Tag Archives: protein

Bumpy Road

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It’s no secret: veganism can be a tough lifestyle to stick to. Recently I have been suffering from a lot of desire for things that I shouldn’t have: going out to pizza with the roommates and having to opt for a cheeseless version as they enjoy their gooey, cheesy pies; walking into our apartment with the smell of fresh-baked, non-vegan cookies thick in the air; wishing for a veggie and egg scramble topped with cheddar on buttered toast instead of my normal oatmeal or brown rice cereal. Let’s face it, non-vegan food is freakin delicious! And sometimes I do give in as I snag a fresh baked cookie off the cooling rack, but I have to remind myself that it is just a little bump in the road.

To cure myself of this bumpy road of vegan depression, I turned to my new vegan bible, The Plantpower Way, hoping they would have a section that would give me a little hope for my future. And they did! First, they have a great section on the protein dilemma that everyone seems to drill vegans with. Where do we get our protein? I have to say I started having my own doubts, thinking that I should perhaps reinstate eggs into my diet so I can get higher levels of protein. But really, there are so many extremely fit people, even international athletes, who eat a plant-based diet with no protein deficiencies. In the book, they claim that only about 10% of your daily calories should be protein to maintain a healthy body, which is pretty easy to accomplish without even focusing on your protein intake. Of course, eating a variety of grains, beans, nuts, veggies, and fruits is the key to maintaining balance, but the point is that protein isn’t really that big of a deal.

Second, one of the authors wrote a great section on how the transition to veganism is really tough, but we need to switch our perception of veganism from one of deprivation to thinking of all of the great culinary opportunities the plant-based diet provides. It is so easy, as I have done myself many a time, to think of all of the things I can’t have: no ice cream, no scrambled eggs, no gourmet cheeses. But it is time to focus on all of the things I get to have: coconut cream ice cream, tofu scrambles and superfood vegan pancakes for breakfast, gourmet nut cheeses that I never would have tried if I still was eating regular parmesan. I am opening doors to a new world of wonderful, nourishing foods that will support my body and help me to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

So yeah, this journey hasn’t been easy. But I guess no journey that is actually worthwhile is ever easy. And I still feel very passionately that it is my duty, as an individual who enjoys so many things that our beautiful planet has to offer, to help protect and conserve the health of our only home.

Vegan = Healthy?

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Something that has recently been brought to my attention is the misconception that vegan = healthy. One of my friends told me the other day that I’m the healthiest person she knows because I’m vegan, but this got me to thinking, and I realized that veganism does not necessarily mean healthy at all. For some reason, veganism is a very scary thing for people to think about, and they automatically jump to the conclusion that we only eat salads and maybe some nuts and berries that we gather from the forest. Along with this assumption also comes the idea that because we only eat salads, nuts, and berries, we are clearly the healthiest people. However, let’s consider the following list of food items:

  • Oreos
  • Cashew Cheesecake
  • French Fries
  • Garden Burger
  • Vegan Mac n Cheese
  • Sorbet

What do all of these foods have in common? Two things: they are both vegan and also unhealthy to consume regularly. Being vegan is not some insta-health solution. While it does encourage the consumption of natural foods over processed foods more than an omnivore diet, there are clearly many things, both processed or natural and homemade, that are still unhealthy.

What does this mean for me? Up to this point, I have been exploring the vegan diet and lifestyle, trying to figure out what works for me and how I can weave it into my sometimes crazy college life. It has been about two months now, and I am starting to feel pretty darn comfortable with being vegan. The next step is to go back and refocus on health and fitness through my diet, this time only powered by plants rather than by meats and dairy.

Right before going vegan, as I have mentioned before in other posts, I was about a month and a half into a clean eating diet plan that was set up for me by a nutritionist. I had a very specific diet consisting of extremely clean proteins like egg whites and lots and lots of chicken breast, ground turkey, and protein shakes (3 per day!). These proteins were paired with complex starchy carbs, veggies, and some occasional almonds for snack. Absolutely zero sugar was involved besides the fructose from 1/2 cup of blueberries in my morning oatmeal. It was a very difficult diet to stay on, and it became extremely boring because I couldn’t get very creative with my food and make new dishes. But the important parts of the diet were the absence of processed sugar (even a very low fruit intake), the high levels of protein, the complex carbs, and the portion control. Now, I have by no means just been wildly stuffing my face with vegan junk food for the past two months, but I also haven’t made the health factor the most important consideration when choosing foods. Now that I am feeling more comfortable with vegan eating, I think it is time to reevaluate the principles of my old clean diet and turn it into a less strict, more creative, yet still effective, vegan version.

Moral of this story: don’t take veganism as an obvious pathway to better health. Your health is still on you and what you choose to fuel your body with. A healthy, clean diet, especially a vegan one, can give you more energy, help you sleep better, and just make you feel better in general! Who wouldn’t want that?

