Want to know how to get protein as a vegan? Instagram is filled to the brim with the latest #foodporn from lavishly created smoothie bowls to perfectly placed avo on toast. Influencers sure know how to get us drooling as we scroll. But just what do they swear by when it comes to getting enough protein (especially as a vegan) in our daily lives away from the basic chicken and broccoli? Amanda interviews some top fitness foodies to find out about the protein rules they swear by…
Jade Joslyn (@jadejoselyn), is an Irish fitness YouTuber and F45 Trainer who regularly competes in the IFBB Pro Bikini Competitions. She shares her paleo based diet online in order to inspire others to eat well and train hard.
“There is a big misconception that people feel that eating out is deemed ‘unhealthy’ when it’s actually a lack of education and knowledge in how to enjoy a well-balanced meal”.
Jade shares her favourite go-to snack at home and her Number 1 Recipe on her channel ‘The Ultimate Protein Ice-Cream Smoothie’, which she has at least once a day. It is packed full of fruit, nut butters and protein powders. She promises me that I would never reach for another tub of store-brought Ice-Cream after trying it.
Another influencer that swears by something sweet is award-winning blogger Em Sheldon (@emshelx). The Leeds based fitness and self-professed ultimate carb lover regularly shares her quick, simple and healthy meals with her 103K Instagram followers. She adds chia seeds and nut butters to increase her protein count and whizzes up a smoothies with protein rich ingredients.
“I think people need to understand what actually has protein in and create a list of products they like to make it easier” she comments. Knowing what she likes and what works for her, Em swears by a vegetable pasta dish with a side of broccoli when out dining or indulging on her healthy banana bread at home or in-between meetings.
Quick and healthy recipes are on the increase – with time-strapped millennials and an ever growing conscious-consumer base we are all looking for simple ways to eat a little healthier but without losing any of the flavour. Pinterest’s 2019 Food Trend Report, announced that the increase search for tin-foil dinner recipes is up by 759% due to their ease and simplicity and the pegan diet [part paleo, part vegan] hit a 377% increase. But what does this mean, when it comes to getting enough protein in our diet?
Carly Rowena (@carlyrowena) a pescatarian and recent mum says “I always find it harder to hit my protein goals – but it’s not impossible. A 3-ounce portion of cod/salmon or tuna can give you about 20g of protein, team it with eggs, pulses and a scoop or two of protein powder into your smoothie and you’re there”.
She is forever ordering a tuna steak when out and about, teamed with potatoes and honey roasted carrots. Carly also loads everything from her fridge into her slow cooker to create her infamous veggie chilli which she snacks on throughout the day. These are the staples in Carly’s and husband Leon (one half of @theleanmachines) diet.
The Lean Machines
“I’m not a fussy eater” Carly states. “Most people only think of synthetic ways to get protein into their diet such as bars and shakes”. She recommends downloading MyFitness Pal or a similar app to check the nutrition statistics when planning meals, as well as looking at the nutritional composition of each ingredient.
The Fitness Chef
Understanding the protein density of each individual food item allows us to become in control of the food we are consuming. Graeme Thomlinson (@thefitnesschef_) says that ”people are simply not aware” when it comes to understanding protein and that sometimes quick, accessible sources are a great idea when short on time and knowledge.
Sharing with his 309K and rapidly growing followers on the platform Thomlinson has created a community that is devoted to providing not only factual information supported by evidence-based research. He also empowers people to make informed decisions based on their own preferences. “I have no agenda” Thomlinson told me, which we can clearly see as we scroll through his carefully thought out and delicious feed.
“One of my go-to meals is a quick Spaghetti Bolognese Bowl. It’s quick and easy to prepare”. Thomlinson regularly takes traditional meals like the above and transforms them simply into a healthier version.
“By switching to 20% beef mince for 5% beef mince and swapping olive oil for a few sprays of the original 1 cal spray from Frylight, as part of Frylight’s #CaloriesUncovered Campagn [which Thomlinson is an ambassador for] I can deliver the same 55g of protein with 300 fewer calories”. But “all food types can have a place in a balanced diet” Thomlinson goes on to say, quoting that he does love a cheeky Nando’s.
Allowing ourselves to have the foods our bodies crave, in moderation, and doing so in an educated way is the key to ensuring a balanced diet.
Sian Ryan (@sianliftsweights) swears by a burger and chips when she goes out. But swaps the bun for a side salad. “I don’t go out a lot so want to enjoy my meals and not worry if it will fit my macros” Ryan comments. She swears by checking the menu before-hand to look at the nutritional information to make a more informed decision.
Sian who has lost an incredible 85lbs and shares her transformation, both physically and mentally across her channels told me that “I think a lot of people [like myself] struggle with the mental side – instantly thinking if they eat more protein they will look like a bodybuilder, which is never the case. “Protein is so important for our bodies; our hair; nails; and skin”.
