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Got a friend or family member who’s all about health and fitness? As self-declared health nuts, we put together a list of gifts that are dietitian approved and we would love to see under our tree!

Bonus: We’ve provided easy links to order everything listed so you don’t ever have to set foot in a mall.

For the gardener/foodie:

Back to the Roots Mini Mushroom Farm

You don’t need a lot of space to start growing your own mushrooms. They also have cool varieties like pink oyster mushrooms and shiitakes.

Planter’s Choice Herb Garden Kit

Everything you need to start growing 4 different herbs indoors, herb grinder included.

Aerogarden Classic 6

An indoor option for the foodie who also loves technology. No dirt necessary.

For the one who has everything:

23 & Me

We all have someone in the family who insists they don’t need or want any more tangible gifts. DNA & genetic testing kits like 23 & Me can give you a glimpse into your past and your future, with information about where you come from as well as genetic health risks you should be aware of.

Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude: Gratitude Journal

For your friend who’s always in the kitchen:

Instant Pot

Odds are they already have one, but if they don’t yet, you’ve hit the gift jackpot. Take recipes like beef stew that would normally take 5-7 hours in a crockpot and get them done in 30 minutes. Seriously!

KitchenAid Emulsion Blender

A hand held blender perfect for soups, smoothies, sauces, and baby food. Also works as a milk frother, fluffs eggs into meringue, and has a chopper for nuts and hard cheeses.

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck 

For someone who needs to relax:

Muscle soak

Affordable epsom salts infused with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.

Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir

Enjoy the calming effects of reishi in a convenient quick-stir packet. Reishi has been shown to activate the body’s sleep cycle as well as decrease occasional stress.

Body Back Buddy Trigger Point Therapy Self Massage Tool

Lower back, neck, and shoulder deep tissue massage and myofascial release tool. I use this several times a week for releasing shoulder tension and pain.

Nextroller

The Cadillac of foam rollers with a 3-speed vibrating function.

For the desk jockey:

Blue light blocking glasses

We’ve all heard about how terrible the constant blue light emitted by our screens are for our eyes and our sleep. Help a sister (or brother) out with these trendy blue light blockers. Also great for gamers.

For the gym rat:

NOBULL Trainers

Hands down the most durable shoes I’ve ever owned. Perfect for crossfit-style workouts.

Lululemon Fast Track Duffel

The perfect duffel with compartments for everything from extra shoes to a hair straightener to your laptop. An interior wet/dry pocket and removable laundry bag keeps your gross sweaty stuff separate from your clean clothes.

Ponytail beanie

Cute and functional, perfect to wear to and from the gym.

Apple Air Pods

If you really, really love them.

Disclosure: We were not paid to write any of the reviews or recommendations above. This post may contain one or more affiliate links. All opinions are our own.

The post Holiday Gift Guide for the Health Nut appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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In today’s world, convenience is king. We all want quick, healthy, on-the go options to keep us fueled throughout the day without having to spend hours in the kitchen. As a result, the number of ready to drink shakes on the market has exploded in recent years. Let’s get one thing straight first: just because a company markets itself as a protein or nutrition shake does not mean it’s good for you. Most are full of sugars or artificial sweeteners, refined oils, artificial colors, flavorings and other ingredients that are not real food.

The absolute best shake is one that you make yourself, using a simple protein powder and my easy shake recipe. When it’s not possible to make your own, it’s good to know which grab and go shakes to reach for and which ones to avoid. I tried a ton of shakes and evaluated them based on ingredients, nutrients, taste, consistency, and price, then picked the best of the best to share in this post. Please keep in mind that none of these shakes are perfect and that real food wins over a ready-to-drink shake every time.

Read on to find the best plant based protein shake for you and see if your go-to makes the cut.

Rebbl Cold-Brew Coffee Protein

I love these! You can get a little caffeine boost along with your 12g of protein (organic and plant based). Rebbl offers an added nutrition boost from ashwaganda and maca extracts plus some healthy fats from coconut milk. There’s no weird artificial sweetener aftertaste or slimy texture from added gums or thickeners.

