There are a lot of myths associated with going vegan: while some people think that it can help you lose weight and improve your heart health, others claim it’s expensive and close to impossible to maintain an active lifestyle on a plant-based diet. But the truth is more complicated than that: while vegan foods are not by definition healthy (in fact, some can be even more fattening than their animal product counterparts), if you are interested in dabbling in veganism, it is indeed possible to get much of the protein you need on a plant-based diet. You just have to work a little bit harder at it.
If you’re considering joining the #MeatlessMondays community while keeping your workouts supercharged, consider these five effective vegan snacks to gain the most from your gym session — or, if you just need a mid-day energy boost, these snacks will do the trick.
No kid likes being told to finish their beans, but legumes have come a long way since your days at the family dinner table. Lima beans in particular are a nutritional powerhouse, delivering 13 grams of fiber and almost 15 grams of protein per cup. (An added bonus: their smooth, buttery taste.) Pair a cup with brown rice or another whole grain before a workout to keep your energy levels up and running.
This simple yet effective vegan option is a great source of complex carbohydrates. It also serves as a delicious way to increase your fiber intake while staving off hunger pangs.
“Here’s what’s great about some vegetarian proteins such as brown rice and oats,” says Marie Spano, R.D., a sports nutritionist for the Atlanta Braves. “They contain a good bit of carbohydrate to help fuel working muscles.”
Whether you prefer peanuts, almonds, or cashews, there’s a nut butter for your taste. Nut butter packs a protein punch and is fairly satiating, which reduces your cravings: in fact, one Spanish study found that men who ate 3.5 tablespoons of nut butter twice a week were 40% less likely to be obese or overweight than men who didn’t.
If you’re looking for the perfect pre-workout snack on the go, simply spread some nut butter on whole wheat toast and top it off with banana slices or blueberries for natural sweetness.
At first, you might not leap at the chance to try tofu’s less well-known cousin, tempeh. But when you sink your teeth into a tempeh patty and savor its nutty, savory flavor, you may reconsider your stance. This soy-based food contains about 15 grams of protein per 3 ounces — less than chicken or beef, but more than tofu. (Note: while there’s a lot of chatter about how soy affects testosterone levels, it’s OK to eat about four servings a day, per Men’s Health nutrition adviser Alan Aragon, M.S.)
AN ENERGY-BOOSTING SHAKE OR SMOOTHIE
Start and end your workout with an energy-boosting shake or smoothie. By choosing a vegan protein powder like the vanilla bean protein powder from PlantFusion, you’ll get 21 grams of protein at 120 calories per serving. For recipe inspiration, check out these protein-packed smoothies.
By Sasha Mishkin