By now, many of us understand that a plant-based diet isn’t all tofu and lettuce (and thank goodness). But that doesn’t mean it’s not intimidating, and hard to know where to start. It also means you have to plan a little better when it comes to getting all your macronutrients so that you’re well nourished and feel full for an appropriate amount of time.
We had a minute with Nealy Fischer, founder of The Flexible Chef and author of Food You Want for the Life You Crave, who had some valuable tips to take the edge off. For Fischer, it’s as easy as starting right now and evaluating your last day of meals. “Be honest,” she urges. “Take a mental look at your plate. What percentage of your daily food consumption came from vegetables?” The first shift you should be making is radical but simple: start thinking of vegetables as the main part of your diet and the foundational layer of every meal.
We understand that proteins are the building blocks of the body and have a huge impact on your muscles, organs, and hormones. Fischer points out that how much protein you need to consume each day “really depends on who you ask, your lifestyle, physical activity, and body goals.” So, we can’t tell you the exact number. It’s completely individual. What Fischer can say is that generally, the minimum amount of protein you should eat each day should be approximately 0.36 grams for each pound that you weigh.
”I always say life is like a laboratory, and you need to conduct your own experiments. So listen to your body and figure out what works best for you,” Fischer reminds us. Part of this might be intuitive, but it’s also very physical—if you were extra active on a specific day or week and were especially ravenous, listen to your body’s needs. You can get protein from soy, sure, but many veggies and especially legumes are actually chock-full of beneficial proteins, and legumes can work their way into any meal, even breakfast.
Fischer laid out a few examples for us to get started ASAP. For the first meal of the day, she says to start out with a green juice to mineralize and alkalize. Sauté up some veggies for an omelet if you eat eggs, or sub in some black beans for an egg-free scramble. “Shred a variety of veggies and fry them up like you would potato hash browns, or add shredded veggies to morning gluten-free muffins,” says Fischer. You can even make a raw breakfast salad.
If you’re thinking salad for breakfast sounds backward, Fischer says to trust her. “In my cookbook, Food You Want for the Life You Crave, I even share a recipe for a Layered Halloumi Breakfast Salad that’s packed with leafy greens, avocados, pan-fried Halloumi, and a creamy lemon vinaigrette dressing that will help kick-start your day!”
For a snack, don’t just spike your blood sugar with a piece of fruit. Make sure to balance it with healthy fats and protein like a nut or seed butter. Many plant-based cheese alternatives are nut-based as well, which is another protein option.
A robust salad is a great lunch choice as well. “Start with a bed of leafy greens, mix in diced-up crunchy veggies, add some spiced-up nuts and seeds, and top with a tantalizing dressing. While there is some protein in leafy greens like kale and spinach, to bump it up a notch, you can also add some tofu, chickpeas, or quinoa.” Or warm up some leftovers from your delicious dinner the night before, like a well-spiced lentil stew to stir up your digestive fire.
Fischer’s hot dinner tips include swapping out “carb-heavy comfort foods like pizza, pasta, and rice bowls with lightened-up veggie versions. Try a spaghetti squash pizza crust (where you mix spaghetti squash, egg, cheese, and spices and bake into a crust), zucchini noodles, and cauliflower rice.” A veggie pizza crust is really a place to get super creative! There’s also cauliflower buffalo “wings,” cauliflower mashed “potatoes” … the list is endless. Roast chickpeas to make them crunchy and sprinkle on top of anything for an added protein boost. Super nutritious nuts and seeds pack a protein punch too, and are great for hormone regulation.