If you’re not a fan of coffee, Rebbl also has other options with protein like the Dark Chocolate, Banana Nut, or Vanilla Spice. However, they have significantly more sugar than the cold brew (10g vs 17g). Rebbl products are harder to find and are mostly stocked by specialty stores like Whole Foods or Fresh Market. It is also on the expensive end so I’ll only buy one at a time in a pinch, as opposed to keeping them stocked in case of emergency.

Svelte

Svelte had less of a chemical/metallic taste than many of the other shakes I tried. It has a creamy texture but wasn’t oily. It is soy-based, organic, and sweetened with rice syrup solids, dried cane syrup, and stevia extract. Bonus points for no sucralose (a must for all of the shakes on this list)!

It does have less protein than other shakes at 11 grams for 180 calories, but passes the test of having less sugar than protein (6 grams). It’s easy to find in most grocery stores. Sometimes it’s in that weird “nutrition aisle” with the supplements and sometimes it’s in the drink aisle by the juices and instant breakfast drinks.

Svelte is usually one of the most affordable brands of plant based protein shakes. My favorite flavor is the cappuccino.

Evolve

Evolve is dairy, soy, and gluten free, non-GMO, vegan, and uses no artificial sweeteners. I’m really not sure how they made it taste good under all those restrictions but this one was one of my absolute favorites. The Toasted Almond flavor is a perfect substitute for almond milk (since most almond milks do not contain protein). You could use it as a protein boost for your oats in the morning or as a base for a smoothie.

Evolve has a thinner consistency than some of the other shakes which makes it easy to drink. Target usually carries a good variety of flavors.

Vega Protein Nutrition Shake

Vega rocks it with 20g of protein per shake, plus added veggies and greens. The protein comes from a blend of hemp, pea, and pumpkin seeds. There are no artificial sweeteners or colors.

Orgain Organic Nutrition Vegan All-In-One Protein Shake

Orgain makes a few different types of protein shakes with either plant based proteins or grass fed whey. The  Orgain shakes don’t have that filmy consistency (like Muscle Milk or Atkins shakes). The vegan versions have 16g of protein coming from pea protein and chia seeds. They are easy to find in most grocery stores, which is why I usually keep a pack stocked in my fridge at work.

Disclosure: I was not paid by any of the companies above to review their products. One or more links are affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

The post The Best Plant Based Protein Shakes appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Is it possible to eat plant-based AND get the benefits of being in ketosis? We tried the ketotarian diet and discuss our experience, cravings (or lack of), the benefits and the downfalls of following the ketotarian diet.

Two Dietitians Tried the Ketotarian Diet: Here's What Happened - YouTube

The post Two Dietitians Tried the Ketotarian Diet: Here’s What Happened appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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The carnivore diet is gaining in popularity and in order to get ahead of this trend, I decided to experiment with it myself. In this article, I cover what happened with my weight, cholesterol, shoulder pain, skin, energy levels, and more.

What is the carnivore diet?

All meat. In it’s simplest form, the carnivore diet is beef, salt, and water. I included all poultry, fish, eggs, and a little cheese here and there. No vegetables, fruits, or grains. 

Why would a registered dietitian do the carnivore diet?

As a registered dietitian, it is my job to stay on top of trends in the nutrition world. Instead of immediately dismissing a client when they ask about the ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, I am not only able to speak to my clients from a professional perspective but also from experience. Whether a client is questioning whether to try the carnivore diet or the vegan diet, it is beneficial for me to be able to meet them on a level playing field and discuss my experience, the pros and cons, and sustainability rather than just telling them to “eat a balanced diet.”

While many of colleagues have enjoyed following along and reading about these experiments, I have caught some shade from other dietitians saying that I am “promoting fad diets.” I want to be clear here: I am not promoting anything. I am simply doing the research, engaging in an experiment, and presenting my results. I would rather the public be getting their information from a professional than an insta-famous blogger with no science background who hasn’t read a study since their 2001 biology 101 class.

