Vegan Protein Sources: Going Meat-Free

People often ask me if I follow a particular style of eating: Paleo, vegan, vegetarian etc. Personally, I don’t subscribe to one particular nutritional theory. I listen to my body and what it is telling me it needs. When I eat something and it makes my body feel good, then I know it’s a good food for my body. The same applies when something makes my body feel sluggish, tired or bloated; I know that food is not right for my body.

I try to eat mostly plant based foods in my diet, as I know they give me energy and make me feel vibrant and healthy. I have found some great, little known vegan sources of protein I wanted to share with you.

Whole Grains: Whole grains such as rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and oats still contain all of their naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You want to avoid the white refined grains like white flour and white rice, as they have had their bran and their germ removed, along with some of their nutritional value.

Beans: Beans contain a more complete set of amino acids than many other plant foods. Beans are best prepared fresh, and it is recommended to start with beans that are smaller in size such as split peas, mung and adzuki beans for easier digestion. You can also make beans easier to digest by soaking overnight, adding spices or vinegar, skimming off cooking foam, pressure cooking or puréeing and eating small portions.

Soy: Soy is one of the most difficult beans to digest. Common forms of soybeans eaten in the American culture include edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso, and tamari. Fermented soy is often easier to digest.  Many people are allergic to soy, and many “food-like” substances incorporate highly processed versions of soy that are difficult to digest and contain very little nutritional value (such as soy milk, soy-meats and soy ice cream). Soybeans are one of the most genetically engineered crops in America, so I personally believe it is extremely important to only choose organic, certified non-GMO soy if you choose to consume it.

Nuts: Nuts can be a good source of vegan protein, but they are quite high in fat as well, so they should be enjoyed in moderation. Peanuts (which are actually legumes) are higher in protein than any nuts. Nuts also contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants.

Leafy Greens: Broccoli, spinach, kale, collard greens, bok choy, romaine lettuce, and watercress all contain varying amounts of protein and should be enjoyed often. Leafy greens are also great sources of magnesium, iron and calcium and Quercetin, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting properties. Green leafy vegetables are dense with easily-assimilated amino acids as well as other life-extending nutrients.

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Beans…A Great Source of Plant Based Protein

Beans are a wonderful way to add high-quality, plant-based protein to your diet. They are high in iron, B vitamins and fiber, and are versatile enough that you may never tire of them. Dry beans stay fresh longer when stored in a cool, dark place (rather than on your countertop). Don’t use beans that are more than a year old, as their nutrient content and digestibility are much lower. Also, old beans will not soften, even with thorough cooking. Follow these steps when preparing beans:

  1. Check beans for rocks and shriveled or broken pieces, then rinse.
  2. Soak for six hours or overnight, with water covering four inches higher than the beans. Small and medium-size beans may require less soaking—about four hours should be enough.

Note: If you’ve forgotten to presoak the beans, you can bring them to a boil in ample water to cover. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let stand for one hour.

  1. Drain and rinse the beans, discarding the soaking water. Always discard any loose skins before cooking, as this will increase digestibility.
  2. Place the beans in a heavy pot and add 3 to 4 cups fresh water.
  3. Bring to a full boil and skim off the foam.
  4. Add a small piece of kombu (seaweed) and a few bay leaves or garlic cloves for flavor and better digestibility.
  5. Cover, lower the temperature, and simmer for the suggested time. Check beans 30 minutes before the minimum cooking time. Beans are done when the middle is soft and easy to squeeze.
  6. About 10 minutes before the end of cooking time, add 1 teaspoon of unrefined sea salt.
  7. Cook until beans are tender.
1 cup dry beans Cooking time
Adzuki 45-60 minutes
Anasazi 60-90 minutes
Black (turtle) 60-90 minutes
Black-eyed peas 60 minutes
Cannellini 90-120 minutes
Chickpeas (garbanzos) 120-180 minutes
Cranberry 60-90 minutes
Fava 60-90 minutes
Great northern 90-120 minutes
Kidney 60-90 minutes
Lentils* 30-45 minutes
Lima beans 60-90 minutes
Mung 60 minutes
Navy 60-90 minutes
Pinto 90 minutes
Split peas 45-60 minutes

*do not require soaking

All times are approximate. Cooking lengths depend on how strong the heat is and how hard the water is. A general rule is that small beans cook for approximately 30 minutes, medium beans cook for approximately 60 minutes, and large beans cook for approximately 90 minutes. Be sure to taste the beans to see if they are fully cooked and tender.


