Less Meat, More Protein

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Remember when the idea of the vegan diet roused images of tofu bricks, bunny food, and malnourished wraiths picking restaurant menus apart? With the rise of veganism came discoveries and reimaginings in plant-based sources of nutrition available in an omnivorous diet. The most obvious factor one might at first glance consider missing from the vegan diet is that full-making, muscle-building workhorse: protein. “More than ever before it’s easy and delicious for vegans to get plenty of high-quality protein,” said Terry Hope Romero. Enter Romero’s new book, Protein Ninja: Power through Your Day with 100 Hearty Plant-Based Recipes that Pack a Protein Punch.

Romero, a bestselling author, and self-proclaimed “foodpunk,” said she not only set out to write Protein Ninja due to a shift in her perspective on health and to further explore her love of finding new ways to use unusual ingredients, but also because of a lifestyle shift. “About 2 years ago I found myself engaged in a new way with free weights several times a week and yoga on my days off,” Romero said. “As I found my body changing, I wanted to fuel it with more than just processed foods, sugar, and refined carbs, and find ways to fill up on more vegetables and the new range of vegan protein powders based on brown rice, pea, and hemp.”

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It’s hard to beat protein when you’re talking strength-training and body altering, but as some vegan bodybuilders and UFC fighters show us, it is possible to build bulk on protein powder and tempeh bbq; Protein Ninja offers a bevy of meal ideas to pack in muscle-building proteins and satisfy the appetite long-term. Active and armed with a workout regimen, Romero found plant-based protein powders, which play leading roles in her book, particularly helpful in supporting her dietary and workout needs. “I think of myself as a hearty eater, but there are days I know I couldn’t eat the amount of tofu alone to get the amount of protein that I would by adding a scoop of unflavored hemp protein powder to a smoothie bowl or a pancake recipe,” said Romero.

If you do decide to play around with plant-based protein powders, Romero offered these tips to start:

“Hemp is the most flavorful and nutty, and will give your baked goods a greenish hue, so perhaps stick to chocolate or spice recipes when using it. Protein powders are thirsty (more liquids) and will alter the texture and flavor of baked goods a little, so there’s a period of adjusting your expectations. And they do a fantastic job at helping veggie burger dough hold together, along with boosting the protein content!”

Dietary needs intersected with Romero’s busy lifestyle, which played a part in developing and choosing wholesome meals that help her unwind. “Burgers and salads and breakfast foods are not only some of my favorite things to prepare, but are valuable as they answer the question of ‘What do I eat now?’ on busy weekdays or more leisurely weekend mornings.”

Romero admitted that Protein Ninja is “semi-secretly” a breakfast book — “there’s ample savory scones, muffins, waffles, pancakes, even baked-vegetable-loaded omelets” — but she also explored the idea of veggie burgers as “the centerpiece of bowls bursting with grains, noodles, and veggies.”

Keeping her pantry stocked with canned beans, nuts, seitan, and hemp protein, Romero has her go-tos for on-the-dash protein-packed vegan-friendly meals. As for her favorite workout meal? “I make a smoothie bowl almost every morning that I usually top with homemade granola, and along with a side of black coffee, it's my way of eating some kind of healthy ice cream for breakfast. Because I'm an adult.”

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