Back to Blog

Nutrition Try Coach Trace’s Plant-Based Protein Dinners

Stay full all night with these healthy vegetarian dinner recipes.

image of a man eating gnocchi in the kitchen demonstrating a healthy vegetarian dinner recipe

At one point, people wondered whether plant-based eaters could really hold their own in the gym. Now? Not so much. Just look at vegan athletes like Venus Williams, Kyrie Irving, Alex Morgan, and Scott Jurek. 

Tonal coach Trace Gotsis started his own plant-based diet as a 30-day challenge—one that turned into a few months, then four years (and counting). “I could feel a complete difference immediately, within that first month, as far as energy levels went,” he says. “That’s what got me to start doing more research, and then I kind of fell in love with the sustainability aspect of it.” 

But, as a trainer, there was one particular area he was concerned about: protein. “Getting into it at first, it was a little like, where am I going to get enough protein from if I’m not just baking 12 pieces of chicken breast?” he remembers. Quickly, he found ways to get creative: tofu one night, tempeh the next, along with ancient grains and legumes. “It does take some getting used to, but doing that helped make eating more intentional to me,” says Coach Trace.

Fun fact: Being intentional about what and how you eat is a kind of mindfulness practice, and mindfulness-based interventions increased weight loss and reduced obesity-related eating behaviors in a 2021 scientific analysis published in the journal Obesity Reviews.

And there are so many plant-based protein options to choose from: soybean products like tofu, tempeh, and edamame; kidney, black, pinto, and garbanzo beans; ancient grains such as spelt, teff, barley, sorghum, and farro; quinoa and amaranth; hemp and chia seeds; and vegetables including broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.

During Tonal’s Four Week Fast-Track Challenge in January, you don’t even have to go fully plant-based to reap some of the diet’s rewards. Replacing even 3 percent of the calories you consume that come from animal protein with plant protein was associated with reductions in risk of overall and cardiovascular disease mortality, according to a 2020 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

While some recommendations say best to have some protein with every meal, protein-packed dinners like the ones Coach Trace created can help you feel full all the way until breakfast. Prioritizing protein after your afternoon or evening workout will also help decrease muscle breakdown and increase muscle growth—a win-win when you’re looking to make gains. 

image of a man serving veggie chilli from a large pot into a bowl

“Dinner is kind of my jam to mix things up,” says Coach Trace. “As much as I meal-prep, I love to get in my zone in the kitchen at night and unwind—it’s meditative for me.”

The good news: Even if you don’t have a ton of time to cook, Coach Trace’s recipes are weeknight staples. “I make this gnocchi probably twice a week,” he says. “For the tacos, all I have to do is switch up the toppings for a little variety. And I’ll cook the veggie chili in a big pot before a busy week and it’ll last me three or four days.” 

Whether you’re going plant-based or not, don’t get overwhelmed with major diet changes. “Try to simplify it as much as possible and start from there,” says Coach Trace. “In order for it to become a habit, for you to stay consistent, you have to just try to eliminate any resistance you might run into.” That might mean you start with just these three recipes. If you love them, add another plant-based meal to your diet next week. And keep building from there. 

And if you do fall off the healthy eating bandwagon, don’t beat yourself up. “Every day is a chance to restart,” says Coach Trace. “There’s going to be a learning curve; you’re not going to be able to perfect it right away. So give yourself a little grace.”