When faced with a “diet” question, most health professionals take a hard stance: “that’s not going to work for you.” However, the client is being inundated with the proponents of a certain diet telling them the opposite and sharing their experience. Their friend tried it and it worked, so why wouldn’t it work for them? Doing these experiments myself helps me to develop another layer of trust with my clients. I’ve been there and I’ve tried that. Let’s talk about it.

How did the carnivore diet become a thing?

One of the first people I heard promoting the carnivore diet was Dr. Shawn Baker, an orthopedic surgeon and athlete over 50, who is setting world records in indoor rowing while eating only steak and ground beef.

Mikhaila Peterson, the daughter of famous psychologist and author Jordan Peterson, claims that she healed her rheumatoid arthritis, depression, chronic fatigue, and skin conditions by cutting everything out of her diet except beef.

Seeing the benefits his daughter was experiencing, Jordan Peterson also adopted the carnivore diet and claims that his anxiety, digestive issues, inability to wake up in the mornings, psoriasis, and gingivitis have all disappeared. Dr. Peterson also lost a significant amount of weight, prompting people to start asking about his diet.

Are the ketogenic diet and the carnivore diet the same thing?

Both diets are extremely low carb and can put your body into ketosis (meaning you are using ketones for fuel instead of carbohydrates). Both are often paired with intermittent fasting or eating only 1-2 meals per day.

On the ketogenic diet, the goal is for at least 70% of your intake to come from fat, with a low to moderate protein intake and 5-10% of your calories coming from carbohydrates. On the carnivore diet, you do not limit protein. There’s not much “counting” involved because nothing you eat has carbohydrates.

The ketogenic diet includes plant-based fats like coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Healthy ketogenic diets emphasize eating lots of greens and non starchy vegetables. On the carnivore diet, all of that is off limits.

My experience

My goal was to eat only meat for 7 days. Meat is not one of my favorite food groups. In fact, it would probably be the easiest thing for me to cut out of my diet. From my previous bouts with keto, I was questioning whether I could even make it 7 days. I’m not one of those people that think: “yay, steak every day!”

I do have a gene polymorphism that causes me to metabolize fatty acids poorly, which may be why I haven’t previously done well with high fat diets. This is just one example of how your specific genetics play a role in how you should eat, as well as why nutrition is not a “one size fits all” science.

Day 1 was relatively easy. I did not want to drink water at all, which was weird for me since that’s usually all that I drink. I’m not proud of this, but I found a rogue Diet Coke hiding in the fridge and went for it. My craving for drinks with flavor continued throughout the week and I mostly relied on Vitamin Water Zero (since it’s sweetened with stevia and not sucralose) to get me through. My calorie level for the day ended up well below what I usually eat, mostly because I wasn’t super interested in the food that I could eat.

On day 2, I woke up super hungry and ready for breakfast, however I couldn’t stomach eating meat by itself. I immediately realized that eggs were going to have to be “allowed” on my version of the carnivore diet if I was going to make it through the week. I felt a lack of energy and focus so I took one of my go-to nootropics (a substance that boosts mental clarity and focus), Alpha Brain. That helped me get through my day. I tested my ketones via urine test strip and had moderate ketones. I did not feel great.

Day 3 and 4: the weekend. This was tough because a lot of my favorite weekend activities revolve around food. I love trying new restaurants, making a good cocktail and sitting by the pool, having a beer while watching football, or having friends over for dinner. I cook all my meals throughout the week, so eating out during the weekend is a treat. Most of the instagram accounts I follow are fellow foodies, dietitians, and local restaurants so I realized that I had to stay off social media for a few days to avoid temptation/moodiness and FOMO.

I did go to World of Beer on Sunday to watch football. I skipped the beer and ate chicken wings. Healthy, right?

Day 5: I felt like I was operating at a low intensity but I didn’t have any keto flu symptoms, cramping, extreme fatigue, or cravings. Sometimes I was in ketosis and sometimes I wasn’t. I lost about 6 lbs overall in those 5 days (most of it within the first day, due to water loss). More on that later. I started to miss fruit. RxBar sent me samples of their new almond butter single serve packets and I caved so I could try one.

