Diet is a funny thing. There’s healthy food. And there’s a healthy diet. But the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Admittedly, I’m a prime example of that. I’m pretty sure my body has been screaming that fact at me for some time now. I’ve just refused to listen.

Of course, the great irony here is that my whole quest to eat healthy started because I wasn’t feeling good. I took out all the foods I knew to be “bad” and then the foods I thought to be “bad” out of my diet. That left, in my mind, only healthy and clean foods — with a few select exceptions, i.e chips and guacamole, sweet potato fries, and alcohol (don’t judge! A girl’s gotta have some vice!). But even my not-so-healthy foods I’ve managed to justify as being okay to eat because they’re not laden with ingredients that I can’t pronounce and all sorts of additives that are created in some creepy lab somewhere. They’re also, in my mind at least, void of processed sugar. So, that’s good, right?

Unfortunately for me, I’m also hyper-aware of the foods my body likes and doesn’t like, among them, foods that are highly recommended for most people, i.e. flax, salads, many fruits, agave, etc. With all that taken out, it doesn’t leave a whole lot, especially for someone who is often too impatient to cook and is anti-microwave, which means a hot meal at work has an added challenge.

Suffice it to say, with so many ‘rules’ in my diet, what should be a completely healthy diet, turns into a diet void of nutrition. Okay, maybe not totally void, but certainly not exploding with nutrients like you might expect. And, every so often, I realize the impact this is having on my body. I’m tired. I can’t concentrate. I become irritable.

Any of this sounding familiar??

Newsflash. It’s because your body NEEDS nutrients! No, really! It does! And, all the clean eating in the world won’t change that. The body cannot function on oatmeal, rice and chips alone. Even a bag of almonds from Starbucks, yummy and full of protein they may be, aren’t enough to keep your brain in top shape. And that protein shake… it’s a great start, but, again, still not enough to keep your body going when that’s all the protein you give it in a 24-hour time span!

As a general rule, 10- 15% of your caloric intake should come from protein. So, what does that mean? If you eat 2,000 calories a day, 200 – 300 calories should come from protein. Or, put another way, you should get 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 120 pound woman, that’s 54 kilograms, or 54-ish grams of protein.

Now, let’s take that a step further to putting it in bite size, digestable information – specifically for the vegetarians among us.

  • A can of Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup has 14 grams of protein. (hint – you’ll need 3+ cans for your daily intake!)
  • A can of Amy’s chili (can you tell I like Amy’s??) has 30 grams of protein. (MUCH better)
  • LightLife tempeh (1/2 a brick, which is about how much I eat/serving) has 19 grams. Not bad…
  • Chip and Guacamole. Sorry… not so much
  • Broccoli has 3.6 grams for a cup. Not bad… but that’s a whole lotta the green stuff
  • Almonds have just over 7 grams per 1/4. Translation, you’re going to end up with an upset stomach if this is your only source

Coincidentally, I found this posted on Facebook today for a few more ideas.

vegetarian sources of protein

So, to conclude… the good news: You CAN get enough protein in your diet, but you ARE going to have to think about it and it IS going to take a bit of effort on your part.

And, more importantly, it IS worth the effort.