Ryan has listened to her followers who constantly request for her to share her meals due to her simple creations that are perfect for a busy working life.
“There’s so many ways to add simple swaps to increase protein, such as having Greek yoghurt as a dessert, adding some cheese to a chilli or making pasta sauces from quark. It’s all about getting creative with your approach so you don’t get bored.”
This preconception that eating more protein will immediately make you ‘bulk out’ is a common myth we have seen across the board. Flora Beverley (@foodfitnessflora) is a model and social media consultant who uses her channels both on Instagram and YouTube to share her healthy food journey.
“I think most people believe you have to be eating your bodyweight in protein every day, which just isn’t true. It’s an unfortunate misconception that isn’t being helped by the wellness industry”. She is referring to the state of the fitness and wellness industry, that, as it stands today has an estimated worth of £5bn [2019 WelltoDo Report] cashing in on the consumer need for increased protein without educating the natural sources that are readily available.
Her advice is to “just eat a wide variety of foods, especially vegetables, beans and pulses and to mix up the diet every day.” Standing by her comment that eating a varied diet means you will be more likely to be getting all the nutrients you need through your diet; with no supplements required, Flora mentioned that she doesn’t have a particular food that she swears by to get enough protein. She just eats, but is a major fan of a tofu sir fry due to its ease and adaptability to use up any leftovers she may have in the fridge.
Zanna van Dijk
Adidas global ambassador, BBC podcaster and BALANCE Festival [10-12th May 2019, London] Host Zanna van Dijk (@zannavandijk) is another fan of the simple tofu stir-fry. She says it’s her go-to when out dining due to it providing the protein, fats and carbs she requires. “I try and ensure every meal ticks off macro and micro nutrients” just like her ultimate feel-good Chickpea Curry that she makes at home due to its balanced ratio.
Zanna, like an increasing number of Britons, follows a vegan diet so makes sure to “consume a lot of legumes, grains, tofu and tempeh to get my protein” as well as using a natural plant-based protein to add to smoothies or overnight oats.
Worried about the current nature Zanna believes there “is [currently] too much pressure on protein” stating that “we need less than the internet tells us” and we should “just focus on eating varied whole foods and a protein source with each meal”.
James Middleton (@james.middleton_) the health and fitness coach known for his online JM Movement programmes and a RIG ambassador backs up Zanna’s comment. He says that, “the majority of people consume enough protein each day, without realising”. “People don’t realise how many food sources out there contain protein other than just chicken”. This lack of education surrounding protein is causing an over-consumption and lack of confidence – when it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
“I try to ensure that at every single meal I eat some form of vegetable, whether that is spinach or avocado in my morning smoothie, broccoli at lunch or lentils or chickpeas at dinner. I’m a huge quinoa fan – despite its stereotype it’s such a great food source.”
Inundated with his followers asking him about his diet Middleton loves to share his recipes from his favourite snacks, through to what’s on his plate for dinner.
“Food brings people together, because everyone has to eat… even when I’m not sharing my dishes online – I’m constantly talking about food.”
Someone else who is also obsessed with food is Ben Lobus (@mobkitchenuk) who is about to become a 2x author. Self-taught foodie Ben believes that his platform is a space where his audience can approach flavour in a fascinating, clear and simple way.
His first book Mob Kitchen was a way to introduce simple and healthy swaps to otherwise unhealthy meals and hero’s the protein component rather than hides it. “I don’t want to trick my readers into eating anything they don’t want too, I want them to learn and enjoy all about simple ingredients and what works for them”.
Understanding that his audience is currently at a 50/50 when it comes to meat-eaters and plant-based, Ben wants to encourage others that it’s okay to enjoy hearty meat-based meals but to see it as a treat on a weekend or for a special event. Releasing his new book later this year, Ben is focussing on more accessible ways for people following vegan/vegetarian, Pegan or flexitarian diets to be able to spice up their meals and enjoy what they are eating.
“It’s all about education” Ben comments. He swears by adding crushed nuts to salads, pastas and stews for an added plant-based protein hit. “If you don’t read and research before making a swap, it can become scary. As long as people are aware of the facts before making the change – it saves a whole load of problems.”
Ensuring you’re getting the right amount of protein in ways that benefit you isn’t as hard as you may think. Doing your research and taking the time to make sure you are as informed as our fitness foodies is all you need. There are plenty of resources out there to help you do so and some delicious tips and recipes from our faves.
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Hettie is the editor and co-founder of DOSE. A keen runner, she’s also partial to a blast of high-intensity and hot yoga. A country girl at heart, she divides her time between London and the lush rolling hills of North Devon. When she’s not jetting off on her next adventure, Hettie can be found in a candle-lit alcove with a laptop, a spaniel and a full bodied Malbec.