At the end of most days, I didn’t even want to think about meat. However, I was always surprised the next day when I could wake up and throw meat and eggs in a pan and be totally fine eating it.

Day 6: I felt great and my energy levels were high, but that was probably more from coffee than anything else. I don’t want to rely on coffee for energy every day, and it’s technically from a plant, but it was one of the only things left I actually enjoy. That, and bacon of course. Yes, I know bacon is not the healthiest meat, but I got the least processed versions I could find and it was one of the only things I could stomach on a regular basis.

Day 7: I was moody all day and just “over it.” I had a frozen yogurt bar and almond butter after my carnivore dinner.

To see the videos of my experience, check out my instagram highlights.

Results

When you cut out carbs completely, you will lose weight quickly. Water weight. As soon as you eat carbs again, you will gain that water weight back. Those are the facts. That is why body builders cut carbs before a competition, to look as lean as possible.

There’s nothing magic going on here, it’s just science. Glycogen is the storage form of glucose, which is what your body uses as fuel when you eat carbohydrate. Every gram of glycogen in your body is bound to 3-4  grams of water. Without any carbs in my system, my body burned through my glycogen stores and the water attached to them. I did not get rid of 5 lbs of fat on my body by eating only meat for one day.

For whatever reason, the carnivore diet was a lot easier for me than keto. I think that my mistake doing keto was putting too much emphasis on the numbers and whether I was in ketosis or not when I should have just been focusing on the food. There is so little room for error on the carnivore diet. You are either eating meat, or you’re not.

I was also monitoring my skin and shoulder pain throughout the week. I have been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury for the past year and an odd rash on my face for the past few months. By day 2, I woke up with no shoulder pain and no rash and honestly thought, WTF?! Neither returned throughout the week. As a dietitian who does not want to promote this diet, that is hard for me to admit.

One possible explanation for the lack of shoulder pain is that I cut way back on Crossfit and did mostly low intensity strength training throughout the week. A reasonable explanation for the rash going away is that the carnivore diet is the ultimate elimination diet. If my body was sensitive to anything or if there was any food causing inflammation, I likely cut it out. Would I have the same results if I followed a more balanced diet including veggies but without sugar? Maybe. I had previously tried switching up my entire skincare routine to clear up the rash but nothing had helped. I kept everything constant during my carnivore week to avoid introducing any new variables. Another interesting thing I noticed was that my nails have never looked better or felt stronger.

After day 7, I added back in a limited amount of foods: vegetables, fruits, RXbars, and almond butter. I gained one lb back the first day and 2 lbs back the 2nd day. After that, I left for a trip to DC and was happy to be traveling without any food restrictions. If you can’t try the best food a place has to offer, whats the point of traveling?

Digestion (TMI)

One of the most common questions I got was if I was pooping or not. The simple answer? Nope. I went maybe 1-2 times the entire week. Normally if that was the case, my stomach would look pregnant and I would be extremely uncomfortable. The weird part about this was that I felt completely fine and I had zero bloating or gas.

Labwork

I had a hell of a time finding a way to get my lab work done without a doctors order. Having already used my one “well check” for the year, I was fully prepared to pay out of pocket. I did not, however, want to pay out of pocket for a doctors visit as well (plus try to get an appointment short notice) just to have them write me a script and walk out the door.

I ended up using healthlabs.com, where you can order your own lab work and pay via their site, print your order, then go to a local Quest lab to get your blood drawn. Health labs offers an entire vitamin and micronutrient panel, but it would have been an extra $849 on top of the $150 I paid for the thyroid, lipid, metabolic panel, and vitamin D.

I got my results within 24 hours. Everything was normal except my total cholesterol and LDL-C. Compared to my lab work after my vegan experiment, my LDL-C went up by 68 points.

Doesn’t that increase your risk for cardiovascular disease?

This is a complicated topic that is way beyond my ability to explain thoroughly, but I’ll try my best. If you really want to delve deep into the science, check out this excellent 9 part series on cholesterol from Dr. Peter Attia.

