A vegan diet is not only good for our bodies but animal welfare and Mother Earth can benefit from your plant-forward endeavors, too. Still, many believe that going vegan means coming up short on certain nutrients — especially protein.
When done right, a plants-only diet can meet all of your dietary needs (yes, even protein). And while we once thought vegans had to "combine" or eat "complementing proteins" at each and every meal to get all of their essential amino acids, we've since learned that this just isn't true, as explained by the American Society for Nutrition.
It turns out all plant foods contain at least some of each essential amino acid — they just might be limited in certain ones. With plant-based diets, lysine is the most limited amino acid, but you can find it in legumes; on the other hand, legumes are lower in the amino acid methionine, which is found in grains, nuts and seeds.
So, the takeaway: If you eat a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day, rather than at every meal, you should be able to meet all of your amino acid needs.
Worried About Getting All the Nutrients You Need on a Plant-Based Diet?
Eating a healthy, well-balanced vegan diet takes some planning at first, but not having to focus on combining proteins at each and every meal definitely makes it easier. To help you in your meal planning, we're sharing five vegan breakfast recipes that provide an array of plant proteins, along with other specific nutrients vegans should consider, as a great way to start your day.
1. Vegan Lox, Bagel and Cream Cheese
There's nothing like a chewy bagel with creamy schmear. To make it vegan, swap in a cashew and bean-based spread for cream cheese to slash the saturated fat and bump up the fiber and protein. Omit the big, New York-style bagel (those are equivalent to eating four-and-a-half slices of white bread!) and go for a whole-grain English muffin instead.
By combining the grains from the English muffin and the cannellini beans used in the spread, you'll have a nice balance of essential amino acids to start your day. Cannellini beans are also a good source of iron, a nutrient vegans usually don't get enough of.
And if you're looking for something a little extra, instead of real lox, try our tomato-based lox that still carries that sharp, smoky flavor thanks to smoked paprika and liquid smoke. On the weekends, you can turn this into a make-it-yourself breakfast bar with all of the fixings, including red onions (you can try them pickled, too), capers, cucumbers and fresh dill or chives.
Get the Vegan Lox, Bagel and Cream Cheese recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Cherry-Kamut Porridge
Kamut is an ancient grain that hails from Egypt and provides 10 grams of protein per one-cup cooked, according to the USDA. And yes, that protein content beats out quinoa. It also offers a thicker, chewier texture than most porridges, which pairs well with sweet cherries and crunchy, omega-3-packed walnuts. Vegans especially miss out on omega-3s given they do not eat seafood, so this is a great way to get more of those healthy fats in.
Grains like whole kamut are higher in the essential amino acid methionine but are lower in lysine. So, using pea or soy milk lends your recipe a creamy texture, but also adds about 8 grams of protein with a dose of lysine, offering a better balance of plant proteins for your breakfast. Just be sure to look for unsweetened pea or soy milk to keep the added sugar content low.
Get the Cherry-Kamut Porridge recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Spicy Breakfast Burrito
Thanks to its handheld nature, this breakfast is for anyone who doesn't have time in the morning to sit down and fuel up (sound familiar?). These burritos can be made in advance and frozen, so you can simply grab one and dash out the door any day of the week.
Using a sprouted-grain tortilla in place of a regular flour tortilla increases the protein content by 50 percent. And sneaking in pinto beans and tofu in place of the eggs keeps the protein content high, providing a nice mix of plant proteins.
Top the burrito with a bit of sliced avocado for a breakfast that's balanced in carbohydrates, protein and fat, which will help keep you satiated all morning long.
Get the Spicy Breakfast Burrito recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Savory Protein Breakfast Bowl
Thanks to their easy-to-throw-together nature, bowls are still trending in the food world. And that's because you really can't go wrong if you follow this template: Grain, high-quality protein, greens, veggies, fun toppings and a zippy dressing.
This breakfast bowl combines a variety of plant proteins from the wild rice, edamame, hemp seeds and sesame seeds in the tahini. Per the USDA, two tablespoons of tahini provide 15 percent of your iron and zinc needs for the day — two nutrients vegans should be aware of in their diets.
Get the Savory Protein Breakfast Bowl recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Overnight Chia Oats
Overnight oats get an easy protein upgrade with the addition of chia seeds, which also add some good-for-you fiber while lending this morning meal a thicker, pudding-like texture.
But when it comes to seeds, why stop there? Hemp seeds are an excellent source of omega-3s for plant-based eaters, but they're also a secret weapon for adding more protein to your diet. They're easy to sprinkle on almost anything without altering the taste.
Using non-dairy milk made of pea protein adds lysine to help provide a balance of essential amino acids. Add fresh (or frozen) apricots for some much-needed tartness to the otherwise mellow base. And while you can use any fruit (and each have their own benefits), apricots are especially loaded with vitamins A and C, per the USDA.
Get the Overnight Chia Oats recipe and nutrition info here.