Goooooo PROTEIN!! (shakes pom poms)….
As you may know, I’m here to advocate for the inclusion of more raw food into our everyday lives. In doing so, however, I haven’t attempted to force feed vegetarianism or veganism to you as I understand we make personal choices with regards to what we eat and it isn’t my place to make you feel bad for them.
One of the things I hear most of all when it comes to giving up meat, or giving up ‘as much meat‘ as North Americans eat on a regular basis, is: I can’t give up meat, I would never get enough protein. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this too, but it led me to wonder….
Hmmmm, how much protein do I actually need every day?
So I went and found this useful equation:
(Original Source http://www.canadianliving.com/health/nutrition/how_much_protein_do_we_need_2.php)
You need to know your weight in kilograms, so (if you’re like me) you have to first convert your weight from pounds.
Your weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = your weight in kilograms.
Then take your weight in kilograms x .8 to 1.8 = the average grams of protein you need in a day.
So let’s pretend I weigh 100 pounds / 2.2 = 45.45Kg
45.45Kg x 1.5 = 68ish. I’d be looking at 68 grams of protein per day.
Keep in mind that this calculation provides you with an average. You will want to increase your protein intake if you are working out regularly (getting your heart rate up for a minimum 20 minutes 5 times a week) or more, recovering from illness, or are pregnant. I haven’t yet encountered a scenario where you may want to decrease the amount of protein – but this would be a discussion that you need to have with your doctor, your nutritionist, or trainer.
Now that you know how much protein you should be eating in a day, you can start to identify how much you actually consume in order to give some weight to your claim that you can’t get enough without meat, or to dispel it…. (I’m betting you can guess which way I’m leaning with those choices….)
In addition to the Nutritional Information provided on the majority of products you buy in the store today, here are some handy reference tools for you to help you figure this out so you will be armed with the knowledge you need to integrate more raw food into your everyday life, but know you’re getting enough protein.
High Protein Raw Foods:
There are plenty of infographics on the web that will give you handy visual representations of High Protein foods, and if you remove the meat, dairy, eggs, and some grains from those illustrations, what is left is (obviously) are the natural foods you can eat raw. Don’t forget that some of the grains can be soaked until sprouting, and will then be soft enough to eat raw. They will be a different texture than what you’d be accustomed to if you had cooked them, but if you look for recipes that use them, they become palatable and will be better for you.
Here’s another good list: http://www.rawguru.com/toptenprotein.html
I won’t provide yet a new list for you to scan through, I’ll just provide some basic examples but will also give you the tools to figure out in an on-going way how much protein you’re getting in the foods you eat.
1 cup Kale has 2.9g of protein
1 cup Spinach has .9g protein
1 cup almonds has 30g protein
2 Tblsp Chia seed has 4.7g protein
1 medium banana has 1.3g protein
I got you all that info in 30 seconds. How? Google! So easy! Search “Protein in almonds” and you get a nifty little table at the top of the page that lets you select the product, the measurement, and lets you change the product so you can get more information. This is handy for single ingredients, but what if you have a recipe? We’ll get to that in a second.
The primary thing I need to point out will settle your incredulity over how low the leafy greens can be where protein is concerned. At the very thought of having to eat 22 cups of Kale in a day just to get enough protein (yes, I know you’d be eating other things that day too, this is just an extreme example) you’re ready to stop reading. But now you will come to understand the value of the “Smoothie\Shake” and why so many vegetarians and\or plant based athletes swear by them: it’s because you can throw in up to (average) 17g of protein into one Shake and drink all your protein. No cud-chewing-cow impersonations required.
Recipes and Smoothies:
I use two resources to determine the nutritional value of the recipes I’m making. I’m going to start with “My Fitness Pal” (MFP) because I haven’t found an ingredient yet that they don’t have information for. The primary purpose of MFP is to track calorie consumption, and it also breaks down what you’ve eaten in carbs, fat, and protein when you log your food. MFP can be used online or in an app, but adding your recipes can only be done online. In their “Recipe” section, you can either paste a link to a recipe you found online and then spend a little time to match the ingredients to get the caloric and nutritional information, or you can type in your own ingredients to match and get the same information. For both methods, you can save the recipe so you never have to enter it again. Starting up with MFP can be a little labor intensive but as you build your lists of “Recent Foods”, “Frequent Foods”, and “Recipes” (the first two, the application automatically does for you) using the application gets faster and easier. Once you’ve entered your recipe in the website, you can access it through the application on your phone or tablet. One final benefit of MFP is that, because so many people use it, you can usually locate products by name because other members have entered the information. I even once found the burger made by the cafeteria in the very building that I work in. Saved me time.
My Fitness Pal home page: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/
The only shortcomings of MFP I’ve found are that sometimes other members have entered the incorrect caloric information for a product I was searching for. My rule of thumb when this happens is: If I’m in the mood to lie to myself, pick the product entry with the lowest caloric value. If I’m in the mood to be honest and have good personal statistics to properly track my health goals, pick the one that looks most reasonable and realistic, or enter it myself.
The second drawback is that I’ve found their macros to be a bit off. They provide them based on just a few statistics and, if you aren’t going to enter the calories you burn through exercise, the information isn’t going to be hugely useful for you (depending on your goals). If you’re going to use MFP to track your ratios for daily carbs, protein, and fat, you may want to go into your account on the website and manually change them to lower the daily fat, and even out the carbs and protein (but this will depend on your physical activity, special needs, etc.), especially if you don’t want to bother inputting your burned calories. I’m going to assume that, if you’re using MFP to track these ratios, that you have some idea of what they should be.
The final drawback is that it gives you the nutritional values for solid foods. This is great for recipes, and even for smoothies, but not if you’re juicing your fruits and veggies. This is where one of my next favourite resources come in.
The site “Juice Recipes for Your Health” has a wonderful little calculator where you enter the ingredients that you’ve just grabbed out of your fridge and tossed into your blender/juicer and it will provide you with BOTH the juiced nutritional value and the Smoothie nutritional value. That’s awesome :)
The link to their Juice Builder page (the calculator) is: http://juicerecipes.com/build/
This page, however, currently only contains the information for ingredients that they use in their juicing recipes. I’m sure this list is probably quite impressive, but you may encounter an ingredient that you can’t get the nutritional information for….like I did. I was looking for ‘wheatgrass’ and it’s not in their library. When I contacted them about this, a real live human responded (which was cool) who let me know that they don’t use wheat grass in their recipes because they didn’t find it contained enough nutritional value to bother. I may not agree, but I found their personal approach and explanation to be worthy of respect, as well as the obvious emotional investment the person has in the quality of the data they provide. I wasn’t communicating with someone at a Help Desk, I was communicating with an owner of the information. I can appreciate the hard work and dedication.
I must confess that I haven’t subscribed to an account for the Juice Recipes site (yet) so I cannot tell you whether or not they allow you to “Save” juice recipes that you have ‘built’.
So there you go. You walk away from here today with the ability to determine how much protein you actually need daily, and the ability to figure out how much you’re getting from what you eat. Isn’t that amazing! You may not actually need a beef steak, or 8g of chicken, or burgers, etc. every day and have plenty of room on your plate and in your blender for vegetarian sources of protein without your health and wellbeing suffering. Congratulations! You’re one step closer to removing that “I can’t give up meat, I’d never get enough protein” myth from your belief system! You rock! :)