Easy, kid-approved ideas from Megan Roosevelt, also known as Healthy Grocery Girl, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, recipe producer, and mom of 2!
Today, I’m so excited to be contributing a guest post all about plant-based protein sources along with meal and snack ideas! For those who want to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diet, one question you may be asking (or be asked from others) is… how do I meet my protein needs with plants?
Plant-Based Protein Sources
The good news is…it’s completely possible to meet your recommended daily intake of protein with plants! There are a variety of plant-based foods that contain protein. The key is to learn which plant-based foods pack the most protein. It’s also important to eat a varied diet which can help you meet your protein needs and ensure you’re consuming a variety of important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals to support your overall well-being.
Below are a few plant-based foods and how much protein is in one serving:
1 cup of lentils: 18 grams
1 cup of chickpeas: 17 grams
2 tablespoons almond butter: 7 grams
1 cup of packed spinach: 5 grams
1 cup of quinoa: 8 grams
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds: 7 grams
3 tablespoons hemp seeds: 10 grams
Why Do We Need Protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient made from linked chains of amino acids made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms. Protein plays a major role in the health of the human body. Protein helps to build, repair, and maintain healthy muscle, organ, hair, skin, teeth, ligament, cartilage, and tendon health. Protein can also be used as an energy source when our carbohydrate and fat reserves (the body’s preferred energy source) are expended.
There are 20 amino acids and they are the building blocks of protein. These amino acids are broken into categories of essential, conditionally essential and nonessential. A great way to think of amino acids is to compare them to the alphabet. There are 26 letters in the alphabet that together create words. Similarly, there are 20 amino acids that work together to create different proteins.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
The amount of protein an individual needs per day will vary based on age, height, weight, activity level and any specific health needs. The following grams of protein per day are estimates. Please always consult with a Registered Dietitian for accurate personal protein calculations.
1-3 Years: 13 grams
4-8 Years: 19 grams
9-13 Years: 34 grams
14-18 Years: Female 46 | Male 56 grams
18 + Years: 55 grams
Pregnant / Nursing: 75 grams
Endurance Athletes: 95 grams
Strength Athlete: 115 grams
As you can see, the amount of protein we need each day really is achievable with a plant-powered diet!
Can My Child Get Too Much Protein?
Eating too much protein can be dangerous and counter-productive to helping you achieve your healthiest body. Consuming too much protein can:
Be stored as fat which can lead to weight gain
Dehydrate the body
Put a strain on your kidneys, which work to metabolize protein. Kidney’s that are overworked may produce kidney stones.
Once Upon a Farm Favorites With Plant-Based Protein
In our home, we love Once Upon a Farm. The pouches and smoothies are delicious, a nourishing choice and great all on their own or as part of a meal or snack! As a busy mama, I love having Once Upon a Farm on hand—they make my life easier and we all love them!
We’ve been loving the Dairy-Free Smoothies, which contain 3 grams of protein along with calcium, iron and vitamin C!
Plant-Based Snack Ideas
Here are some of our easy + go-to snacks that pack in the plant-based protein!
Toddler Spinach Muffins
I love that these muffins contain spinach, a plant-based leafy green that contains iron, calcium and lots of fiber! The texture of these muffins is more like a pancake, so we like to make small, mini muffins for the best texture results. My daughter easily will eat a few muffins and a Once Upon a Farm smoothie as a snack!
Tip! While these muffins are not vegan, they are predominantly plant-based. To make these muffins vegan you can substitute the egg with a vegan egg substitute.
Easy Green Protein Smoothie:
We love smoothies in our house. So much that we like to take the Once Upon a Farm smoothies and use them as the base for…another smoothie! We love this Easy Green Protein Smoothie, and you can adapt easily by adding a Once Upon A Farm Super Smoothie to the mix for a boost of nutrients, flavor and plant-based protein!
We also love using a Once Upon a Farm Pouch as a great smoothie base! Then we add some extra fun ingredients whether it’s a handful of spinach, frozen cauliflower, a banana, a sprinkle of chia seeds, a few almonds.
Plant-Based Meal Ideas
Dairy-Free Pesto Pasta
“More pesto please!” is what my daughter says every time I make this dish. We love pesto pasta! It’s easy to meal prep, great to pack in veggies and I love legume-based pastas, which typically contain protein, so no need to add another protein source to the dish!
Tip! You can easily add spinach, broccoli, kale or any green you love to this pesto!
Butternut Squash Mac n’ “Cheese”!
Mac n’ Cheese is classic! This Butternut Squash Mac n’ “Cheese” is made with a creamy, dairy-free butternut squash “cheese!” We love legume-based pastas for a boost of protein!
Kale & White Bean Soup
I eat homemade soup every single day, which has led to my kids falling in love with soup too! This Kale and White Bean soup is a staple for us, so comforting and a great way to add a variety of veggies and flavor!
Megan Roosevelt is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, recipe video host, producer, and mom of 2—who runs a business with her husband called Healthy Grocery Girl. Her passion is sharing simple ways to help nourish the whole family via her blog, YouTube channel, social and video projects.