Imagine that you are nine months into a long-term crisis. You have a garden, you’ve stored food and you have a healthy flock of chickens for meat and eggs. Then the unthinkable happens. You lose your flock to disease, thieves, or predators, or maybe your animal feed has run out. What do you do now?! How will you feed your family with no meat? Sure, you can try your hand at hunting, but so is everyone else, and maybe it’s not safe enough for you to venture off your property due to violence or disease. This article is designed to help you think about ways of getting adequate protein into your family… …when there is no meat.
A bit of background. Following my series of back-to-back illnesses in 2017 ranging from bronchitis and strep throat to pneumonia, I felt that my immune system was not functioning correctly, likely due to inflammation issues related to diet. I decided to undertake some nutritional research to try and fix this problem through diet. (I am not someone who likes medications). A few months later we opted to give the Whole Food, Plant Based way of eating a try. You have probably heard of this, it’s becoming quite popular – even with professional and Olympic athletes. Essentially it consists of eating only plants – fruit, vegetables, grains and beans. No added oil, no meat, no dairy, no fish, no processed sugar and minimal salt. Yes, it’s a big lifestyle change but the proven benefits to your health are numerous. People are reversing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments.
I do not consider us vegans. The word “vegan” conjures up negative images in my mind of hippies screaming at you while you eat your steak. Additionally, many vegans eat sugar products like Oreos and lots of unhealthy vegan processed foods like Impossible Burgers. In contrast, Whole Food, Plant Based eaters cook the majority of their food from scratch and we do our level best to avoid processed foods. We also cast zero judgement on anyone else’s eating choices. We are only eating this way for our own health. No agenda.
Feeling Better on a Better Diet
We have each lost many pounds and have kept it off for almost two years. We are healthy and slim in our mid-50s! We do not count calories, protein or anything. We simply eat when we are hungry and eat what we like within the parameters of our choices. We take zero medication – our food is our medicine. All of our bloodwork tests have been excellent. We are as energetic as we were in our 20s. It truly feels like we’ve found the Fountain of Youth.
Okay, all of that said, since we have been eating this way for several years, we would like to offer you advice on how to survive if you have no access to animal products (or oil). It can be done!
Disclaimer: We are not nutritionists, just very well-educated people on this topic.
There is protein in literally every food you eat. Do not stress about lack of meat if or when that happens to your family. It’s nearly impossible not to get enough protein if you eat a variety of beans, fruits, veggies and grains.
Tips for eating meat-free if it becomes necessary:
- Grow & store dried beans. They are super easy to grow and are quite prolific. We buy good quality ones from companies like Rancho Gordo and then we plant the ones we like. We save the seeds from year to year. Here’s a list of the beans with the highest protein – in grams per cup. Edamame (31g), Lentils (18g), white (17g), cranberry (16.5), split peas (16), pinto (15), kidney (15), black (15), navy (15) & lima (15)
- Store lots of grains. They fill the belly, mix well with beans & vegetables, they generally stay good for years and they are delicious. Protein per cooked cup is noted – steel cut oats (10g), kamut (9.8g), quinoa (8g), whole wheat pasta (7g), wild rice (6.5g), millet (6g), couscous (6g), rolled oats (6g), buckwheat (5.7g), wheat berries (5g), cornmeal (4.4g), white rice (4g), barley (4g) etc.
- Squash seeds and pumpkin seeds score big on protein. Growing these also gives you a double food source – the flesh and the seeds. One ounce of squash or pumpkin seeds contains 8.5g protein.
- Grow and store seeds for vegetables that are high in protein. Protein per cup noted – bean sprouts (aka mung beans, 49 g), lima beans (15g), green peas (8g), sweet corn (5g), artichokes (4g), brussel sprouts (3g), potato (3g), asparagus (3g), broccoli (2.6g), cauliflower (2g)
- Grow peanuts. They are delicious boiled, roasted or made into peanut butter. They pack 6.9g protein per ounce and are also a source of fat.
- Plant nut trees ASAP. Look for varieties that mature quickly like hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds. Almonds have 6 g protein per ounce. Walnuts and hazelnuts have 4.3g protein per ounce. Nuts are a great source of protein and needed fat.
- Sunflowers provide beauty as well as fat and protein (5.5g per ounce)
- Many seeds are an excellent source of protein. One tablespoon of ground flax seeds has 1.3g of protein. You can add one or two tablespoons into your oatmeal each morning and up your daily protein count by almost 3g.
