Protein-Powered Vegan Recipes for Pregnancy (and Everything Else)
Posted on March 15 2019
Not to be dramatic, but I've always been a tiny bit offended that prior to pregnancy nobody ever really asked me where I got my protein. This question is sort of a rite of passage, a staple of being vegan, and while I have friends who get asked it ad nauseam apparently nobody has been worried about me and my protein intake all these years (rude).
Cue pregnancy. Now suddenly everyone is wondering how I could possibly get enough protein for myself and my baby on a plant-based diet and at first I was like, "finally! thank you!" (I just really wanted to be in the club, you know) but now that the novelty has worn off I'd like to share what I've learned about protein along with some simple ways to get plenty of it, even if (and perhaps especially if) you're like me and don't have a lot of time to fuss around in the kitchen.
"Food is an important part of a balanced diet."
- Fran Lebowitz -
So, what is protein? According to WebMd, it's "one of three main classes of food. Proteins are made of amino acids, which function as a cell's 'building blocks.' Cells need protein to grow and to mend themselves. Protein is found in many foods, like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and dairy products."
Cool, so it seems kind of important, and I can see why it appears that vegans might have trouble getting any since we don't eat five of the six options listed. But some of the "many foods" not mentioned are almost all vegetables, non-legume nuts (like walnuts and almonds), seeds like chia seeds and flax seeds, and I mean even the pasta I get at Trader Joe's has 8 grams of protein per serving. Basically you'd actually have to try pretty hard to avoid protein.
So, then is a protein deficiency something you should be concerned about? Yes, absolutely.... for people living in places with limited access to food or whole foods (which is a whole other blog post about privilege and supply and distribution of wealth...). In America protein deficiency is almost non-existent (vegan or otherwise), and I know vegans who are body builders and Olympic medalists and professional ballerinas and pregnant yogis (ahem.... me) who are all very active and very not-at-all-deficient. I've actually never know anyone with a protein deficiency!
And that kind of makes sense. I mean, if you think about it, many of the largest and strongest mammals are vegan (horses, buffalo, elephants, etc.) and it's not because they are eating meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Even my vegan baby is currently in the 90th percentile for size (gulp) so in general I don't think protein is something to be scared of (unless you're me, who is aiming for a hopefully drug-and-intervention-free birth, in which case, perhaps protein is not doing me any favors...).
Fair trade tote bag by Darzah
So how much protein do you need? I don't really know so definitely ask someone who is smarter than me.
What I do know is that for pregnancy it is generally recommended that you get anywhere from 40 - 100 grams per day, depending who you listen to (and presumably depending on the needs of your own body and baby and lifestyle, and your morning sickness level), and if you aren't pregnant, you likely need less.
So how do you achieve this? Well, I have some ideas!
(and do keep in mind that I am not a doctor or nutritionist or even like a life coach, so definitely do your own research and check in with your own body as to what you should be eating)
Milk: I personally use Ripple Pea Milk or Good Karma Flax Milk because they both have 8 grams of protein in one serving so it easily amps up shakes, smoothies, teas, baking, and anything else without a lot of effort (thank goodness, right). Plus I can easily find both at my local small town markets!
Protein Powder: There are toooons of whole foods, plant-based protein powders on the market and most offer up to 25 grams per serving. I don't have a favorite to recommend and tend to just cycle through three different brands depending on what store I happen to be shopping at that day. If you're pregnant, look for options that don't have any added sugar, and don't use cacao (since it has traces of caffeine, which apparently we're supposed to avoid).
Hemp Hearts: This is my new favorite seed, packed with protein and a simple addition to so many recipes and anything in the blender.
Hummus: Add it to ... everything!
Peanut Butter: Also add it to .... everything! (especially pickles ;) )
Vegan Meats: My favorite brand is NutCase Vegan Meats because they are soy-free and made with real foods. They have vegan burgers, chorizo, sausage, and more (all of which are great in basically any recipe above) - and can be delivered right to your door!
Cheese: Jackie Sobon's cookbook Vegan Bowl Attack has an easy cashew-based recipe for homemade Cheezy Cheddar Sauce which is perfect on basically everything. I make it in bulk (and eat it in bulk) and it adds great flavor (and a bit more protein) to any recipe. Page 194, you can thank me later.
Add More Veggies: When it comes to vegetables, the more the merrier and you should always feel free to add extras to any recipe (especially broccoli - I want it in everything!). Still Being Molly has a quick guide to grilling vegetables which you can do in advance and easily throw on top of most things (plus is a great way to preserve produce that is on the verge of spoiling!)
A special thank you to Martha Lane Lavender for letting me play in your gorgeous kitchen!
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