What better day to put up this post than on “Meatless Monday”. From my various posts, it’s more than clear that I’m not a vegetarian. I love eating eggs, chicken is part of my regular diet, and I crave salmon and venison more often than not. That being said, I tend to eat plenty of vegetarian meals out of default. Most of the times it’s because my taste buds gravitate towards veggie options. The other times are due to religious reasons, which call for a vegetarian diet on specific days…Mondays is one of those days.
There seems to be a common misconception that vegetarians don’t eat enough protein. I won’t lie, it is slightly more challenging to meet my protein requirements on vegetarian days. However it is absolutely possible, and here are some of my preferred ways:
- Dairy: I am grateful (to say the least) that my body can tolerate high amounts of dairy. Yogurt (both plain & Greek), cheese, cottage cheese, and milk are staple components of my diet, and can provide anywhere between 8-15g protein per serving. With the exception of cheese, I usually opt for low-fat varieties which fortunately contain the same amount of both protein & calcium as the regular varieties.
- Soy beans: These are the only vegetable which are a complete protein, and hence contain all 9 essential amino acids i.e. the amino acids which are crucial to health but our body cannot synthesize. There’s a bit of a controversy surrounding soy products but I personally don’t mind eating it in moderation. My favorites include tofu, soy milk, textured vegetable protein, and vegetarian/vegan sausages, all which bring a fair amount of protein to the table.
- Beans & legumes: Although they are relatively starchy compared to their meat counterparts, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils and peas can range from 14-19g protein per cup. However like most plant-based sources of protein, they don’t contain all the essential amino acids which brings me to my next point:
- Food combining: Although it’s not entirely necessary, combining certain foods can help boost a meal’s overall protein. The variety of amino acids in the different plant-based foods can complement one another and create complete protein. Complementary proteins include grains & legumes or nuts & seeds plus legumes. Example combinations include hummus (chickpeas & tahini), beans & rice, peanut butter & wholewheat toast or lentils & quinoa.
- Keen-wah: Although it can be eaten as an alternative to grains like rice, bulgur, or cous cous, quinoa’s protein content is more superior. It is actually a seed which contains all 9 of the essential aminos. Despite it being a high-quality source of protein, quinoa also has a fantastic nutty taste.
- Foods which surprisingly have protein: I bet you wouldn’t think that the veggies on your plate contribute to your protein intake…or the carbs. Granted the protein content of these is relatively low but they still add somewhat to our overall intake. Examples include:
- Protein powders: Okay this is a cop-out and I will almost always opt for real food where possible. However on the days where I am lacking time or energy to think up/prepare a meal, protein powders are a great back-up. My current favorites include Sunwarrior Chocolate (15 g per scoop) & Rich Chocolate Dymatize All Natural Elite Whey Protein (24g per scoop).