Reading time: 4 minutes
This past summer, I ran an experiment on myself. The experiment was simple — can you add five pounds of muscle on a 100% vegan diet with no protein supplements?
Well, It turns out you can.
Since ‘Project Veggie Muscles,’ I’ve received a lot of questions about what I ate for breakfast. After all, I needed to consume about 100 grams of protein per day on just plants. How was I getting protein in the morning without eggs or dairy?
It’s a good question. With years of omelettes, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt to break the nightly fast, it can be hard to imagine protein-rich, plant-based alternatives. But, I found that once I put a little thought into it, there were plenty of options.
One way you could do this is to reframe your view of breakfast.
The US idea of breakfast is only a convention of the last hundred years or so. The Roman gladiators, for instance, weren’t eating scramblers and french toast. They were eating porridge made of corn, beans, and whole grains (and apparently not until noon). Even today, in other parts of the world —Asia for instance— it is very common to eat for breakfast what we might think of as dinner: tofu or bean soup, beans, rice, pickled veggies.
But if you’re hellbent on maintaining your breakfast ideals, the three options below should fit the mold.
And, in addition to protein, these breakfasts promise an additional bonus that the four-egg turkey omelette with cheddar does not. You might call it the unsung hero of plant-based diets. It is the oft over-looked, and dreadfully under-consumed, nutrient: fiber.
Fiber: ‘Essential for a healthy diet’
As Dr. Michael Greger notes, it’s odd that there is such a concern over where vegans get their protein as less than 3% of the US is deficient in protein— and that’s usually from malnourishment (usually old or young age). Yet, less than 3% of Americans are getting enough fiber— a nutrient that is associated with less cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and, oh yea, less death.
Why Is It Good?
Well one reason is that insoluble fiber, unable to be broken down in our digestive system, actually goes into our large intestine to feed our ‘microbiome’— what’s popularly refereed to as the ‘gut.’ I’ll have more on the importance of gut-health in the future, but this 2018 New York Times article is a good primer with respect to fiber.
The World Health Organization advises over 30 grams of fiber per day. The average American gets less than half of that amount daily. A greek yogurt with some nuts and a hard-boiled egg will eclipse 20 g of protein, but this yellow-light Breakfast ain’t helpin’ you towards a fibrous diet.
Each of these breakfasts below will get you at least 15 grams of fiber (the average daily US consumption) by 10am. Not too shabby.
Ok, enough with the fiber lecture, let’s get to the good stuff.
My Three Go-To Breakfasts with at least 20 grams of protein
My three favorite plant-based breakfasts with at least 20 grams of protein are below. For any of these, you can add or remove soy products if that’s not your jam. Soy is after all, a yellow-light food. You can easily replace the tofu or soy milk with beans or almond milk. Get all ingredients organic if possible.
Note: The simple truth packets come in 110 calorie servings. I used two.
- Steam some soy or nut milk and add for some extra fun.
- Crush up the walnuts, add a touch of cinnamon.
- If you really want to dress it up, grab some unsweetened cocoa powder, maybe some dried cherries or half a banana, and lightly dust it with crunchy (no-sugar-added) granola.
(2) TOFU (OR BEAN) SCRAMBLE (OR WRAP)
- This is just the base. I go nuts with these things, usually adding some form of tomato-based thing, onions, scallions, maybe cashews, sweet potato, cauliflower– whatever I have.
- Make this a wrap or a sandwich with Ezekiel products, or maybe a brown rice wrap. The sprouted wrap from Ezekiel will add another 150 cals, 5 grams of protein, and additional fiber.
- If you’re not a tofu fan, sub it with half a cup of lentils and / or a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa.
(3) PLANT SMOOTHIE
- If you want to build this for maximum health, I’d add things you are unlikely to eat but have been associated or directly cause health benefits. These would include: turmeric, garlic, ginger. You could also sub spinach and kale, now common greens, for less common ones like chard or bok choy.
- Again, if you want to sub the soy milk for something you’d prefer, have at it.
- Another thing I’ve thrown in here is a green powder supplement, but they are quite expensive
- Last quirk — for some added protein, try adding a half cup of black beans or lentils. May sound weird / gross, but beans are actually used as dessert in many parts of the world. You also won’t taste them too much.
That’s all she wrote.
What other plant-based info do you want? Let me know.