Hi everyone! My name is Jessica Haidet and I started as an intern at For Animals. For Earth. in June. I’m so excited to share my first blog post, especially because it is something I am so passionate about; getting enough protein on a plant-based diet. As a plant-based athlete, I have learned a lot about what it takes to be nourished while maintaining an active lifestyle and I am excited to share some simple ideas with you all!
Going plant-based saved me a lot of money and eased my conscience about animal cruelty in the factory farming industry; however, I quickly realized that I would have to replace a lot of the nutrients, especially protein, that I was getting from meat or fish.
I cooked at home a lot more, rather than trying to concoct a vegan-friendly meal at an expensive restaurant. I also got creative with my meals and the foods I was willing to try. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I adjusted to a plant-based diet. Being a plant-based athlete requires some commitment, but it is definitely worth considering.
Cutting out Animal Products
I am on the Women’s Soccer Team at USC and on average, spend anywhere between 3 and 5 hours a day doing intense exercise, six days of the week. I transitioned to a completely meat-free diet half-way through my freshman year and right before my first spring season on the team.
Cutting out animal protein from my diet during a time where I was expected to build significant muscle mass was extremely challenging at first. I had relied on fish and other seafood for protein sources for a few years prior to that. My previous diet allowed me to maintain a weight and muscle mass that I was happy with. When I cut fish out, I was shocked how much harder it was to replace those calories and disappointed at how much weight I was suddenly losing.
I also realized that I had less energy than before and would sometimes feel lightheaded during practice. Being a plant-based athlete means you need to be mindful of how much you are burning versus consuming so you’re energized through a workout. Playing a contact sport, I couldn’t afford to get any smaller or less muscular so I started looking for new sources of protein.
I first started to experiment with tofu. Growing up, I never tried tofu and didn’t think it looked very appetizing. I remember I brought some Trader Joe’s tofu back to my dorm and didn’t know exactly what to do with a big chunk of watery soy.
I felt like it couldn’t be too horrible if I put some spices and flavors that I usually liked and got it pretty crispy in a frying pan. I sliced the tofu into thin pieces and put it into some olive oil. I also added black pepper, and garlic salt to give a crunchy crust. My first few tries were way too salty but still made the tofu very easy to snack on.
I also experimented with a lot of the meat alternatives that Trader Joe’s offers and ended up loving their Soy Chorizo and Meatless Breakfast Patties. These options are great for recreating your favorite meals from when you ate meat, like tacos!
Vegan Protein Powder
After I got used to eating tofu a few days a week, I wanted to find the best plant-based protein powder for smoothies. The athletics department at USC provides Evolve, a pea protein powder that comes in chocolate and vanilla, so that’s what I started with. I ended up loving Evolve even though it has a slightly grainy texture. It has 20 grams of protein, which is 32% of our daily value so with a quick smoothie after morning training, I accounted for almost ⅓ of my daily protein needs.
I still wanted to see what else was out there in terms of vegan protein powders and luckily, I came upon No Meat Athlete. No Meat Athlete is a blog dedicated to helping athletes of all kinds nourish their bodies on plant-based diets. Not only did I find a lot of resources for new recipes and what I might be missing in my diet based on my activity level, but also I discovered a new protein powder called Complement.
Complement only has 15 grams of protein per serving but it is also considered one of the cleanest protein powders on the market. It’s made with only real ingredients, free of additives, and free of any unnatural flavors. The taste and the texture of this powder is not great, but I actually loved its lack of flavor because it hid in any kind of smoothie I made.
If you are interested in trying to eat more plant-based but worried about meeting your energy or nutritional needs, check out some of the resources I linked here and let us know what you think!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi! My name is Jessica Haidet and I am currently a senior at the University of Southern California. I will be graduating with a degree in Communication and a minor in Environmental Studies.
I play soccer at USC and love staying active, especially outdoors. I am happiest around animals and in nature so I hope to pursue a career that allows me to positively impact the environment. I really enjoy working at For Animals. For Earth. because I can help people learn why environmentalism and animal welfare are so important.
Images 1-4: Jenny Chuang Photos