of course, eating them in trail mix may get old. But there are certainly different ways to enjoy them.
-Throw them in with your grains and/or beans.
-Mix with vegetables in a salad or slaw. If you need to save time, prepare it the night before.
-Add them to cooked vegetables, like sauteed spinach with chili pepper and cashews. Another item you can do ahead of time if you’re taking it to work or school, as long as you don’t mind eating it cold or at room temperature.
-And don’t forget nut butters. I know that besides peanut butter, they tend to be expensive. However, if you have a decent food processor, it’s actually stupid-easy to make your own. As long as you buy raw nuts and seeds in bulk, it’s way cheaper, because when you pay for nut butters, you’re also paying for the machine labor and packaging. I made my own almond butter, and YOU CAN TOO! And keep in the mind the possibilities. Besides making pb&j sandwiches, try out different fresh fruits and vegetables. If we can put peanut butter and raisins on celery, we can combine (pea)nut butter with other things. I may sound crazy but try this: peanut or almond butter mixed with chipotle hot sauce, sliced tomato sprinkled with a bit of salt, on toasted whole grain bread. Surriously.
-Keep in mind the healthiest nuts and seeds are: walnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds. The others are still good, but eat a higher ratio of these guys.
*Soy products. Now, there has been some controversy about soy in regards to GMOs, hormones, cancer, and some other crazy stuff. Which is why I don’t consume too much soy. There are healthier versions though. For one, avoid the faux meats because they tend to be too processed. Consider them veggie junk food. They won’t benefit you the way beans and rice will. Secondly, go for fermented soy products like tempeh and fermented tofu, as the fermentation enhances the nutrition of soy, and counteracts cancerous effects. You can make sandwiches, wraps, salads, stir-fries, or just eat them with some dipping sauce. Whatever floats your boat.
*Greek Freakin’ Yogurt. Not specifically Greek in origin, this type of yogurt is strained of excess whey, giving it a thicker consistency, richer flavor, and higher protein content. The result? AMAZING. Even if you’re picky about regular yogurt, try this stuff. It tastes better and will sustain you for a loooong time. For his lunch, my boyfriend will often eat a single-serving container of Greek yogurt with some fruit, and be set for the rest of his shift.
So there. Get creative, and if I find some particularly protein-ific recipes, I’ll post them. Also remember as I stated above, most foods have some protein. But what’s more important than watching your protein, fat, or carb intake is eating plenty of plant-based whole foods that are nutrient dense. Leafy greens, root vegetables, mushrooms, avocado, squash, berries, apples, citrus, bananas, etc. Along with grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, you’re good to go.
CONQUER ALL THE THINGS!!