The Hungry Swimmer: Nourishing Plant-Based Protein Ideas

by Zoe Gregorace 15

November 18th, 2019 Hungry Swimmer, Lifestyle, News

Plant-based diets have become very popular recently. Despite the overload of vitamins and minerals prevalent in this diet, there are many concerns of specific nutrient gaps. When compared to a primarily omnivorous diet, the major elephant in the room is protein. There is a huge misconception about plant-based diets and a lack of protein however, it is possible to get an adequate amount of your daily protein from these foods. Some protein-packed, plant-based options include tofu, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and even dark, leafy greens. Surprisingly enough, ½ cup of tofu contains 10g of protein and ½ cup of cooked quinoa has just over 8g. Whether you have adopted this style of eating or are curious about the hype, eating mostly plants is extremely nutritious and doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some flavorful plant-based recipes you can prep for lunch or have as a satisfying dinner!

Roasted Broccoli & Chickpea Bowl


  • Kale
  • Olive Oil + Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Roasted Sliced Mushrooms
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Roasted Broccoli
  • ½ cup Roasted Chickpeas 
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Turmeric
  • Nutritional Yeast 

If you feel that your kitchen skills are inadequate or the idea of creating delicious meals is overwhelming, the recipe for success is actually incredibly simple. The least stressful way to put a meal together is to choose a base and load on some veggies and toppings. For this delicious and nutritious bowl, I started out with a generous handful (or a few) of kale as the base. Since this bowl includes a lot of veggies, I rarely measure them out and just eye-ball them. For the kale, it is essential to thoroughly massage with olive oil and apple cider vinegar to enhance the flavor and also soften the raw leaves. Again, I eye-ball the oil and vinegar but measuring out 2 capfuls of oil and one of vinegar is a great reference point. Before roasting the veggies, I drizzle olive oil on the mushrooms and broccoli and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and garlic. I sprinkled the same spices on the chickpeas but also added some turmeric. With this spice, a little goes a long way so only use a pinchful. I roasted them on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400 F degrees for about 30-35 minutes or until the broccoli has a slight char and the chickpeas are a little crunchy. Once they are done, top the kale with the warm veggies and add in the crisp bean sprouts. Lastly, sprinkle on some nutritional yeast for a little cheesy flavor. I love this stuff because it is a dairy free option that is rich in B vitamins and has 2 grams of protein per tablespoon.

Seared Tofu & Lentil Bowl


  • Kale
  • Sweet Potato
  • Sliced Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 cup Lentil Blend (I used 365 Everyday Value 7 Grain & Lentil Blend from Whole Foods)
  • ⅓ block of Extra Firm Tofu
  • 3 tbsp Liquid Aminos

Essentially, this bowl uses the same recipe criteria as the meal above. I used 1 cup of the lentil blend as the base and topped it off with sauteed veggies and juicy seared tofu. Using microwavable packets of grains is the ultimate hack that will save you a lot of time while meal prepping. For the tofu, I divided the entire container of tofu into 3 then cut little cubes from that portion. Start by spraying a pan with cooking spray over medium heat. Carefully place tofu cubes on the pan and coat each cube with some liquid aminos. You should hear them sizzling. Cook for equal amounts of time on each side of the cube until they are golden brown. Next, remove tofu from the pan and start to saute the kale, shaved sweet potato and sliced bell pepper. I used a peeler to shave off thin pieces of sweet potato because they would cook faster than if you prepared slices of sweet potato. Once the veggies have wilted, it’s time to assemble the bowl. This step is super easy, all you have to do is layer the warm veggies and tofu over the lentil blend. There you go! A delicious, nutritious and colorful bowl full of plant-based protein!

Creamy Vanilla Vegan Protein Shake


  • 1 scoop of plant-based protein powder (I used LivWell Wild Vanilla Bean protein)
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Handful of Ice Cubes 
  • 1 cup Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • ½ – 1 Frozen Banana
  • 1 tbsp Almond Butter 
  • 2 tbsp Chia Seeds 
  • Sprinkle of Cinnamon

