Alright I know I’ve been all about Greek Yogurt and grilled chicken breast, but I’ve had a lot of time to watch a lot of documentaries and read a lot of books, and you guys, there are better ways to get protein.
Before you get hives and go buying up all the 2% cottage cheese, just relax. I’m not saying cut all your animal protein. I’m just saying tone it down a bit. Not every meal has to be a lean white meat with veggies. There are other (effing delicious) ways to get protein and eat healthy. And you should get in on some of that.
So, to be clear, animal protein means any product coming from an animal. The meat itself, the dairy produced, the eggs — the whole deal.
Here we go with reasons to cut back on animal proteins:
- Treatment of Animals: This is the only one that has nothing to do with health, but it’s (obviously) worth bringing up (you heartless assholes). The food industry exists for profit, and it’s not profitable to treat animals humanely. Whether they’re used for their eggs, their milk, or their meat, animals are raised with little to no room to move for their entire lives. This sucks you guys. If you’ve read anything about any slaughterhouses or dairy farms or hatcheries, you know what I’m talking about. Big rolling acres of animal farms rarely exist anymore — it’s all factories.
- Quality of Animals: Because of the aforementioned animal treatment, the animals are generally sick, weak, sad animals. You aren’t eating products from happy, healthy, vibrant animals roaming around on a big open farm. Those guys are miserable, immobile, sick, and pretty much tortured. They just aren’t healthy, and I can’t imagine that eating unhealthy animals can be good for you. Eating organic, hormone-free, grass-fed, locally raised (at a farm you know is legit) animal meat will help a lot for this one, but that shit can get really expensive. And a can of black beans is like $1.69. So, you know. It’s a balance.
- Long Term Health Effects: the most famous study in determining this is the China Study, which investigated the effects of plant-based vs animal based diets. Diseases like type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, and heart disease were all found to be preventable (or even reversible) by eliminating animal proteins. This is huge. Eating animal proteins is not good for your heart. DON’T DO THAT TO YOUR HEART. Tone down that shit.
WELL NOW WTF DO I DO
First of all don’t panic. I’m not telling you not to eat this stuff at all. I don’t even do that. But I have cut down BIG TIME, even trying “weekday vegan,” and you guys, it’s not hard. I still throw some organic chicken or turkey in meals here and there, and you know how hard it is to break up me and Greek Yogurt, but in experimenting with eating more plant-based meals, I’ve discovered some neat things about them:
- That shit is good. Like seriously, whenever I have dinner parties I end of making vegan meals because they are now my most impressive recipes. They also aren’t blatantly vegan, with fake meats and shit like that. A lentil quinoa chili with black beans and navy beans and kale? Hell yes. No one will ask why there’s no meat (except my chef brother, who basically roasts whole pigs for a living). You can have a Sneaky Vegan meal.
- That shit is filling. You guys I am not kidding when I tell you I have been always hungry my whole damn life, and because most of the recipes I’ve been trying have been high in protein and fiber, I feel FULL. Like, a couple of times I DIDN’T FINISH because I was TOO FULL. I didn’t even know what was happening.
- That shit feels good. I ate the creamiest bowl of spaghetti squash, homemade pasta sauce, a homemade fake cheese I made from almonds (you heard me), and fresh spinach, and it felt like I was eating this gooey Italian pasta dish, and then not only was I full, but I didn’t feel gross. Like, after a mac n cheese splurge, usually I need to lay down and die for about 45 minutes. Not the case here.
OK So What is This Shit?
So if you aren’t getting protein from animals, where are you getting it from? Well, first of all, there is actually protein in vegetables, some more than others, and on a per-calorie basis, some vegetables have more protein than animals. A cup of cooked spinach has 5 grams of protein, and the same amount of broccoli has 4, and you’re only spending about 40 calories. Your body only needs around 50 or so grams of protein a day (depending on some variables — you can ask the internets for more specifics.) You totally got this.
Here are some basic awesome things to keep around if you’re trying to replace a few meals with only plant-based foods:
- beans (black, navy, white, kidney — all that shit)
- leafy greens
- nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts…you know what nuts are)
- seeds (flax seeds, sunflower seeds, maybe sesame seeds? I don’t know your life)
- sweet potatoes
- steel cut oats (I’ve replace my morning Greek yogurt with a homemade oatmeal with almond milks, vanilla, banana, cinnamon, and ground flax. my mornings are the shit.)
And here are some of the awesome things you can make with those:
- sweet potato chickpea wraps (put that shit in a collard green for gluten free)
- that lentil quinoa chili I was hollerin about
- awesome greens and beans stew (vegan by accident!)
- some sweet-ass protein sweet potato dip (you can use black beans too, it takes 5 minutes to make and is supergood.)
- some quinoa and veggies (a great go-to, you can always vary what you add to quinoa. mango, spinach, and red pepper? sure. asparagus and pomegranate seeds? have at it.)
Also, notice you don’t need to go crazy on starch just cause you aren’t eating animal products. If I catch you eating a big bowl of spaghetti with pasta sauce and calling it healthy, I’ll follow you home. Most of the plant-based meals I make end up being gluten free too. Just cause.
So this is all stuff to keep in mind. Maybe over the course of the next week, take note of how much animal protein you consume at each meal. For me, I noticed that literally every meal I ate had meat or dairy. Often both. So cutting back was a significant change. I started with the goal of doing 15 plant based meals a week, to really dive headfirst into recipes and experimenting. Now I’d say at least 10 of my meals a week are animal product free. But even replacing one meal a week can make a difference in your health (and the environment y’all). Am I gonna go vegan? No idea. But as I’ve said about other things, it’s not all or nothing. Right now I’m just adding more recipes that focus on plant products and seeing how that goes. So far it’s going pretty awesome.
Also if y’all have some sweet recipes that fit this bill, gimme! Link to them in the comments. I’m on the search for ’em right now.