Top 12 Allergen-Friendly, Vegan Protein Sources + 6 Recipes
When I blogged about plant protein awhile ago, I got a lot of interesting follow-up questions. One reader’s comment really struck a chord with me and inspired me to write today’s follow-up post. (If you’re curious about protein basics like understanding complete proteins and all that jazz, check out my first protein blog & infographic.) Here’s what this inquiring reader had to say:
Reader Question: “If I’m allergic to soy, grains, gluten, and legumes, can a plant-based diet still deliver the nutrients and protein I need?”
Kris’ Answer: Thankfully, yes! But since I know how smart my readers are and how many of you live with food sensitivities, I want to give you some tips that’ll help you identify protein-rich foods that won’t aggravate these issues. (If you want to read more about food sensitivities, check out this blog.)
First, I’m going to share the soy, grain, gluten, and legume-free foods that are highest in protein with this infographic (perfect for printing and posting on your fridge). Once you’re armed with that information, read up on the tips I’ve included for making these foods easy to prepare, plus some tasty protein-packed recipes.
And for all my readers with nut allergies, let sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds be your new best friends. They can be made into “seed butters” and used in place of most tree nuts in recipes. Pea protein is very easily digested and is appearing up and down the vegan food aisles. Toss a scoop into your green smoothie in the morning to keep you energized until lunch. Now, onto this lovely infographic!
High Protein, Allergen-friendly Tips & Recipes
1. Quinoa quickie. Find convenience in quinoa as a “whole grain”—it’s actually a seed that we eat like a grain. Use it instead of rice, pasta and oatmeal. You can even form it into burgers. Yum!
2. Magnificent milks. For milk alternatives, try hemp milk, flax milk, or almond milk. They can be homemade or found in your local natural foods store.
3. Dip it! Snack on nuts and dunk veggies in dips made out of avocados, nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters. Some of my favorites are in Crazy Sexy Kitchen.
4. Blend it! Start your day with a scrumptious protein-rich smoothie. For example, use almond milk, kale, frozen fruit, hemp hearts, and spirulina.
5. Seeds-a-go-go. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds on salads and soups for extra crunch and protein pow or top your pasta or salad with a nut/seed-based sauce.
6. Be a chia champ. Chia seeds make a great power-packed dessert.
Sample menu: A day in the life…
I also want to show you an example menu for a soy-gluten-grain-legume sensitive guy or gal (that’s a mouthful!). This will help you start to see how it’s possible to avoid these foods and meet your protein needs without sacrificing variety and tastiness in your diet.
Here’s how a moderately active adult who weighs 140 pounds could meet their protein needs without soy, grains, gluten or legumes (50 grams per day):
Breakfast: Body Builder = 12 g protein
Morning Snack: 1 green apple (0.5 g) + 2 Tbsp almond butter (6.5 g) = 7 g protein
Lunch: Zucchini noodles (2 g) with Dill Hemp Seed Pesto (4 g) = 6 g protein
Afternoon Snack: ½ cup Artichoke Aioli w/ raw vegetables = 11 g protein
Dinner: Vegetable stir-fry (4 g) + 1 cup cooked quinoa (9 g) = 13 g protein
Dessert: Chia pudding = 6 g
TOTAL = 51 grams protein
Some other nutrients to consider
Now that we’ve talked about meeting your protein requirements, let’s also address overall nutrient needs. Whenever you remove large food groups from your diet, it’s a good idea to look at your diet as a whole and identify anything that might need a boost.
Here are some things to be mindful of to make sure you’re still enjoying a nourishing plant-happy menu:
- Lysine is an amino acid that’s responsible for turning fat into energy. It’s the one amino acid that’s less easy to come by in a plant-based diet. But have no fear. Although many vegetarians get tons of lysine from legumes, it’s also found in quinoa, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios. Plus, complete proteins like spirulina, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are also great sources of lysine. Make these a part of your everyday diet and your body will be super energized.
- Calcium is high in kale, chia seeds, collards, and tahini (more info in my blog here).
- Vitamin D is best from the sun and supplements (check my interview with Kenneth Bock, MD for details here).
- Vitamin B12 is only found in animal foods and fortified foods. I recommend that vegans take a B-complex vitamin or multivitamin daily that includes B12.
- Zinc is found in pumpkin seeds and any common multivitamin. It’s another important one!
I know that navigating the grocery store and your kitchen can be tricky when you have food sensitivities, but I hope that these recipes, tips and info will remove the stress and replace it with mouth-watering, plant-based, nourishing meals.
Your turn: What are your plant-based suggestions and tips for navigating food sensitivities?
Peace & protein,
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