Reducing Animal Proteins for Health and the Planet

This month’s Sustainable Challenge is Reducing Animal Proteins and I felt like I shouldn’t just let everyone fend for themselves on this one because it has to do with diet and for some that might be a big challenge to tackle especially if you don’t know where to start!

You might choose to do this challenge for one meal once a week or maybe one meal for the month, it’s completely up to you!

This post is about my journey to a primarily plant-based diet and everything you need to know about it whether you’re going to try the challenge for the month or want to go full-time.

Quick disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. I am not a medical professional and the information contained on this blog should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health illness. Read my full disclaimer to learn more.

Refreshed view of a plant-based diet

Back in November my husband and I watched the film The Game Changers on Netflix. Previous to watching this film we had strong feelings about a plant-based diet and didn’t believe it was or could be healthy.

I had tried a plant-based diet back in 2016 when I had a major gallbladder attack. I ate my version of a plant-based diet for 3 months before giving it up. I gave it up due to feeling like I was severely lacking nutrients from not consuming animal proteins. Looking back, I didn’t know what I was doing and I wasn’t with it enough to realize I should do the research. So I was left with a bad view of a plant-based diet.

In November of 2019, I wasn’t feeling well. I had just come out of a stressful time that led to my burn-out and I felt like I was missing something in my diet like I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. My body was trying to tell me something and I was trying to figure out what it was saying.

Years ago before we met, my husband’s doctor told him that he needed to consume 30 grams of animal protein at every meal to help support his adrenal glands, which do not function normally. The doctor said it had to be animal protein and that no other form of protein would have the same effect. So he ate or tried to eat 30 grams of animal protein at every meal, but 30 grams is a lot! Sure we’d eat lots of veggies and whole grains too but animal protein was the star.

A diet high in animal proteins is not the healthiest, but he was able to function on it. If he didn’t eat enough protein he would get sick. So, of course, we were worried that a plant-based diet would have negative effects, but he had already been feeling like he needed to change his diet because he was starting to feel sick with the animal protein. His chest hurt all the time and he was worried about a heart attack. When you’re in your mid-30s a heart attack is not something you want to be worrying about!

So we started doing research. We found Huel a meal replacement drink that contains all the vitamins and nutrients you need. (Review coming soon!) No, we didn’t replace our meals with it, but you really could if you wanted to.

We also came across The Game Changers and loved what we learned and decided to do more research to find out what we’d need to be eating for the highest amounts of plant-based protein and nutrition and looking for recipes.

The Game Changers made us realize that when done right, a plant-based diet might be healthier than one based on animal proteins. So we decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad we did! I feel great and the best part is that my husband is not only able to function, but he feels great too. This diet is not a cure and he still needs to eat enough protein, but it did help him and he’s happy that he doesn’t need to rely on animal proteins to make it through the day.

Get my free Plant-Based nutrition guide! Available in my Resource Library

If you haven’t watched The Game Changers, go watch it now. It is eye-opening and debunks a lot of common myths about a plant-based diet, especially the one about soy not being good for men. Also, check out The Game Changers website for recipes!

We are not 100% plant-based, but we call ourselves primarily plant-based. We still eat fish at least once a week or once every two weeks and we eat the meat of the animals that we hunt. We still eat free-range eggs for breakfast, and use and make bone broth, ghee, cheese, and homemade ice cream from cream (non-plant-based). For the most part, though we are plant-based, we’ve come up with a version that works for us and our health and by eating the meat of the animal we hunt, we are not supporting big business meat facilities. Plus the hunting season is only in the Autumn and Winter months so if we don’t get anything or don’t get much we don’t have meat!

We say primarily plant-based because most of what we eat is plants. Sure we’ll eat animal protein on occasion but it’s not every day. It’s more like a treat now, although it doesn’t taste as good as it used to!

I wish I could say that we chose to go on a primarily plant-based diet for the planet, but I’d be lying if I did. Health was our main reason, and the fact that it’s also healthier for the planet was just a bonus.

So what does it look like to eat a primarily plant-based diet?

We try to change it up because who wants to eat the same thing all the time, but our day usually starts with a breakfast burrito that contains beans, eggs, pico, and cheese or an egg and cheese sandwich. We eat this with a bowl of oat bran and peanut butter and a glass of MUD\WTR. We’ve tried to go full plant-based with breakfast, but for us, eggs are best.

Lunch is usually leftovers or a grain bowl containing multi-colored quinoa or wild rice blend, beans, roasted veggies, or salad veggies with hummus, chips, or pita. Sometimes we change it up and make burrito bowls with cheese, quinoa, beans, salsa, and taco toppings.

Supper is always something different. Could be a slice of wild-caught salmon with quinoa and veggies or plant-based soup and homemade zucchini bread, a new plant-based dish that we found or came up with, a plant-based burger with homemade fries, or on occasion a favorite meaty dish. It varies based on what we feel like eating or treating ourselves to.

We snack on nuts, kale, yams, peanut butter sandwiches, cereal with almond milk, or Hule just to name a few.

We’ve swapped out regular pasta for chickpea pasta that is packed with plant-based protein to make meatless pasta meals not only filling but nutritious!

Myths & Facts

Fact: Plant-based does not mean Vegan.

While it’s true that Vegans eat a plant-based diet, you aren’t necessarily a Vegan if you’re on a plant-based diet. We use wool and real leather for our clothing and shoes. Vegans do not.

Vegans do not consume or use animal products as a way of life, not just in their diet. Plant-based dieters can and often do.

Now there are hardcore plant-based dieters that don’t consume animal products at all and if that works for you then go for it but some do still use animal products, like us and it’s ok! It’s all about progress, not perfection.

Fact: You can get all the amino acids your body needs from plants.

