Week 2:

Simple Swaps to Plant Protein

During week 1, we focused on reducing meat and increasing plant proportions on your plate. For week 2 of our plant-based challenge, let’s talk about protein!

Did you know that most plant foods contain protein? It’s true! You can get all the protein you need from plants as long as you know where to look. We’re here to help identify which plant foods are good choices to include in your diet and before you know it, you’ll be a plant-based protein pro.

Why do I need protein? 

Protein is a crucial nutrient – it’s the building blocks of the body. Protein is made up of pieces called amino acids, which create everything from muscle cells to hormones. Without protein, you wouldn’t be able to heal from a cut or grow your hair. While many people tend to worry about getting enough – it’s actually very rare to get a protein deficiency as long as you are eating enough calories during the day. Most Americans eat far more protein than they need, primarily from meat. Reducing your meat intake does mean you’re reducing your protein intake, so it’s important to know which plant foods contain high levels of protein to get what you need. Don’t worry – it’s simple once you get the hang of it, and we are here to help.

Which foods contain plant-based proteins?

Most plants contain at least some, they need it to build things too! Although they don’t seem it, foods like potatoes and broccoli contain protein. What we are looking for is the biggest bang for our proverbial buck when thinking about what plants fit on the protein section of the Brook Healthy Plate (potatoes and broccoli fit in the starch and low-carb veggies sections).


The Brook Healthy Plate method utilizes a “plate model” to help us think about each meal in a simple and visual way. During week 1, we discussed reducing the amount of meat on your plate and increasing the proportion of veggies. For a well balanced meal, aim for half a plate of veggies, ¼ plate of carbs, and ¼ plate of protein. All of those sections can be filled by plants, even the ¼ plate protein. So, what plant-based foods fit in that section? 

Plant-based protein foods:
  • Beans (ex. pinto, black, cannellini, chickpeas, kidney, etc)
  • Lentils
  • Tofu & tempeh
  • Edamame
  • Seitan (made from wheat)
  • Nuts & seeds
Simple swaps

Plant-based protein foods can be easily swapped in the place of meat for many recipes. Check out these ideas:

Mock meats in moderation

You may be wondering about the mock meats available at the grocery store like “chik’n strips,” “deli slices,” or “soy chorizo.” These foods can be helpful while transitioning from a meat heavy diet to a primarily plant-based one as they often try to mimic the texture and/or flavor of meat. Keep in mind that while these are plant-based foods, it doesn’t mean they are the best for your health (Oreos® are vegan!). Mock meats are heavily processed foods that are often high in sodium in addition to having long lists of ingredients. While totally okay to eat occasionally, these items are not something we recommend as a regular part of your diet. 

Naturally plant-based meals

Knowing how to swap out animal products is great, but it’s also nice to have some recipes you know and love in your back pocket that are already plant-based. Can you think of any? Maybe a pasta salad like this one we like, or maybe you already make a mean veggie chili. Minestrone soup often doesn’t contain any meat, and stuffed pepper recipes are often meat free, as well.

If you wanted to, you could get all your protein from plants. But remember, eating a plant-based diet is not an all or nothing lifestyle – you can still have dairy, eggs, meat, and fish – so don’t worry about being perfect.

That’s everything for this week!

Step 1: Log your weight in Brook

Step 2: Choose your goal for the week

Step 3: Chat with us and let us know your goal!

Reviewed by Heather King, MS, RDN​, CDE

on May 20, 2020. Heather is a Certified Diabetes Educator, has been a Registered Dietitian for over 12 years and is Brook's Health Director.