Some people have difficulty digesting beans and legumes. They may develop gas, intestinal problems, irritability, or unclear thinking. Here are a few techniques for preparing and eating legumes that will alleviate most problems.

  • Soak beans for several days, changing the water twice daily, until a small tail forms on the beans.
  • Use a pressure cooker. This also cuts down on cooking time.
  • Chew beans thoroughly and know that even small amounts have a high nutritional and healing value.
  • Avoid giving legumes to children under 18 months because they have not developed the gastric enzymes to digest them properly.
  • Experiment with your ability to digest beans. Smaller beans like adzuki, lentils, mung beans, and peas digest most easily. Pinto, kidney, navy, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, lima, and black beans are harder to digest. Soybeans and black soybeans are the most difficult beans to digest.
  • Experiment with combinations, ingredients, and seasonings. Legumes combine best with green or non-starchy vegetables and seaweeds.
  • Season with unrefined sea salt, miso or, soy sauce near the end of cooking. If salt is added at the beginning, the beans will not cook completely. Salt is a digestive aid when used correctly.
  • Adding fennel or cumin near the end of cooking helps prevent gas.
  • Adding kombu or kelp seaweed to the beans helps improve flavor and digestion, adds minerals and nutrients, and speeds up the cooking process.
  • Pour a little apple cider, brown rice vinegar, or white wine vinegar into the water during the last stages of cooking. This softens the beans and breaks down protein chains and indigestible compounds.
  • Take enzymes with your meal.

More Vegetables…Please!

Vegetables are the #1 missing food in the typical diet.

When I ask my clients why this is, they usually say it’s because of bad memories of their parents making them eat all their soggy green beans before leaving the dinner table!

The truth is, veggies are not intimidating and are seriously good for you. Not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, but when prepared correctly, they are incredibly delicious! Best of all, an extra serving of veggies can help you fight a meat craving.

These vegetarian options provide that extra hearty satisfaction your meatless meals might lack:

·       black beans ·       black-eyed peas ·       lentils
·       garbanzo beans ·       carrots ·       pulses


If you’re up for experimenting in the kitchen, try curbing a meat craving with a succulent Portobello ‘steak’ burger for you and a friend:

·       2 portobello mushroom caps ·       2 (1 ounce) slices provolone cheese
·       2 wholegrain burger buns ·       1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
·       1 tablespoon olive oil ·       Salt & pepper to taste
·    ½ teaspoon dried basil & oregano ·       2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


  1. Place the mushroom caps in a shallow dish. To make the marinade, whisk vinegar, oil, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Pour over the mushrooms.
  2. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  3. Brush grate with oil. Place mushrooms on the grill, reserving marinade for basting. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes on each side, or until tender. Brush with marinade frequently. Top with cheese (try a vegan type!) during the last two minutes of grilling.
  4. Serve on warm wholegrain burger buns.

Avocado and Black Bean Salad from


2 -3 avocados, chopped
1 (15 1/2 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 ounce) package frozen white corn, cooked and drained
1⁄4-1⁄2 cup onion, chopped
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1⁄4 cup cilantro, chopped
1⁄2lime, juice of, freshly squeezed
1 dash coarse salt
1 dash olive oil


Mix together all of the above ingredients. I’m an avocado lover, so I use three, but two is good. You can use fresh corn if you prefer and also use as much chopped onion or squeezed lime as you like. In fact, all of the ingredients are to your own liking, use as much or as little as you want. The lime juice helps to keep the avocado from turning brown. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and serve cold. Enjoy!

White Bean Dip from “The Family Plate Cookbook”

This dip is so delicious! It is loved by adults and children alike, and super easy to prepare. It goes well with veggies or even spread on a piece of Ezekiel bread toasted. This is great to bring to your picnics and BBQ’s as the weather warms up.
Yields: 12 servings
1 clove of garlic
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
15 oz white beans (Cannellini) beans, with juice reserved
1 scallions chopped
1 tsp salt
Pinch of white pepper, to taste
Mostly drain the white beans from the liquid they are canned in, reserving some liquid in a separate container. Chop scallions and set aside.
In a blender or food processor, combine garlic, beans, salt, white pepper and lemon juice. Pulse a few times to combine. Then, with the blender running add extra virgin olive oil to combine. If your dip texture is stiff, use the reserved liquid from the beans to loosen it up. Top with chopped scallions.
Serving Suggestion:
Toast Ezekiel bread and top with dip and slices of
tomato and additional salt and pepper. You can also serve this as a dip for parties with crackers or organic baby carrots.