“But where do you get your protein?” is something I would get asked all the time. Since I became vegan, every person I met who is new to the idea of a plant-based diet would wonder how I am able to eat a healthy, balanced, and complete diet. While nutrition is such a controversial, broad, and vague topic to discuss, it is safe to say that a whole-food, plant-based meal can provide all the essential nutrients the body needs and is able to get from food. What I love about preparing food is that I know what goes into my meals and I have control over the sourcing of ingredients, its portions and it allows me to get creative in an effort to provide my body with the fuel it needs to keep my energy going throughout the day. Here are the things you should look for in a complete plant-based meal:

  1. Whole Grains. I especially love the four ancient (gluten-free) grains- Millet, Quinoa, Buckwheat, and Amaranth. We know grains are good sources of carbohydrates but did you know that these are also great sources of protein? Be sure to eat a variety or combine them with other plant-based sources of protein for your body to get all the essential amino acids.

Tip: Can’t find any of these four? Brown, Red, or Black rice and whole rolled oats are great alternatives too.

  1. Quite easy to get from a plant-based diet. Most grains and vegetables are high in fiber, keeping you full longer, keeping those hunger pangs at bay.
  2. Essential Fatty Acids. Avocados are getting all the hype these days and for a good reason- good fat. Other sources are nuts and seeds which you can sneak into your lunch or dinner bowl!

Tip: Sprinkle some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, or cashew nuts over your “ulam” for added texture and crunch + a good serving of EFAs.

  1. Fermented Food. Naturally, fermented food contains probiotics that help the good bacteria in your gut thrive. Kimchi and Miso are some of my favorites but you can also get these from Kefir, Kombucha beverages or simply drizzling Apple Cider Vinegar instead of the regular white vinegar.

Tip: When purchasing Apple Cider Vinegar, check the label and make sure it reads “With the Mother” to enjoy full benefits.

  1. Beans and Lentils. Beans and lentils are loaded with fiber and protein- with Black Beans being the most protein-dense variety. It helps to soak and even sprout your beans (to the point of growing tails) to make nutrients more bioavailable or accessible to the body. Soaking and sprouting also make them easier to cook and digest.