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Wellness Wednesday: Does Meat-Free = Protein-Free?

Recently, a client of mine asked my opinion on the popular “Meatless Monday” movement. She was eager to join in on the growing trend, both for the health of her body and the environment, but was also concerned about meeting the daily protein intake goal we’d set. This client is hoping to build lean muscle while losing body fat.

Protein helps improve satiety, supports lean muscle, and burns calories 3-4 times faster than fat and carbohydrates during digestion.

The moral of story is protein is pretty important and meat isn’t always required.

I myself celebrate "Meatless Mondays" weekly but still get plenty of protein with plant-based alternatives. And while tofu, nuts and seeds are well-known alternatives, my client preferred these five foods:

Quinoa
½ cup = 4g protein
A complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
Perfect as a grain and meat alternative – even quinoa “Sloppy Joe’s”.

Lentils
1 cup, cooked = 18g protein
A good source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Swap lentils for ground beef in pasta sauces. 

Hemp Seeds
3 tablespoons = 10g protein
Rich in heart-healthy fats, mostly omega-3 fatty acids.
Stir in with hummus for more satiating snacking.

Spirulina
2 tablespoons = 8g protein
Most protein by dry weight.
Add this blue-green algae to your Green Smoothie. 

Nutritional Yeast
3 tablespoons = 12g protein
High in B Vitamins.
You’ll love the cheesy flavor for dairy-free days. 

This week’s tip: Take part in “Meatless Monday” with high-protein, plant-based meals and take note of how you feel…even if it’s not on Monday. Comment below! 

- Lauren Pax is a Nutrition Coach at Life Time Fitness and a Senior Instructor at DEFINE: Oakley. You may contact her at [email protected].

Photo via thekitchn.com