- Plant fruit trees, berry bushes and grape vines ASAP for a good perennial source of healthy calories; even fruit has protein – a peach has 1.5g, 1 cup of blackberries has 2g, 1 cup of apricots has 4 g, etc.
- Microgreens are another fantastic source of overall nutrition and can be grown indoors year-round under grow lights. They generally provide 1-3g of protein per serving. There are so many tasty types – here are a few to consider – chia, arugula, basil, broccoli, cabbage, beets, clover, kale, pea shoots, radish, & sunflower shoots.
- Plant plenty of spices to add to your veggies for maximum flavor
- If you have no oil, it is easy to water-saute your veggies. Put them in a pan, add a few tablespoons of water and stir away. Add water a tablespoon or two at a time as needed. Be careful and don’t add too much water, you don’t want to boil the veggies. You can also grill veggies.
- Eat your greens every day – they are packed with nutrition and heart healthy – spinach, cilantro, kale, broccoli, arugula, beet greens, mustard greens, sorrel, swiss chard, turnip greens, etc. If you live in a warm climate you can put shade cloth over some of these and grow them almost year round
- Make sure that you eat a good variety of fruits and vegetables for maximum nutrition
- Keep your USDA growing zone in mind when you are selecting what to grow for protein. Select varieties of trees, bushes and plants to are proven to do well in your area.
- Grow only sources of protein that you know that your family will eat. It does no good to have six hazelnut trees if your family hates hazelnuts. If you are the only one in your family who will eat broccoli, consider a different vegetable with similar protein counts. Beans are not an option to omit. If you have family members who don’t like them, you might have to mash them with onions or spice them heavily because they will need them for protein. Start introducing them now and find creative ways to make them like/tolerate them. For example, I recently made a “lentil loaf” and it wasn’t bad! It had lentils, carrots, celery and onions in it. Ketchup on top just like the real thing.
- You could also store some protein powder – regular or vegetarian. The shelf life of it will be limited – but it would give you time to grow your beans!
- Don’t worry about amino acid imbalances or protein “combining” – i.e. beans and rice. The combining myth was disproven decades ago.
- If you get nothing else from this article, then please take this advice. If you are not eating meat either by choice or by necessity, then after about a year you will become deficient in Vitamin B12. This can cause a host of serious problems from weakness, shortness of breath and even blindness. A B12 deficiency is also showing up in meat eaters lately because of declining soil quality and because so many animals are being raised indoors. You can get B12 from dirt or from a simple supplement. They are cheap and readily available. We take one 2,500 mcg B12 per week. Please store some! JWR Adds: Every family should also store multvitamins tablets, vitamin D3, and Magnesium
A few interesting facts:
- You would find it easier to homestead without having to care for animals. If you don’t go in to your garden for a few days, the plants will still be okay. Animals need daily care and lots of food.
- Historically, meat was a luxury, usually small side portions were eaten just a couple of times a week; meat has only recently become the main dish of a meal.
- Did you know that Thomas Jefferson rarely ate meat? He preferred fruit and vegetables.
- Roman gladiators had a diet that was mostly grains. They were called “barley boys”
- Britain during WWII was a true SHTF situation because they had been importing 2/3 of their food and could no longer do so due to the Germans bombing their supply ships. As a result, the government asked (forced) the farmers focus on crops for people and not on raising livestock, most of which were culled early on. The thinking was that you get more calories if the people eat the food that is grown. If the livestock eats the food, they return less calories than they ate. Simple math. There is a great eight-part series called Wartime Farm about Britain during WWII. It’s entertaining, educational and interesting to see how overbearing their government had become.
This lifestyle is not for everyone but if you are intrigued, the following are three good sources to explore the Whole Food, Plant Based way of eating. Be careful doing your own research because many films and videos contain lengthy discussions about animal abuses, climate change, et cetera, and are very political. I avoid those, they are aimed at vegans. I just want the facts without the agenda.
- You Tube Channel of Dr. Michael Greger. Author of “How Not to Die” and “How not to Diet”. Very scientific and informative – a full third of his books are references.
- You Tube Channel of Libertarian Doctor Pam Popper – also very scientific & informative.
- Game Changers Movie – $3.99 on Amazon and Free on Netflix. (Warning: There is one brief subject pertaining to men that young children should not watch in this movie)
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates