The Plant-Based Protein Question. Answered.

Food for Thought

I usually try to do a thoughtful article for my blogs. This time I’m taking a different tack. During a recent conversation, the subject turned to nutrition and the inquisition started: “Where do you get your protein?” “How much do I need in a day?” “How do I make sure my children are getting enough protein?” “What about protein bars, powders and supplements?” “What about protein requirements for athletes?”

We all know. We have experienced it. There is a world of concern around dietary protein, and it is filled with endless questions. These questions are favorites for plant-based fans and challengers alike. Some people will ask out of genuine curiosity. Others want to know because of conflicting nutrition information is available just about everywhere. Still others seem to want to challenge our beliefs based on some deep feelings of resentment, power, insecurity, or protection from danger.

No matter the reasons, these are all valid questions for people raised to believe protein is the single most important nutrient for human health and development. The motivation becomes even stronger when we switch to eating most or all plant-based, since our culture promotes animal proteins as the “highest quality” protein available.

Nutrition science shows that protein intake is critical, for sure. However, it is also as certain, protein is but one of many essential components of a nutritious diet for humans. Additionally, evidence indicates that our hyper-focus on increasing protein consumption can have negative effects on our health, the health of Mother Earth, and all the life she supports.

I was able to answer the people I was speaking with well enough to stop the questions but I realized I don’t live by grams of protein. I don’t calculate or weigh out my portions. So, to really unpack the protein questions, I decided to read Plant Powered Protein, a new book by Brenda Davis, RD, Vesanto Melina, MS, RD and Cory Davis, MBA, P.Ag. (We will also be interviewing them on an upcoming Growing A Healthy Child Podcast!). Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina are masters at delivering plant-powered science and delicious family-friendly recipes. This time these wise-women have enhanced their art by adding, Cory Davis, Brenda’s son and a Professional Agrologist (P.Ag.). Not a well known credential, the P. Ag. indicates a minimum of a 4-year degree in environmental and agricultural studies. His focus is animal welfare and environmental stewardship, two vital subjects that often get short shrift in the whole food plant based world. His focus on how our eating patterns affect the planet contribute a new perspective to the same old protein conversation.

In this well researched and evidence-based book, the authors examine protein from several different angles. Even with its scientific underpinnings, the book is an easy read for anyone interested in cracking the code on plant-based protein. The authors dig deep into protein needs at all of the life stages, including vignettes based on real situations of people living or transitioning to the plant-based way of life. Since my motivation is childhood nutritional excellence, the chapters on protein needs during pregnancy, lactation, childhood, and adolescence are both compelling and reassuring. Moreover, there are suggestions for how optimize protein intakes for athletes by making simple swaps in everyday plant-based meals. Truly, this book is a relatable and refreshing walk through the world of protein for plant- empowered eaters.

Oh yeah, and did I say they include recipes for got-to-try entrees, snacks, sauces, dressings, salads, desserts, smoothies and make-ahead spice mixes?

 My suggestion when the questions start flowing: belly up to the plant-based protein bar, my friends! Plant Powered Protein is well worth the read. And offer your plant protein curious friends a smoothie while you are at it. They might just approve!

Apple Pie – Protein High Smoothie By Meryl Fury

(Minimum 10 grams protein using quinoa and flax seeds)

  • 1 cup water or plant milk, more for thinner consistency
  • 1/2 cup cold cooked quinoa
  • 1 small to medium-sized, cored apple. Leave the skin on for more fiber.
  • 1-2 medjool or 2-4 deglet noor dates, pitted
  • 1 frozen banana 1 cup ice, if desired
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • Pinch of cinnamon, or to taste (can substitute pumpkin-pie spice without sugar) Pinch of salt, optional

Place ingredients in blender jar in order listed or as recommended by the blender manufacturer. Blend on low for 10 seconds, stopping to and scrape down the the sides of the jar as needed. Above all else, do not overheat your blender! Add more water if the mixture is too thick. Blend again on high for 30 – 45 seconds or to desired consistency, scraping down the sides as needed. Garnish with additional ground cinnamon, pie spice, and/or ground cardamom.

Pour into your favorite smoothie vessel and enjoy!

Total protein if all ingredients are included is about 20 grams:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 cup cold cooked quinoa
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 1 small to medium-sized, cored apple, with skin 
  • 1 medjool date


  • 8 grams protein
  • 4 grams protein
  • 1.3 grams protein
  • 6 grams protein
  • .3 grams protein
  • .45 grams protein

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