LDL is not actually a cholesterol molecule. It is often referred to as the “bad cholesterol” in an attempt to simplify a complex topic. However, LDL is a lipoprotein, a carrier for cholesterol, not cholesterol itself. LDL is the transporter that takes cholesterol directly into the artery wall, which is why we became interested in measuring LDL in the first place. The higher the LDL, the higher your risk for an artery clogging heart attack, right?

Well… it turns out that the LDL-C number that is measured in a standard lipid panel (the one that we all get every year) is not the best predictor for cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, these tests are outdated. LDL-P (LDL particle number) measures the actual number of LDL particles and is a stronger predictor for cardiovascular events than LDL-C. The gold standard tests to measure particle size and particle number are the NMR Lipid Panel from LabCorp or the Cardio IQ Test from Quest Diagnostics. I was not able to order these tests on my own without a physicians order.

Healthlabs.com did offer a stand-alone apoB test (included in the 2 panels mentioned above), which as of right now, seems to be one of the single best metrics to assess heart disease risk. If I was going to continue this diet long-term, because of my elevated LDL-C, I would request an order from my physician to get the entire NMR panel or the Cardio IQ test to give me a more complete picture of my risk.

Final thoughts

In an instagram poll, I asked my followers if they would ever try the carnivore diet. 76% said no.

The limiting social aspect of the carnivore diet is what makes it unsustainable for me. I would never tell someone who has seen a reversal of depressive symptoms or arthritis to stop doing what works for them. For some people, the benefits may outweigh the social downfalls. For me personally, the extra 5 lbs of water weight is worth it if it means I get to continue trying new foods and restaurants, having friends over for dinner (and not just serving steak), and eating some of my favorite foods like smoothie bowls, almond butter, and avocado toast. My job is to know everything I can about food and I don’t think I could do that as well on such a limiting diet.

There are no modern studies investigating the effects of eating a solely meat-based diet, but I’ll bet the Beef Council and the Pork Board have got something in the works.

References:

Effects of a very high saturated fat diet on LDL particles in adults with atherogenic dyslipidemia: A randomized controlled trial

Fatty Acid Metabolism in Carriers of Apolipoprotein E Epsilon 4 Allele: Is It Contributing to Higher Risk of Cognitive Decline and Coronary Heart Disease?

The Atlantic: The Jordan Peterson All-Meat Diet

The Diet-Heart Myth: Why Everyone Should Know Their LDL Particle Number

The straight dope on cholesterol – Part IX

Disclosure: Some blog posts may contain one or more affiliate links. I was not paid by any of the companies above to review their products. All opinions are my own.

The post A Dietitian on the Carnivore Diet appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Do you ever feel like you need a little extra boost to get your daily exercise in? Pre workout drinks and supplements are designed to help you get the most out of your workouts but buyer beware: many products over-promise and under-deliver.

Let’s get one thing straight: the overwhelming majority of supplements are complete garbage. Most are not backed by any kind of research and full of fillers, artificial sweeteners, and colors. If you are looking for a fitness-related supplement, I’m guessing that your goal is to be optimally healthy. There’s no reason to load up on a bunch of unnecessary junk. So before you go strutting into GNC ready to swipe your credit card, remind yourself that there are no short cuts in life, especially when it comes to fitness. You can’t gain muscle by drinking a mountain of protein powder and you can’t lose weight and keep it off by popping a “fat burner” every day.

That being said, there are some “extras” that you can incorporate once you are eating well and have a physical activity routine that you enjoy. Taking supplements without first addressing the behaviors that need to change won’t get you anywhere. Before you buy a pre workout, first establish a workout routine.

Why take a pre workout supplement?

The two main reasons for taking a pre workout supplement are for increasing energy and improving performance.

There are several different types of pre workout supplements. The majority are caffeine based and designed to give you an “upper” feeling. Some have quick digesting carbohydrates for energy (best for endurance exercise) and others provide performance-based benefits, like improved endurance or increased time to exhaustion.

Best pre workout supplements

As popular as they are, please skip the C4 and NOS. They have way too much caffeine than necessary and are chocked full of artificial colors and sweeteners. If a supplement turns your water the color of antifreeze, that’s your clue to steer clear.

Coffee

Coffee is one of the cheapest and most straightforward pre workout supplements. The caffeine in coffee has been shown to increase mental focus, improve endurance capacity, and increase speed and power. The downside is that for many people, caffeine can cause a nervous or anxious feeling. Caffeine is absorbed quickly in the body and peaks in the blood about 1-2 hours after consumption. Aim to consume coffee about 30-60 minutes prior to a workout to gain the most benefit.

Naked Energy

Naked Energy the best all-around pre workout you can get. It contains the same amount of caffeine as 16 ounces of coffee. There are no artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors.

It also contains beta-alanine, creatine, and L-arginine. Beta-alanine has been shown to improve performance during short, high intensity workouts like Crossfit or HIIT. You may get a slight “tingly” feeling from taking anything with beta-alanine.

Creatine gives you that little extra push during a workout by helping you do those last 2 reps that you couldn’t get before, which in turn increases strength and helps to build muscle. Creatine is naturally produced in the body and stored in your muscles to help produce ATP, your bodies source of fuel. Behind caffeine and protein, it is one of the most popular, effective, and researched sports supplements. Read my more extensive post about creatine here.

There is less research on L-arginine, but some studies have shown some promise in its ability to  increase nitric oxide production (more on that later).

Shroom TECH Sport

Shroom TECH is a capsule that combines cordyceps mushrooms, ashwaganda root, green tea extract, rhodiola (an herb), and B-12. In a clinical trial, it was shown to increase bench press reps by 12% and cardio performance by 8.8%. Not huge changes, but I’ve personally seen the difference in my workouts when taking Shroom TECH. The biggest difference is the ability to breathe through high intensity intervals. I’ve trialed this with several clients, one with exercise-induced asthma, who have seen marked improvements in their breathing capacity during exercise. I don’t get an “upper” feeling/caffeine high from taking it.

Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer

Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer is perfect for people who are going to exercise for longer than 60 minutes but don’t like to have food in their system before a workout (because it includes quick digesting carbohydrates for fuel). I also used this during the Crossfit Open for the past 2 years to give me an extra boost.

Nitric Oxide (NO)

Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it opens up blood vessels to allow more blood and oxygen to flow to the muscle. Supplementing with NO has been associated with a 4%–25% improvement in exercise time to exhaustion and a reduced ATP cost of muscle force production (lower energy requirement).

Beets and leafy green vegetables are high in nitrate, which is converted to nitric oxide in the body, spurring the development of many supplements using beet powder. Here is my experience:

Beet Boost with Tart Cherry: I didn’t feel that pre workout jolt of energy but it definitely helped me get  through the cardio part of my workout with ease.

: Again, I did not feel a noticeable difference going into the workout, however the sprints didn’t seem all that hard to me while other people were dying (people that typically kick my ass). Another day I did box jump overs with no break for 7 straight minutes (GREAT for me). HumanN also makes Superbeets with caffeine from green tea extract if you are looking for an extra boost.

The downside

For many people, pre workout supplements that contain caffeine can cause a nervous or anxious feeling. Taking a pre workout supplement in the evenings can affect sleep. The amount of caffeine tolerance a person has depends on the individual, but if you are regularly consuming upwards of 500- 600 mg of caffeine per day, it may be time to scale back.

Don’t forget, caffeine is an addictive substance. When you build up a tolerance to caffeine, the benefits are minimized and withdrawal from caffeine can cause headaches and irritability.

Disclosure: I was not paid by any of the companies above to review their products. One or more links are affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

References:

IOC consensus statement: dietary supplements and the high-performance athlete

Today’s Dietitian: Ergogenic Aids

Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

Sports Dietitians Australia: Beta Alanine

Sports Dietitians Australia: Nitrate

The post The Best Pre Workout Supplements appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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Whether you’ve been a vegan for decades or just starting to dabble with a plant-based diet, one of the most common things you’ll be asked is “how do you get enough protein?!” Many people assume that without meat, your muscles will wither away or that “vegan protein” equals gross “veggie” burgers and frankenfood.

While we don’t believe that there is one perfect diet or way of eating for everyone, we are here to make sure that you are getting the right amount of nutrients and fuel your body in the best way possible.

So plant-based people, we give you permission the laugh in the face of anyone else who says you can’t possibly get enough protein following a vegan diet. And then immediately enlighten them with this article.

The real challenge is not that there’s limited sources of plant proteins (because trust us, there are plenty!) but understanding which options give you the most bang for your protein buck and how to prepare them. We’ve included a few recipes and cooking tips that’ll please your palate and won’t freak your family out.

Seitan

Also known as “wheat meat,” Seitan is a great meat alternative for those who don’t have gluten intolerances or Celiac Disease. Seitan takes on a similar texture to meat when cooked which makes it a great alternative for meat in virtually any recipe. To make things more interesting, throw it on the grill and serve it with chimchurri sauce (because chimichurri makes everything delicious)! If you really want to go down the rabbit hole, try making your own seitan or you can just find it pre-made in your grocery store like the rest of us.

Then, use your seitan to spice up taco night or skip take-out.

Nutrition Panel (per 1 ounce): 1 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrate, <1 gram fat. It’s also a good source of selenium and iron!

Tempeh

Derived from fermented soybeans, Tempeh has become a popular meat alternative for all eaters due to it’s boastful flavor and nutrition profiles.

After cooking, tempeh takes on a nutty, seedy flavor and a pleasantly chewy texture. You can marinate it, slice it, dice it, and crumble it anyway your heart desires, then toss it into pasta dishes as meatballs, saute it into a breakfast hash, or add it to a crockpot for vegan chili.

Nutrition Panel (per 3 ounces): 5 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fat. Tempeh is also a great source of fiber and calcium. 1 cup has 66% of the calcium found in a cup of cow’s milk.

Tofu

Tofu has gotten a bad rap over the years for being bland and tasteless. However, this versatile soy protein has the ability to take up any sweet, spicy, or savory flavor it’s being prepared with. 1 cup of firm tofu has 20 grams of protein, equivalent to about 3 ounces grilled chicken, making it a great swap for vegetarians and vegans.

Wondering where to start with tofu? Try tossing it with veggies in a stir-fry or miso soup

Nutrition Panel (per ½ cup firm tofu): 10 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fat.

Hemp Seeds

Though technically a nut, hemp seeds can add a nutritious punch to any smoothie, sauce, dip, or dish! Not only are they considered a complete protein source with roughly 11 grams per 2 tablespoons, but they’re also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. Added bonus: there is evidence that these tiny seeds can help prevent heart disease!

Unsure how to start adding hemp to your diet? Try bringing this hemp guacamole dip with bean chips or pesto pasta salad to your next office or neighborhood potluck. If you’re crunched for time but craving a crunch, mix hemp in a smoothie, sprinkle on yogurt or oatmeal, or drink a glass of Hemp Milk.

If you’ve got a Whole Foods or another natural foods store around you, you can also find Hempeh, which is tempeh reinforced with peanuts and hemp seeds (and delicious and filling).

Nutrition Panel (per 1 ounce): 11 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrate 13.5 grams fat.

Beans & Legumes

From lentils and chickpeas to kidney and navy beans (and all beans in-bean-tween!), legumes are a low-cost, minimal effort way to add protein to just about any plant-based dish. Beans and legumes can be used in more recipes than just soup or chili. Try using chickpeas as a spread on hummus pizza, dazzle guests with a lentil curry, or dominate the school bake sale with flourless black bean brownies.

Keep it simple and low maintenance by mixing lentils into salads, stuffing pinto beans into tacos or burrito bowls, roasting and seasoning chickpeas, or sprinkling black beans on a flatbread. And don’t forget, peanuts are a legume too.

Nutrition Panel Black Beans (per ¼ cup): 10 grams protein 39 grams carbohydrates, 0  grams fat.

Nutrition Panel Cooked Lentils (per 1/2 cup): 10 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fat.