Yup! Quinoa, Chickpeas, and Pistachios are all complete proteins, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids our bodies need to function properly.

Raw Broccoli contains all the essential amino acids making it a complete protein.

You need to pair rice with beans to make a complete protein.

Fact: Gluten-intolerant people need to beware

Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan are common meat replacements. Tofu and Tempeh are made out of soybeans and are high in protein and very healthy. Seitan, however, is made of vital wheat gluten… If you have a gluten intolerance look for this ingredient in premade foods.

Myth: It’s all about tofu

We don’t eat tofu. It’s not that it’s not healthy, because it is, it’s just that we haven’t found a way to cook it that we like and we do well without it so we don’t eat it.

Myth: Being on a plant-based diet means I’m healthy

Lately, we’ve been noticing a lot of products with the labels “Plant-Based” and “Vegan” and although some of them are healthy, a lot of them aren’t.

Most plant-based food products are processed, just like conventional foods are, so you need to read labels or just refuse them altogether. It’s healthier without them, although sometimes they are convenient and they do help when you’re new to a plant-based diet. Just a tip the meatless burgers from Gardein are pretty good but again balance is key.

We’ve seen that some people only purchase and eat pre-made foods and that is only going to make you a junk food junkie, it’s not going to make you healthy even if it is “plant-based”.

Myth: All plant-based diets are the same

There are Vegans, Vegetarians, Whole-foods plant-based and Plant-based.

Vegans do not consume or use animal products of any kind.

Vegetarians eat primarily plant-based but can have the occasional meaty dish. Usually fish or chicken broths.

Whole foods Plant-based is just that. Whole foods. This includes all veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, and legumes but not oil of any kind. No olive oil, no avocado oil, no oil. Because it’s believed that oil doesn’t provide beneficial nutrients it’s left out of the diet. No processed foods either. Just foods that provide nutrients.

Finally, normal plant-based is eating all veggies, fruits, processed vegan foods if you’d like, just no meat.

We are odd in that we don’t play by the rules with our diet. We’ve come up with our own which is primarily plant-based but we still consume meat on occasion. I feel like it’s healthier in a way or balanced. It’s been working for us, but of course, everyone is different so do what’s right for you!

Also read: The importance of balanced nutrition

Tips for a plant-based diet

Start small. You can choose to go all-in if you want and it might be easier to do so if this is going to be your new way of eating, but if you don’t want the plant-based diet to be your main diet then choose one or two meals.

I suggest starting with dinner. Make something you’d usually make, but replace the meat with mushrooms, chickpeas, cauliflower, or lentils.

Cooking and coming up with meals can be a challenge because you feel like you can only do so much with veggies, but don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with it.

If you’re going all-in beware that you will get hungry quicker than usual and you will probably eat more and more often, at least at first.

Weight gain can be an issue because of eating more complex carbs and starches but you might lose weight. It all depends on what you eat and how much you eat. You will gain weight fast by eating processed meat replacements.

If you cut meat out completely beware you will experience bloating, gas, and periods of lots of energy and sluggishness. These are common symptoms of letting go of animal protein. It’ll go away after a week or so. It happens because your digestive system is trying to get used to not having to digest meat. It can be uncomfortable, but it’ll go away. Just avoid seltzer water and other carbonated drinks until the symptoms pass. If you’re just doing a meatless day here and there you probably won’t experience these symptoms.

Make sure you eat enough fiber and healthy fats. Avocado and avocado oil offer healthy fat. Whole grain or sprouted grain bread offers fiber. Most veggies are high in fiber as well as beans!

Swaps for nutrition

Swap white rice for wild rice or a wild rice blend. Wild rice is the most nutrient-dense rice on the planet. There are 7 grams of protein in one cup of wild rice as compared to 4.2g per cup of white. Make sure to add beans in with your rice to make a complete protein. You could also swap the rice and beans for quinoa which offers a complete protein on its own with 8g per 1 cup!

Swap wheat noodles for chickpea noodles. They taste great and offer complete proteins. 1/2 cup chickpea pasta offers 14g of protein!

Bonus Tip! Lentils are prebiotic. Prebiotics are food for probiotics and probiotics restore and feed healthy gut flora. Healthy gut flora means a healthy body! Probiotic foods are fermented foods such as Sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, sourdough, kimchi, pickles, fermented salsa, kefir, etc…

I hope this post was helpful and that you’ll join me in this month’s challenge!

If you have any questions, need more info, or want to share your experience leave a comment below or feel free to contact me!

Whitney Stokes

Whitney is a naturalist who started in 2018 to encourage natural and sustainable living.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Heather

    I’ll have to watch The Game Changers. I’ve been wanting to add more meat alternative to our diet because meat is so expensive!

  2. Kathleen

    Woah! This post was really informative and enlightening! We have been trying to cut back on animal meat at home but sometimes it just gets so hard especially when you’re so used to it. Reading this made me think that it is doable and that we can still get our protein from other plant sources. I haven’t heard about Game Changers so I might watch that soon. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Jane

    You touched on a topic that I have a lot of interest in lately. I’m trying to weed out meat in my own diet because it’s so harsh on the planet. Because I have others in my family to cook for, I have opted to go meatless for breakfast and lunch and swap a few nights with a meatless option (tough but just need some great recipes). I got hungry with mention of zucchini bread and soup. Yum!

    1. Whitney

      This is amazing! Thank you for sharing your experience 🙂 It is tough but it makes you feel really good. Sounds like I need to share my zucchini bread recipe! 🙂

  4. Beehive Mama

    Very informative post. I really like all your Facts and Myths! My husband and I have been plant based since the beginning of 2020 and we are very happy with the results. Thank you for sharing.

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