How Much Protein You Need Per Day on a Plant-Based Diet, and 18 Hacks to Make It Easy
If the new year is inspiring you to eat a more plant-based diet, or you're inspired to go all in for Veganuary (eating vegan for the entire month of January), you may be wondering how much protein you need and more importantly, easy ways to get enough throughout the day. We asked a few registered dietitians to share their advice and hacks so you can feel confident when 89 different people ask, "So how do you get enough protein?!"
How Much Protein Do You Need on a Plant-Based Diet?
People are so protein-obsessed, but we need a lot less than most people think. Registered dietitian nutritionist and NASM-certified personal trainer Whitney English Tabaie, MS, RDN shared that the The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) states that we only need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
To figure out this number, just divide your weight in pounds by 2.2, then multiply that number by 0.8. Registered dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, author of The Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen Cookbook said you can go a little higher and eat one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. So for a 150-pound woman, she would eat between 54.5 and 68.2 grams of protein per day.
Athletes should increase that amount and consume anywhere between 1.2 to two grams of protein per body weight in kilograms, Whitney suggested, depending on the intensity of exercise. Whitney added, "for someone doing light exercise, 1.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (0.5 grams per pound) is plenty of protein."
"For weight loss you would stick in this range as well," said Leslie. While weight loss is based on having a calorie deficit, she explained that having a higher protein intake can help with satiety to help you eat less. Whitney added that you also want to focus on eating fewer processed foods and more filling, fiber-rich whole plant foods.
If you're into tracking your macros, registered dietitian Emily Tills, MS, CDN, said your protein intake should be 20 to 25 percent of your daily calorie intake, "or you can also take your weight and divide it in half for another ballpark, higher protein estimate."
If you break it down per meal, eating three meals a day, Leslie said to aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein, depending on your personal needs. Emily added that plant protein can be trickier as you may need to increase the volume of food you're eating to meet your protein needs.
Of course, if you're eating a variety of whole, plant foods, Whitney said you'll have no problem reaching your daily goal. Here are some easy ways to get more protein in your day.
Mash Beans Into Oatmeal
Emily said if you want to ensure you're going to get enough protein by the end of the day, you have to start early with breakfast. Mash chickpeas or white beans into the bottom of your bowl or jar, then add the other oatmeal ingredients — you'll hardly notice the beans if you mash them well enough. Try this recipe for banana cashew overnight oats. If you're making chocolate oatmeal, use black beans.
Sprinkle Nutritional Yeast on Everything
A one-tablespoon serving of nutritional yeast is only 20 calories and offers three grams of protein. Add it to salads, steamed broccoli or kale, sautéed tofu, roasted veggies, or cooked whole grains or pasta. Sprinkle it on popcorn instead of butter and also use nutritional yeast to make vegan cheese sauce for mac and cheese. It's an easy way to quickly get a little extra protein and B vitamins.
Use Beans in Place of Meat
In place of ground beef that you'd pair with tacos, burritos, or pasta, use beans instead. This recipe for maple cumin lentils is delicious over spaghetti squash, and one serving offers 15.5 grams of protein.
Snack on Nuts
Nuts are a quick source of protein to snack on, but they're also calorie-dense. To keep portions in check, measure out quarter-cup servings you can keep in your pantry, gym bag, or desk drawer.
Add Seeds to Everything
Leslie said to sprinkle seeds like chia, flax, pumpkin, and hemp on anything you can think of: salads, smoothies, oatmeal, non-dairy yogurt, pancakes and waffles, to name a few. You can also grind hemp seeds up with peanuts and a touch of cinnamon to make your own nut butter.
Swap Bread For Tofu
Swap traditional bread with tofu for your avocado toast. The secret is using superfirm tofu: Trader Joe's Organic High Protein Super Firm is my absolute favorite. Cut it into thin slices, sauté it in a pan, and it becomes firm and slightly crunchy, just like toast made from bread. Each slice of plain tofu is 117 calories, 2.5 grams of carbs, and offers 12.5 grams of protein.
Add Protein-Rich Ingredients to Oatmeal
Oats don't offer tons of protein on their own, so aside from mashed beans, you can add other protein-rich ingredients to you bowl like protein powder, nut butter, chia seeds, powdered peanut butter, and cook yours with soy milk or Ripple pea milk instead of water.
Add Whole Grains to Salads
Bulk up salads to make them more filling by adding cooked whole grains like quinoa, rice, barley, farro, and millet. They offer hunger-satiating protein and fiber.
Mash Beans Into Potatoes
Mash beans into mashed potatoes to make them creamier and to add a protein punch.
Add Whole Grains to Soups
Make soups more hearty and protein-packed by adding whole grains like quinoa.
Keep Pureed Beans in the Freezer
Puree a can of beans, freeze the puree, and use these magical frozen bean cubes in anything you can think of. Add one to your bowl of oatmeal, throw a few in the blender when whipping up your kale smoothie, or Leslie suggested mixing them into pasta sauce, soups, or cooked whole grains. One cube is 26 calories, and offers 1.3 grams of fiber and 1.6 grams of protein, but won't affect the taste of the dish.
Sauté Chickpeas For Snacks and Salad Toppings
Sauté chickpeas with garlic powder, salt, and cumin to make crispy chickpeas that Leslie said you can add to salads or just snack on after a workout.
Veggie Burgers Aren't Just For Buns
Add cooked veggie burgers to salads, wraps, stir fries, or Leslie suggested crumbling them up into tomato sauce to make a plant-based meat sauce.