For the vegans who are afraid they don’t get enough protein
This one is not about dieting, losing weight or counting calories (even though the app could be used for all of those purposes). This one is about how I managed to fix my diet by using the app called Lifesum (food and exercise tracking) – completely unexpectedly.
I started eating plant-based almost 3 years ago, first on and off and not long after cutting off all food that came from animal origin (including honey). In the beginning, I felt amazing, like new life energy was flowing through me, like I could sleep 3 hours a night and feel great, like I was a new reborn person. The excitement over my new lifestyle, combined with some life-changes such as getting out of a bad relationship at the time, had me feeling on cloud nine and I thought it was mostly due to my plant-based diet.
Of course, life has its ups and downs and after those clustered ups went away, I became weaker and weaker. At the time, I was also doing my Bachelor project so I was overwhelmed and often relying heavily on processed plant-based food, coffee and lots of carbs to fill me up.
The food philosophy I was raised with
Coming from a small town in Bulgaria, from a very regular family, I was introduced since early age to the food philosophy that seems to reside around the balkans.
“You need to eat a lot to grow big” “You need to eat a lot of bread otherwise you will be hungry” “You need to just eat, ok!!!?” “If you don’t eat meat and bread, you will get sick and die!!”
It did not really matter what I ate, as long as I ate. The philosophy at home was that me eating fries every day was way better than me possibly not eating enough to grow. According to my family, eating huge amounts of fries cannot make you sick, but eating only salads or any kind of small amounts of food, sure can.
I was taught that the best foods to eat were those very high in carbs that fill you up most. On top of that, sugar was never considered a danger, I was even encouraged to eat cakes and candy as much as I wanted (and yes, it did ruin my teeth).
The result was that this food philosophy became a part of me as did my organism get used to craving large amounts of carbs all the time. The result was that I never in my life even though about what carbohydrates, protein and fat are. It was just food to me and the only thing that was important was that I ate enough to stay strong.
When I became vegan, I stopped consuming the meat and dairy I had been eating before which led my diet to a whole new low. Due to not educating myself about nutrition at any point, I was pretty much just consuming a lot of carbs and fat, with tiny amounts of protein. I was basically the reason that people still ask “how do vegans get their protein?“
A normal day of food for me looked like this:
- Breakfast: bread with butter and some tomato
- Lunch: Pasta with some sauce.
- Snacks: Crackers, cookies, candy, occasional banana
- Dinner: More pasta, soup with bread, vegan lasagna, etc.
As you can see that’s quite a lot of carbs and not so much protein. It is the kind of diet that will eventually make you feel like a blob and question your existence. Of course, I was fortunate that I was at least not consuming animal products so I felt somewhat energetic until a certain point where I started noticing that for the first time in my life I was gaining weight, sleeping way too much and not feeling like myself at all. It was like a new Lina had overtaken my body and she wanted me to feel like crap.
Why I downloaded Lifesum
I therefore, got Lifesum with the goal to lose a kg or two and feel like myself again. I thought I would just have to count my calories and log in a bit of exercise. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
At first, it was fine and I never really noticed my carbs, protein and fat intake. I was drinking a bit more water and limiting my calorie intake and maybe even lost a few grams. At one point though, I noticed I was feeling so much worse so I decided to reflect on what I had been eating. I started going back and noticed that not a single day in my life did I eat enough protein. Not a single day! Most days I ate like 10g of protein which is like not even one fourth of what I needed. That was the moment in which I realized that it was time for me to track my food not for a calorie deficit, but with the aim to see if I can eat enough protein and proper nutrients on a plant-based diet at all.
At first, it wasn’t easy – the high food in protein would usually also be super high in calories, such as almonds and other nuts. I wanted to get enough protein but also lose a bit of weight. For the first time in my life, I was not looking at food as just food, but I looked at it for what it was – containing the nutrients that will feed my body, feed me energy and make me who I am.
“Red blood cells live for about four months, while white blood cells live on average more than a year. Skin cells live about two or three weeks. Colon cells have it rough: They die off after about four days. Sperm cells have a life span of only about three days, while brain cells typically last an entire lifetime (neurons in the cerebral cortex, for example, are not replaced when they die).” Read more here.
This means that you have a pretty good chance to change many of the cells in your body in just a few months and trust me, they will change depending on the food you eat – after all the food you eat, feeds your cells! And when those cells change so will your mind, confidence, sleep, mood and everything else – all for the better!
In just a few days of using Lifesum with my new purpose, I was able to figure out how to get enough protein by being on a plant-based diet and trying to lose some weight. Here is an example of what I ate in a day in which I succeeded:
- Vegan Crepes and agave syrup with some nuts.
- Easy Vegan Daal. (582 kcal, 30g of protein!!)
- Vegan pizza – 33 g of protein!
Granted, this may not be the best example as I still ate quite a lot of carbs, but the point is that even when my diet was not its best, I managed to eat enough protein on a plant-based diet – all it took was for me to start paying attention to what food I am eating and what nutrients it is giving me.
Lifesum has also helped me to:
- Learn to have enough water.
- Learn how much walking burns calories (seriously a small walk to the store burns 100!! That’s just more stuff you can eat that day)
- How to understand my body better.
- My life score – how healthy am I based on what I eat? It raised from 90 when I began to 109 this week! (using it 30 days now).
This post is not sponsored and Lifesum have nothing to do with it. I just wanted to help out those vegans who may be thinking that they can never eat enough protein on a plant-based diet. I want to encourage those vegans that before they give up and go back to meat or dairy, they should experiment with their food first. Are you really putting in effort to eat the right nutrients? My advice for you:
- Get an app for counting your calorie and nutrition intake.
- Notice what foods contain what.
- Start choosing food that supports your body rather than harms it.
- Soon you’ll be eating more protein than you need!
- Remember why you started your journey – for the animals!
- YOU CAN DEFINITELY EAT ENOUGH PROTEIN ON A PLANT-BASED DIET.
Good luck – you got this!