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Boost Your Protein Intake With These 3 Simple Hacks

“Yeah, but….where do you get your protein?” 

 We’ve all heard the question when it comes to plant-based diets.  Coming from the protein-obsessed athletic culture, that is taken to a whole other level when it comes to athletes who skip the meat and still perform. 

While it is true that protein plays several important roles in the body (recovery and building being our main focus here at Knifehand), it also aides people in feeling satisfied or satiated long after the forks and plates have been washed. 

Whether you want to ensure your muscles have what they need to repair after a hard workout, your hair and nails to be strong and healthy, or you just want to feel less hungry between meal times, bumping your protein intake might be the right choice! 

Which returns us to the questions: 

Where does protein come from in plant based diets? And how do you expect to train on that?

Honestly, there’s no better article on the topic than this one over at ForksOverKnives in our humble opinion.  Then again, I’m a chef, so you know I’ve got a couple of tips on sneaking in more protein when you want it, but don’t want to think too hard about it.

1.  The Crunch Factor – Crispy Chickpeas

Salads are a mainstay during the summer months and can always be found on restaurant menus regardless of the cuisine.  Oftentimes they are lacking in the protein department as the ubiquitous and often stale crouton still reigns as the go-to salad topper. 

Skip the sadness here, and swap in crispy chickpeas!

My personal favorite method is to drain a can of chickpeas, pre-heat the oven to 400*F, and toss the peas in a bowl with olive oil and salt.  Lay them out on a sheet pan with plenty of space between and roast for 20 minutes or until golden brown and delicious.  Once they are brown, toss them back in the bowl and sprinkle with garam masala or your favorite spice blend. 

They will keep in an airtight container (or plastic baggie tucked into your gym bag) for around five days before they start to lose their flavor.  There is no excuse not to have them on hand!  (except they are addicting and you might finish the bag before you meant to.  No judgement, we’ve all done it.)

2.  The Smoothest of Hacks – Silken Tofu

Eating tofu as a meat-replacement in recipes is not my favorite way to boost my protein intake.  Instead, I like to use the protein-packed soy bean curd as a thickener for sauces and soups by blending it with a high speed blender. 

Want to know a secret?  That’s how Knifehand’s Butternut Squash Farro Mac & Cheese gets both the 24g of protein per serving and stays creamy and deliciously saucy.  We start by roasting squash and blend the roasted bits with silken tofu and nutritional yeast for a silky smooth (see what I did there?) and hearty “cheese” sauce. 

Try blending silken tofu into your sauce recipes, or smoothies work too when you need a quick cold boost! 

 

 3.  The Punch of Flavor – Nutritional Yeast

This last one is the simplest of them all and if you’ve been doing the plant based thing for any length of time you know this one.  Still, with a whopping 9g of protein per two tablespoons nutritional yeast remains king of protein add-ins. 

As a chef, I love this stuff.  I’ve been putting it on my popcorn for years; long before I understood why I liked it. 

By the way, the reason we love it so much is nutritional yeast bring umami (the fifth taste!) to your taste buds.  Umami is that yum factor, an element of taste that makes our brains go “mmmm!”. 

Other sources of umami include tomatoes, mushrooms, miso, and many others, but none pack in the protein like nutritional yeast.  Try it sprinkled on salad, in sauces, and of course – popcorn!

 

Want to know more about umami?  Look for Sarah's next blog post!

Sarah Hassler

I am the COO and resident chef consultant of Knifehand Nutrition. Trained in the classical method at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Sarah has spent years developing methods to promote plant-based cuisine in the mainstream world. Sarah brings her passion for inclusivity and thoughtful food to Knifehand, with a focus on fueling athletes and improving their performance through better nutrition.