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Five Easy Ways to Boost Your Green Protein
By Marcella Torres
 
 
 


“I just went vegan, and I’m worried about getting enough protein. What do I eat instead of meat?” Or, how about, “I don’t like tofu or tempeh – how can I get enough protein?” Many of us know that the fear of protein deficiency is unfounded, and that it’s about as hard to get enough protein as it is to breathe enough air and when he hear these questions our eyes sort of glaze over with boredom and we give the simple answer: tasty protein powders, fake meats, and ways to prepare tofu and tempeh that might make them more palatable. But what about broccoli? It’s hard to picture broccoli fitting into that imagined meat-shaped hole on the plates of new vegans, yet broccoli has more protein thank you might think. Romaine, kale, and other green vegetables are comparable – a head of romaine lettuce, for example, has about 8 grams of protein.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with tofu! My argument is that a vegan, whole foods diet cannot be compartmentalized in the way that a diet of processed foods and animal foods can, in which an enriched grain product provides only carbohydrates, a meat provides only protein, and butter provides only fat. Whole plant foods have a little of every macronutrient – some are more starchy, some are more fat, and some, like green vegetables, are more protein – and they provide a host of micronutrients besides! This is why I suggest you boost your greens intake if you’d like to get more protein – more greens means more micronutrients and more antioxidants from fresh produce that will provide greater health benefits to you than another scoop of protein powder. I’m also speaking from experience. In my six years of bodybuilding alongside Derek Tresize, we have experimented with our diets extensively and documented the results, and I still feel I had the fastest gains in muscle when I replaced my protein shake with greens at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This broccoli soup, for example, has been a staple for us, and one batch has at least 16 grams of protein!

Make steamed greens a part of your breakfast. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? I’d never tried it until the vegan cruise, the Holistic Holiday at Sea, but it was unexpectedly delicious. It added a savory element to the breakfast of whole grains, such as whole oat groats or sweet rice, that was served every morning. We enjoyed it so much that I continued to steam greens for our breakfasts long after we got home!

Add frozen, organic greens to your smoothies and post-workout beverages. This one’s probably already on your menu, but it’s a great (and cheap) way to add more greens in. We add frozen spinach to just about everything.

Eat a large green salad before lunch and dinner. Fill up on nutrient dense food first and get those greens in. If you use a whole head of romaine you’ll get 8 grams of protein in before you even get to the main course! Oh, and sometimes we don’t even bother chopping it – we just snack on the whole thing as we go about our business.

Make the salad the centerpiece. I’m talking a giant salad here – too big to eat out of anything but a salad bowl. You can top it with black beans, corn, salsa, and cilantro or blackened tofu or mashed chickpea salad…the possibilities are endless for a one-dish meal. Add some steamed baby potatoes or a side of baked sweet potato for extra satisfaction.

Add kale, swiss chard, collards or other greens to brown rice or pasta. You can buy bags of pre-washed and chopped organic greens at some stores, such as Trader Joe’s, for extra convenience. I love having them on hand to just dump half a bagful into a pot of rice or pasta to wilt for the last minute or two of cooking, or into a pan of beans to add to a burrito. We also eat a very low sodium diet so the mineral content of the steamed greens really adds a lot of flavor and saltiness to our food.

Try adding more of these vegetables to your diet and you’ll see: GREENS = GAINS!