I was 16 and at a swim training camp with a few of my teammates. As part of the program, dinners were provided by a local restaurant. We found the food, especially the meat to be disgusting. And you know when a bunch of teenagers who just swam for two and half hours won’t eat, something is up. We all flatly refused to eat there again opting to pay for our own meals instead. And I returned home unable to eat meat anymore. The idea of it still makes me nauseous.

Twenty years later, I’ve since cut out dairy and eggs. I never liked eggs much anyway and despite a former love of cheese, I now get sick when I accidentally consume it. Over all those years and even now, the number one question I get is:

“Where do you get your protein?”

Protein is in all whole foods. Yes, seriously. A banana has protein. Bread has protein. So do beans and nuts. Take away the cheese, ranch dressing, and bacon bits (which are actually vegan), and a salad still has protein.

But it’s not a complete protein?!

Yes, there are 22 essential amino acids (protein building blocks) that we need to consume daily. Animal products do have all 22, while vegetable based foods do not. Unless you eat solely one fruit or vegetable every day for all of your meals, you will consume all 22 essential amino acids.

When I was a young vegetarian, I was told that I needed to eat beans and rice together or potatoes with nuts at every meal to make sure I was obtaining all of the amino acids I needed. That belief is antiquated. Now as long as you are eating a diverse diet of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, and nuts, you will have all 22 amino acids throughout the day.

My diet is not lacking in protein at all. I doubt yours is either. We do have a protein obsession in the US, but very few cases of people not eating enough protein. Just enjoy what you eat, and you’ll be fine.

Curious as to how much protein is in certain foods? I put together two tables for you.

Comparison of Animal and Vegetarian Protein Sources

Vegetarian Protein Sources

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