My Mom cooked many delicious homemade meals for my brother and I when we were kids. I can't thank her enough. She worked a full time job then came home to two children who sometimes complained about what she was making (not because it tasted bad, but because we were brats and wanted something that wasn't on the menu). Our typical meal was meat/fish, a veggie, and a baked potato. Unless it was lasagna or taco night! It was my experience that an evening meal always had one thing I could point to and label as a high source of protein. "Dinner" was one protein, one carbohydrate, and one veggie.
When I started eating plant-based I had to flip my experience on its head. It's like when you're looking at a piece of modern art and you can't tell which end is up so you try looking at it from a few different angles. Oh, you haven't tried that? I highly recommend it. It will give the museum security guards something fun to watch. They often look bored. Take pity on them.
Are you ready to shift your perspective?
Step One: Forget what the word "dinner" means to you.
Now "dinner" means a meal that you eat at the end of the day. It is filling, nutritious, and enjoyable. It comes in many forms.
Step Two: Seek PROTEIN in all of it's "non-traditional", beautiful forms throughout the day.
Did you know that animals cannot produce protein? They get it from plants. Why not go directly to the source? Here are some one ounce equivalents of protein from the USDA...
- ½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)
- ½ ounce of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, or squash seeds, hulled, roasted)
- 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter
- ¼ cup of cooked beans (such as black, kidney, pinto, or white beans)
- ¼ cup of cooked peas (such as chickpeas, cowpeas, lentils, or split peas)
- ¼ cup of baked beans, refried beans
- ¼ cup (about 2 ounces) of tofu
- 1 ounce tempeh, cooked
- ¼ cup roasted soybeans
- 1 falafel patty (2 ¼", 4 ounces)
- 2 Tablespoons hummus
Step Three: Determine how much protein you need per day.
The average American ate 193 pounds of meat in 2015. As a mostly sedentary female who is 29 years old, my goal is to consume 5 ounces of protein per day. If I ate 193 pounds of meat in a year that would be equivalent to 8 ounces of protein per day. By the way, I love chickpeas, nuts, peanut butter, and black bean tacos so that's additional protein on top of the meat. I don't need all of that protein! That's extra. Extra protein is turned into fat. No thank you.
You can use this chart from the USDA to determine your ideal protein intake or you can work with a nutritionist. If you are an athlete, you might want to use this chart plus reference other guidelines for people doing high levels of physical activity.