I’ve been vegetarian for about 10 years now. It was a gradual thing, but I already hated poultry because of childhood trauma over ‘Apricot Chicken’ and our family mostly ate beef. When travelling in Asia in my 20s, I avoided meats I couldn’t identify (for fear it was chicken) and over time, I stopped eating meat altogether.
I used to think I got enough protein from food, given I ate plenty of tofu, beans and nuts. But when I started tracking my nutrition info in MyFitnessPal, I got a shock. Some days I’d barely get 50 grams of protein – far below the recommended intake of 1g per kilo of bodyweight, especially with exercising almost every day.
Protein is essential for building muscle and is valuable for those trying to lose weight, as it can help keep hunger at bay. I’m a big advocate for eating whole foods, preparing your own meals and making smart choices when you’re out but some days, I just can’t get over the protein line. Other times, I’m 100% on the go and need my protein to be portable, practical and non-perishable. You can’t eat canned tuna on a bus, right?
Here’s what I turn to when I need a protein boost at home or on the road:
1. Teresa Cutter Healthy Chef – Organic Pea Protein
This is my ultimate protein product! I started buying Healthy Chef protein powder about three years ago and have a half or full serve most days, either in a smoothie or just with water. I’m not a body-builder or a marathon runner, and it’s almost embarrassing shaking this up at the gym or work. But it’s a filling and tasty way to help me reach my protein goals.
What I love most about the Healthy Chef protein powders is the ingredient list – it’s pure and simple. A 28gram serve (two heaped tablespoons) of the Organic Pea Protein gives you a whopping 22g of protein. I love the vanilla flavour for banana or berry smoothies and the chocolate variety shaken up with coconut water. My friends and family also report good things about the whey protein isolate range.
Where to buy: The Healthy Chef website and selected stockists
Price: AU $38.95 for 420g tub, about 30 servings (Free shipping on orders $100+ or $10 standard).
2. Bell Plantation – PB2 Powdered Peanut Butter
Are you a peanut butter lover? I’m an ADDICT. But if your goal is weight loss, bucket loads of the good stuff is not going to help your cause. Introducing… PB2! It’s peanuts with most of the fat stripped out so you can get a peanut butter fix with far less calories. You just mix the powder with water. I love PB’s protein content – a two tablespoon dry serve (12g) is just 50 calories and 5g of protein. Add it to oatmeal, smoothies and Asian dipping sauces or for those that prefer, just mix and eat straight off the spoon! Personally, I love to layer it all over homemade pancakes. PB2 is vegan and gluten free too!
I buy a few tubs every couple of months from iHerb.com (one of my favourite stores for grocery and supplement shopping). The downside of PB2? It’s processed, and by stripping the fat and oils from the nuts you lose the health benefits of monounsatured fats along with the satiety fat provides. The chocolate PB2 also has a notable amount of added sugar. But I still LOVE IT!
3. Clif Bar – Builder’s Bar
I discovered these bars on my last trip to the USA. Being lactose-intolerant since I was a teenager, I struggle to find dairy-free protein bars and I also haven’t had a true chocolate bar for about 15 years. Needless to say, Clif Builder’s Bars BLEW MY MIND. Crunchy, sweet and totally addictive. I’m not going to lie – they violate all of my whole food, clean eating mantras. But they’re vegan, filling, damn convenient and pack in 20g of protein. My favourite flavour (and I’ve tried several) is Cookies and Cream. They’re great for hiking, travel or days when you’re on the go. I’ll occasionally have half a bar pre-workout if I’ve run out of raw balls.
The downside? The ingredients. EEK! While there aren’t crazy numbers or additives, the long list of products in these bars includes palm oil, brown rice syrup and dried cane syrup. It’s no surprise the sugar content is a huge 20g per bar. And sodium is 250mg. Moderation folks.
Where to buy: Online via iHerb or if you’re in the USA, stock up at Whole Foods.
Price: AU $34 for 12x68g bars, or a few dollars sold individually
4. Lenny and Larry’s – Complete Cookie
Do you get the sense this list goes from purest to most polluted? These cookies are DELICIOUS but also the perfect lesson in reading food labels. Yes, they’re vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and don’t contain any genetically modified ingredients. But one of these heavenly baked treats weighs in at 360 calories and 24g of sugar. My favourite flavour is Chocolate Chip, followed by White Chocolate Macadamia. I didn’t like Oatmeal Raisin, which essentially tasted like my breakfast had been left in the sun.
Now I’m not too familiar with cookie nutrition so I’ll compare Lenny and Larry’s Complete Cookie with two Subway chocolate chip cookies:
- Subway (2 x 45g):
456 calories, 4.2g protein, 28.6g sugar, 21.6g fat, 62.8g carbs, 440mg sodium, 2.4g fibre.
- Lenny & Larry’s (1 x 113g):
360 calories, 16g protein, 24g sugar, 12g fat, 48g carbs, 440mg sodium, 8g fibre.
Clearly, if you’re going to have a cookie you might as well make it Lenny and Larry’s. They contain 16g of protein, 8g fibre and fewer carbs. I have these cookies only occasionally, such as at the movies, when travelling or with a cup of tea on a rough afternoon when I’m out of healthy treats. Yes, the sugar content is confronting. The ingredient list is also long and includes palm oil, cane sugar, and some other things I don’t like the sound of. But again, all in moderation.
QUESTION: What are your top protein products?