Protein powder is not a substitute for real, whole foods however, it is an easy and efficient way to supplement your protein intake. I personally prefer plant-based protein powder such as pea protein. The brand LivWell has an awesome line of protein powders made from a unique blend of sprouted brown rice and pea protein. I mostly use chocolate and vanilla flavored powder because these flavors are super versatile. It’s fun to experiment with different flavor combinations and discover innovative ways to sneak in nutrient dense superfoods. For this recipe, I used vanilla flavored protein powder which has 17g of complete protein. Start by adding a handful of ice, a handful of spinach and 1 scoop of protein powder to the base of your blender. Then, measure out 1 cup of liquid, I used vanilla unsweetened almond milk. Next, add in the nut butter, I used almond butter but peanut butter is also a great option, chia seeds, banana and cinnamon. Blend until smooth. If the shake appears too chunky, add in more liquid and continue to blend. This shake is a great on-the-go breakfast option during a hectic morning or even as a post workout recovery snack in between meals. 

Check out my page for more recipe inspiration and be sure to share your plant-based, protein-filled creations with me @whatzoeeeats.

About Zoe Gregorace

Zoe Gregorace is currently studying Nutrition Policy at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and recently graduated from Tufts University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and was a proud member of the Tufts Swimming and Diving team (Go Jumbos!). During her 16 year career as a competitive swimmer, she developed a passion for sports nutrition. She enjoys writing on the topic of nutrition, health and wellness and posts her meal creations on her Instagram page @whatzoeeeats. As a former college swimmer, she strives to share recipes and nutrition tips to promote balanced eating and optimize sports performance.

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2 years ago

We’ve become almost entirely plant based!

Your third sentence mentions a large animal that is plant based and I don’t think they think about protein!!!

If an elephant can do this so can I!!!

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  Paul
2 years ago

Biology says NO YOU CAN’T

Alpha Eli
2 years ago

No soy for me thanks

2 years ago

Athletes should not be vegan

Reply to  Mack
2 years ago

I generally agree, in that I think most athletes should not be vegan, but it’s doable. I think it takes a lot of meticulous planning for an omnivorous athlete to have an optimal diet for peak performance, and that it takes even more planning, tracking, and supplementing for a plant-based athlete to achieve the same results. If an athlete just cuts out animal products and tries to perform high-intensity exercise, sure, they’re going to have a bad time, but there’s no reason why an athlete who is willing to put in the work can’t perform well on a vegan diet.

The big issue I have is that most athletes think that because they’re skinny/fit, they are healthy, and that might… Read more »

Reply to  Mack
2 years ago

great argument

Lynn Latham
Reply to  Mack
2 years ago

Have you seen Game Changers on Netflix? Please check it out and I bet you will change your mind!

2 years ago


2 years ago

I’ve been becoming more of an advocate for avoiding highly processed foods, so I’m pretty on board with this even though I eat omnivore. In terms of micronutrients, what would you suggest in terms of natural options for creatine, choline, and B12? I think I know a bit, but I’m well aware of the fact that I’m not an expert and I’m open to learning, so feel free to call me out.

I know creatine is great for cognitive function and helps mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation and concussions, so while you can technically survive without it… I wouldn’t want to. I think this is an easy one to supplement, since most creatine powders are synthesized without animal products… Read more »

Reply to  Sven
2 years ago

The B12 issue was always my problem with a vegan diet being “natural”. However I recently found out that the B12 in animal products etc is only there because the food they consume is dirty and has bacteria which produce B12. Our ancestors would have had a similar intake from plant based food. However now that everything is so clean we can no longer get B12 from plants. So you either eat some dirt or take a supplement!

2 years ago

You don’t need to be fully vegan and I wouldn’t advise it for athletes, but swap out like whey protein for hemp protein powder, just add more plant based foods.

2 years ago

I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but it astounds me how anti-vegan SwimSwam is. Every single one of these articles has been met with an insane amount of backlash. Why not just let people live their lives and enjoy whatever they want to eat?

The Screaming Viking!
Reply to  PVSFree
2 years ago

Because veganism harms people and the planet.

K a t
2 years ago

Wow! Thanks for writing this article. I absolutely never would have stopped eating things with a mother (fish, eggs, meat, poultry, dairy, etc), but I did because I had high cholesterol. I am a fit (former D1 NCAA athlete & current masters swimmer) 30 yo female who is always active, so it was shocking to me that I was in this predicament. I looked to two physicians’ opinions about what I should do; one told me to focus on lifestyle change and one said I should start a statin. I chose a change in diet, because I’m well versed on the side effects of statins. I was incredibly skeptical and a bit upset I had to try and change my… Read more »