How do you get enough protein when you don’t eat meat?
This is a question our vegetarian and vegan friends get asked all the damn time, and I don’t know a single plant-based person who isn’t sick to death of explaining quinoa and lentils to curious carnivores deprived of access to common sense or Google.
When you’re pregnant and not eating meat—whether by choice or because of extreme aversions to flesh in all forms— it’s the same story, only with a few fun twists.
First, everyone and their unqualified coworker cares about what you put in your mouth, like all of a sudden when you became a vessel for new life you became public property to be fondled and judged indiscriminately for all of your choices.
Second, there are professionals asking you how you’re doing, diet-wise, on a near weekly basis, and in my experience most of them have extremely high standards for the amount of protein they want you consuming. I’ve heard quotas between 80-100 grams of protein per day while pregnant. As a point of reference, that’s:
- 13-16 eggs (6g per egg)
- 6-8 cups of black beans (12g per cup)
- 10-12 cups of quinoa (8g per cup)
- 4-5 scoops of protein powder (20g per scoop)
In other words, A LOT OF FOOD.
Third, if you have meat aversions or are experiencing pregnancy nausea, you probably also hate quinoa and eggs and black beans and other typical, healthy, non-meat sources of protein.
What’s a well-meaning, potato-chip craving pregnant woman to do? (Besides, of course, posting pictures of beautiful salads you’ll never eat to Instagram to prove what a #fitpregnancy you’re having. All’s fair when you’re cooking a human, folks).
I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to crack this code, mostly so I could get back to my potato chips without further interruptions. Here are my four ninja ways to get protein into the kinds of foods you’re likely willing to eat, especially during nausea-time.
Sorry, plant-based friends, these involve sneaky animal products; you’re on your own for getting up to that 80-100g threshold.
This seems like a good time to insert my eternal disclaimer: I am not qualified to tell you how to be healthy, during pregnancy or not during pregnancy. Ask someone who is.
Add collagen to your beverages
Whatever it is you’re drinking, add collagen. I find it works really well in lemonade and limeade (two drinks I could reliably stomach during first trimester). There’s no flavor change, and you turn your empty-calorie drink into 11 grams of protein.
Now that I’m able to drink coffee again, I have been adding collagen into my coffee, and that is similarly tasteless and effortless and also makes my hair ah-mazing.
If you’re getting most of your hydration from non-water sources (I certainly was during first trimester, when water was right up there with raw chicken) you could easily hit your 80-100g goal on just boosted beverages alone.
Progress toward your goal: 10% for each drink.
Cook your rice in bone broth
There was a period of time when steamed white rice and soy sauce was all I could muster, and it drove my husband crazy that our baby’s earliest development was fueled by nutritionally vacant calories and sodium.
I called it survival.
We compromised: he made me rice in bone broth, and as long as I didn’t witness it, I could douse that rice in enough soy sauce that I never knew the difference. Based on my casual googling, I *think* a cup of rice cooked in bone broth has ~9g of protein. That’s about twice what you’ll get from rice cooked in water.
Progress toward your goal: 9%
Whip some collagen into your cream cheese or potato soup or other white semi-solid food
My first pregnancy, bagels and cream cheese were my jam. During the first few weeks of my second pregnancy, I only ate potato soup. Specifically, this potato soup:
Needless to say both foods are on my no-fly list now, but they are both excellent vehicles for a dose of collagen. Just stir or mix a scoop, or a handy travel pack, into whatever soup or spread you’re able to stomach, and boost the protein by 11g.
Progress toward your goal: 10% for each boosted white food
Make homemade gummies, or get someone to make you some
Sour or gummy candy was surprisingly helpful for me with managing nausea, especially on the go; even just a quick sugar boost or something to suck on would get me through some rough moments. There are tons of easy, DIY home-made gummy candy recipes out there on the internet; this one from Nicole looks especially delicious. And because they include gelatin, they have protein in them!
Progress toward your goal: 5% for ~15 gummies (not much, but hey, candy)
And there you have it. If you strategically combine these tactics over the course of the day, you can get away with eating whatever you can keep down, and also supplying your baby with the amount of protein your caregivers recommend. Plus, of course, all of the other health benefits of collagen, gelatin, and bone broth: healthier and stronger skin and nails, healthier and more flexible joints, and improved athletic performance. Those are all major side benefits to the very basic goal of getting enough protein, especially during a time in your life when your rapidly changing body seems to serve up fresh surprises and betrayals with every new day.
I will say, too, that my sudden reliance on collagen for protein has my skin and hair looking radiant. Especially for winter.
If you’re ready to hop on the collagen wagon, you can save 20% at Great Lakes Gelatin with the code GLGLife20, valid until 3/15/18.
This post is sponsored by Great Lakes Gelatin in partnership with Fit Approach and the #SweatPink community. All opinions are my own. I so appreciate your support of the brands who partner with my first baby, Fit Approach. Thank you. <3