When cow-gobblers hear about Operation Carnivore Conversion, they always ask me (and always in shock): “Oh, but where do you get your protein?!” Apparently they assume that twigs and rocks aren’t very protein-rich. Below, I’m going to give you a super tasty, protein-packed 15-minute vegan meal – Curried Mango Quinoa Salad – that I often feed to meat-eaters to help turn their doubt into interest. In fact, I served this just last weekend to 25 carnivores at a friend’s baby shower and it was the surprise hit dish of the whole luncheon!
Most times, carnivores tell me: “I just couldn’t get enough protein without meat!”
“Really?” I ask, innocently as I narrow my eyes and go in for the kill. “Is that because you require so much more protein to maintain your epic typing-related muscles than the vegan NBA and NFL players, body builders, triathletes and Olympians like Carl Lewis?” (This usually earns me a punch in the arm). “Plus,” I tell them, “when you turn vegan, you won’t have cadaver-breath anymore, which is a bonus!” (That usually earns me a second punch).
Here’s the answer to the protein question, which is challenging for the T-Rexs to digest: It’s easy to get all the protein you need on a vegan diet. Maybe it’s difficult for people to accept because they have no idea how much protein they actually need. According to the CDC, most women need about 46 grams of protein per day, men about 56. It varies person to person, so to find your exact needs, try this handy protein calculator: http://www.globalrph.com/protein-calculator.cgi
Most carnivores (especially American ones) don’t realize they’re likely consuming exponentially more protein than needed. For example, here’s how much meat- and dairy-based protein my husband used to eat on a typical day before Operation Carnivore Conversion:
Large latte = 15 grams
Grilled chicken sandwich = 45 grams
Turkey tacos = 46 grams
Total = 106 grams of protein
That’s nearly twice what he needs! Now let’s look at some easy vegan alternatives:
Large latte with soy milk = 14 grams
Tofurkey sandwich (which, much to his surprise, he loves) = 15 grams
Handful of almonds = 21 grams
1 big helping of curried mango quinoa salad = 20 grams
Total = 70 grams of protein
See how easy it is to get all the protein you need with a vegan diet? If you’re new to the vegetarian or vegan thing and you’re worried about getting enough, here are a few protein-rich foods to add to your meals and snacks:
Tempeh, 1 cup = 31 grams
Edamame, 1 cup = 22 grams
Almonds (a big handful) = 21 grams
Lentils, 1 cup = 18 grams
Baked beans, 1 cup = 18 grams
Pumpkin seeds, ½ cup = 16 grams
Quinoa, 1 cup = 8 grams
Peanut butter, 2 tbsp = 8 grams
Hummus, 1 serving = 7 grams
Oatmeal, 1 serving = 7 grams
2 tbsp chia seeds= 4 grams
Okay, now onto our protein star: quinoa. This recipe is great for converting carnivores since it’s got lots of protein, it’s bursting with big, yummy flavors and it gives you that satisfying full-belly feeling. Mango chutney gives it a zesty kick, cucumbers add a lovely crunch, fresh mangos provide a hint of earthy sweetness, while the quinoa and spinach round out the dish to make it a delicious meal. I think you’ll enjoy it!
Curried Mango Quinoa Salad
Serves: 2 as a main course, 4 as a side dish
From fridge to table: 15 minutes
1 cup quinoa
1 cup peeled fresh mango, finely chopped
1 cup Persian, Japanese, English or pickling cucumber, finely chopped (skin on)
5 tbsp green onion, chopped
3 cups fresh baby spinach
½ cup olive oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup mango chutney, minced
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp smoked sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
In a medium pot, add 2 cups water, the quinoa and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed – about 12-15 minutes. Once the quinoa is done, fluff it to cool off the grains.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients and set aside. Then chop the cucumber, green onion and mango. By the way, the easiest way to chop a mango is to slice the flat-sides lengthwise as close to the seed as possible. Then into each half of fruit, carve a grid pattern into the flesh. Use your fingers to invert the pad of fruit, like this, then slice off the squares of mango flesh:
(All this talk of mango “flesh” is getting the carnivores excited, isn’t it?)
Once the quinoa is ready, add the cucumber, mango, green onion and about ¼ of the dressing, then stir well. Add more dressing to taste. Arrange a bed of spinach on plates, and if you want to add an extra pop of color, then maybe a few red lettuce leaves as well. Heap big scoops of the mango quinoa concoction on top. Drizzle dressing on the spinach and a little more on the quinoa, then serve and enjoy!
* Giving credit where credit is due, the inspiration for this recipe came from one I found on Epicurious.com and modified.