If you are trying to cut back on animal products, you may find yourself worried about common nutrients available in them, particularly protein, iron, and calcium. It’s a natural worry – we’re used to relying on animal products for these key nutrients and sometimes finding a replacement seems daunting. However, there are many ways to get protein, iron, and calcium without eating animal products. I like to eat a bunch of these nutrients right away for breakfast – then I know I’m on the right track for the rest of the day. In the winter, when you may not be craving a smoothie with kale and protein powder, humble oatmeal can have many nutrients stirred right into it.
Old-fashioned oats have 5 grams of protein and 10% of your daily iron in one serving (everyone’s protein needs are slightly different – the average woman needs about 46, men need a little more, and pregnant and breastfeeding women need even more). So, a bowl of oatmeal on its own is an okay start, but not particularly stellar if you’re thinking of protein, iron, and calcium. However, making a few additions will suddenly take your oatmeal over the top:
- 1 ounce of chia seeds contains 17% of your daily calcium and 12% of your daily iron.
- 1 ounce of dried gogi berries contains 10% of your daily iron.
- 1 ounce of hemp seeds contains 10 grams of protein and 15% of your daily iron.
- 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds contains 15% of your daily iron.
- 1 ounce of walnuts contains 4 grams of protein and 5% of your daily iron.
- 2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses contains 13% of your daily iron and 11% of your daily calcium. Blackstrap molasses is a by-product of making sugar and has an extremely strong taste (it’s not at all sweet). When I first started adding it, I needed to add some brown sugar in addition. Now, I’m used to the taste and simply add the blackstrap molasses without any sugar.
- 1 tablespoon of peanut butter will add another 4 grams of protein.
- Cook the oatmeal in cup of fortified non-dairy milk to add 30% of your daily calcium. It will also increase your protein – check the nutrition facts for your plant-based milk of choice.
- Serve the oatmeal with a cup of calcium fortified orange juice to add an additional 30% of your daily calcium. The vitamin C in your orange juice also helps your body to better absorb iron.
You probably will be using less than 1 ounce of many of these products, but even using less than the serving size that’s used to calculate nutrition data would greatly benefit your daily nutrient intake (you can do the math!).
The items listed can be found in the bulk section of many major grocery stores, and if they’re not available there, try the bulk section of a health food store. They are cheapest in the bulk section; even then, the price tag on some may seem steep (they had me frightened at first). Don’t worry – you’ll rarely buy a full pound each time you go shopping, and even if you did, you’ll be using just a little bit at a time. If many of these foods are foreign to you, try adding one unfamiliar product a week to your diet, and find which ones you like best. Add fruit and just a little brown sugar or maple syrup to your cereal if you’re still craving a sweet flavor for your morning breakfast. You can change your breakfast habits slowly, it doesn’t need to happen over night (pun intended).
Also, I am categorizing this post as gluten-free, but if you eat gluten, try some of these ideas with Cream of Wheat – which provides a whopping 45% of your daily iron on its own.
With breakfasts like these, it’s possible to get a huge percentage of your protein, iron, and calcium before you’ve even left the house for the day – no milk and meat required. What are your favorite plant-based ways to get these nutrients?