When I was in college, I decided to go vegetarian.
In reality, I had just realized that meat was expensive and spaghetti was cheap. I’d fill my cabinets with 10 for a dollar boxes of spaghetti, pasta sauce, canned soups, and boxed rice mixes.
This worked great for my limited college budget, but not so well for my health. I felt horrible most of the time – tired, sluggish, brain fog, skin issues, you name it.
At the time, I had a very limited understanding of nutrition. Although I rarely ate fresh fruit or vegetables, I thought I ate pretty healthy. When I started feeling exhausted all the time, I guessed it was because I had gone vegetarian.
Yup – it must be that I wasn’t getting enough protein.
It was really because I had gone pasta-prego-rice-a-roni-tarian.
The truth is that plant foods have plenty of protein. Eating vegetarian/vegan/plant based doesn’t automatically make you deficient. But it IS important to know the right foods to create balanced meals and make sure you’re getting enough.
(Spoiler alert – swapping chicken for spaghetti doesn’t work.)
Once I learned how to create balanced plant based meals, I felt more energetic, more clear headed, and my skin cleared. I no longer felt like I needed meat to give me the energy to accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish.
But it took years to get to this point. I went back to eating meat thinking that was my issue. After years of trial and error, I finally settled on what worked for me while eating plant based.
How do I create balanced plant based meals?
I make sure to include enough lean protein, vegetables, healthy fats, and smart carbs throughout my day.
This allows me to get the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals my body needs from food, which leads to more satisfaction with my food, less cravings, and I never feel like I’m going hungry.
How do I get enough protein when eating a plant based diet?
As mentioned above, getting enough protein on a plant based diet isn’t as difficult as I once believed.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is .8 grams per kg of body weight. This is considered the minimum amount needed in order to avoid deficiency, and most Americans consume significantly more than this. To determine the amount you need to reach the RDA, multiply .36 by your weight in pounds, or try this online calculator.
This number is a great starting point. From there, you’ll want to tune into how much feels right for you – based on your hunger, your body, your activity levels, and your goals.
Have you ever failed at something that ended up teaching you lessons you still carry with you today? Send me a DM on Instagram to share your story.