After all of this health talk, if you happen to be looking for a vegan protein powder, I’ve finally decided that my favorite is Garden of Life’s RAW Protein in vanilla. I tried the VegaSport chocolate flavor for a while, but it has this weird, saltyish taste in it that I cannot stand, even when blended with bananas and blueberries and peanut butter and all other good things. The vanilla RAW powder has a more gritty texture, but the flavor is a lot more mild and easily blends with other yumminess.

If you have no idea how you could incorporate protein powder into your day, here are some ideas:

  • Mix into a bowl of oatmeal along with sliced banana and/or blueberries (LOVE this!)
  • Protein smoothie (my favorite is cashew milk+banana+blueberries+PB2+protein powder)
  • Mix into coffee…? (some people say it’s good but I haven’t had good results)
  • Protein pancakes (thousands of recipes online)
  • Chia seed and protein powder pudding (protein powder, nut milk, and chia seeds, leave it in the fridge until it gets gelatinous; saw this on Pinterest)

Seitan: The Savory Dough

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I was planning on doing a post on seitan (who knows how you say it, every time I say it I feel like I’m saying Satan no matter my pronunciation) a little later down the road, because I was planning on making a batch of it sometime soon. However, good ol’ Shaw whipped up a beautiful BBQ seitan sandwich on the lunch menu today, so I thought I would give it a try. I was so shocked that they offered a seitan sandwich of all things, because I had never even heard of it until I stumbled upon it on the Penniless Vegan’s blog the other day, and I had no idea anyone besides us radical vegans were aware of the concept. By the way, the Penniless Vegan is a great blog, go check it out!

Seitan is a very interesting food. It is essentially a big dense hunk of dough made from vital wheat gluten that is then baked or cooked in some fashion. But it turns out nothing like bread or any other doughy thing you’ve ever had; instead, you end up with a chunk of dense, tender, kinda meat-like stuff. Today, I found it is a little too far from meat for me to think of it as such, so I prefer to remember that it is truly cooked dough pieces when I eat it. However, similar to meat, seitan is extremely protein rich! I bought a bag of vital wheat gluten at Whole Foods a few days ago since I plan to make it, and on the package it says that in 1/4 cup of the dry flour there is something like 23g of protein (don’t quote me on that, but I do know it is over 20g). If you are looking for a vegan protein source, this is the food for you!

Overall, my BBQ seitan sandwich was a positive experience. And now, since I know seitan isn’t a total flop, I’m even more excited to try making my own batch! We’ll touch base on this subject again after my seitan culinary experiment.

Banana Protein Pancakes (are life)

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This morning I got up at 8:45ish, despite the fact that I don’t have class on Fridays AND that I stayed up too late last night, and attempted my first batch of vegan pancakes. It seems like vegans are all quite fond of their pancakes, and it is something I’ve heard about from pretty much every vegan I know. I knew it was time.

At first, I attempted a flourless pancake, consisting of mashed banana, rolled oats, almond milk, vanilla soy protein powder, and vanilla extract. The problem with this, I quickly discovered, is that a flourless pancake spreads out in an infinite expanse once you put a dollop in the pan and it doesn’t have a definite edge. Also, it cooks extremely fast. Not good. My first vegan pancake was a paper thin, blackened crisp, which I then promptly shared on Snapchat.

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After that, I decided to re-vamp my batter by adding some flour and baking soda to give some extra fluff. I added more almond milk to reach a nice pancakey consistency, and my results improved significantly! After the second, new-and-improved pancake, I got the bright idea to thaw some frozen blueberries and add them in as well. Taddah! I achieved the beautiful, beautiful vegan banana blueberry protein pancake.

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This is the recipe that I settled on, after the original trial and error. However, it may require a little bit more fiddling as I get better at knowing what works well for dairy substitutes and such.

  • 1/3 c flour or whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 c vanilla soy/plant based protein powder
  • 1 mashed banana (extra ripe)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • almond milk (I use unsweetened vanilla)

First, mash up the banana in a bowl and add in some almond milk to get the liquid base going. Then add in the flour, oats, and protein powder, along with the vanilla extract and baking soda. Mix it all together. It will probably be too thick, so keep adding almond milk until it is the consistency you want (less liquid for thick cakes, more liquid for thin). Then in a lightly greased pan (I used canola spray) drop a scoop of batter in, and press in a few blueberries while it is still raw. You can also just add the blueberries into the batter bowl, but sometimes it’s fun to make little designs with the berries.

As far as I can tell, the protein powder is totally optional using this recipe, because the protein doesn’t really thicken up the batter much, so leaving it out should be safe. However, adding the protein powder creates a much more wholesome breakfast, rather than just a carb-load breakfast. I suppose you could try it with chocolate powder or some other flavor, but vanilla seems to be the easiest flavor to work into pancakes. Anyway, whichever way you decide to make your cakes, I hope you enjoy! (And leave any suggestions/triumphs/failures in the comments!)