As dancers, we know that protein is vital for our health, our workouts and recovery, and most importantly for our brain function. However, there is a well-circulated myth among Americans that protein must come from animals.
This viewpoint is an unfortunate result of corporate agriculture and its many campaigns to push meat and dairy consumption on us, in order to increase aggregate production; thus lining the pockets of big corporations. Trust me, they do not care about our health! It is true that animal products are a source of protein, however when we consider the environmental, health, and ethical implications that come with relying on meat, we must consider a viable alternative - lush, delicious, plentiful plants!
I’m sure you are already thinking, "How do I replace the meats on my plate with enjoyable plant based protein?". Well, the simple answer is we must rethink protein entirely, and learn to let go of the ideology that a protein, like meat, must be included on our plates to have a well-rounded meal. Plant-based protein is easy to include in small meals throughout the day, even by way of snacks, juices, and smoothies. I personally enjoy a snack of hummus and lentil chips in the afternoon - a delicious protein rich pick me up that I can even enjoy on the go!
Without providing you with an endless list of plant-based protein rich foods (because there are many!) I will share with you a few of my personal favorites:
Quinoa, amaranth, and oatmeal are easy to incorporate grains, that provide a hefty dose of protein and provide equally healthy carbohydrates. Nut milks, like almond and cashew are tasty dairy substitutes that are protein-rich. I also enjoy peanut butter almost daily in some form or another - peanut butter toast and banana, yum! Soy in the form of milk and tofu, as well as tempeh, are vegan-friendly protein staples. When it comes to actual veggies, green peas, artichokes, spinach, edamame, broccoli, and asparagus are not only rich in protein, but provide a host of other important vitamins, like B, C, and fiber. Lastly, one cannot forget seeds like hemp, chia, and pumpkin. You can eat these raw, or toss them into salads or smoothies.
Since switching to a vegan diet and lifestyle, I have never once been protein deficient, and in many ways have never felt healthier. I feel more focused, active, and eager to start my day. In more ways than one, plants are the way to go! However, please keep in mind that it is always best to consult with a doctor or licensed nutritionist before embarking on a complete diet change- we all have different diet and medical needs to consider!
For your first foray in plant-based protein, try your hand at the recipe below, for a tasty smoothie that can be whipped up in a hurry!