Quinoa

Once considered sacred by the Inca culture, quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein that can substitute for rice or pasta. Unlike any other grain, quinoa is considered a complete protein source. This means it is made up of all of the essential amino acids we need. Most grain products lack the amino acid lysine.

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free. Pre-cooked or soaked quinoa can be prepared on the stove top in under 15 minutes using water or low-sodium broth. Add a scoop to a summer salad, cook it for breakfast as a substitute for traditional oats, or bake into pizza quinoa bites as an after school snack (swapping mozzarella cheese for cashew cheese if you’re going full vegan!)

Nutrition Panel (per 1 cup): 8 grams protein, 39  grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat. Bonus- quinoa packs a whopping 5g of fiber per cup to help fill you up and keep you full!

Edamame

With 17-18 grams of protein per cup, edamame is a green, nutritious soybean that takes any dish up a notch. It can be served as a crowd-pleasing appetizer when seasoned and roasted or a quick snack when steamed. Edamame can be purchased in the pods or shelled, and served in either form. Edamame beans also make a great additions to salads, Buddha Bowls and Pho.

Not sure how or where to buy edamame? Check your grocery store’s freezer section or snack aisle for dry-roasted, pre-packaged snacks.

Nutrition Panel (per 1 cup cooked): 17 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fat.

Chia Seeds

Tiny but mighty, chia seeds are an easy way to sprinkle some nutrition into any meal. Not only do chia seeds contain 4 grams of protein per ounce, they also are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber. 

Chia seeds are great as toppings for high protein avocado toast and acai bowls. You can also sneak them into kids’ diets by pretending like they’re sprinkles, or baking them into granola bars, muffins, protein pancakes, and bread.

Nutrition panel (per 1 tbsp): 3 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrate, 4.5 grams fat

Spirulina

Don’t let the fact that spirulina is an algae deter you- spirulina is a deep green superfood that manages to pack 4 grams of protein in a single tablespoon! In fact, protein takes up 60-70% of spirulina’s dry weight. While there is some indication that spirulina can help improve overall health, there is not enough solid evidence to prove its clinical use. However- it sure adds a variety of vitamins and minerals to our smoothie bowls (and makes them a lot more Instagra-worthy!)

Nutrition Panel (per 1 tablespoon): 4 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrate, <1 gram fat.

Nutritional Yeast

Nutritious, gluten-free, and delicious, nutritional yeast makes a great alternative for dairy products in virtually any cheesy recipe. It also is an easy way for vegans to consume adequate amounts of Vitamin B-12 (if fortified), which is crucial for DNA synthesis and red blood cell formation.

Simple ways to include nutritional yeast include sprinkling some on warm popcorn or sautéed greens like kale or spinach.  One of my favorite kale recipes is the Whole Foods Garlicky Kale copycat recipe (except I sautée mine instead of leaving it raw). If you have some time to get creative in the kitchen, experiment with nutritional yeast in these vegan breakfast nachos or cauliflower risotto.

Nutrition Panel (per 2 tablespoons): 8 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fat.

Vegan Protein Powder, Bars, and Shakes

Protein powder is a simple solution for meals and snacks that are lacking protein. Choose brands that provide at least 20 grams of protein per serving, contain little to no added ingredients, and no artificial sweeteners like sucralose.

If you’ve tried vegan protein powders and haven’t enjoyed them, we’ve got you covered. We tried about a billion different protein powders and wrote about the best ones here (scroll down to plant-based powders to see our favorites). Trust me, we don’t like things that taste like dirt either.

You can put your protein powder in a shake, smoothie bowl, or add it to baked goods and snacks (like these peanut butter energy bites or no-bake fudge bars).

Click here for a list of our recommended vegan protein bars.

You can also opt for ready to drink protein shakes like Svelte, Orgain, Evolve, or Rebbl.

Written by Kait Richardson, RDN, LD and Megan Ware, RDN, LD. Read more about our dietitians here.

If you want more individualized help transitioning to a plant-based diet or making sure that you are getting all the right nutrients, book an initial consultation with one of our registered dietitians.

The post Best Vegan Protein Sources appeared first on Orlando Dietitian Nutritionist.

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