There are many alternatives to meat and protein shakes. Eat these vegetarian foods to consume ample protein.
Vegetarians usually get a bad rep for the nutritional content of their diets–specifically the amount of protein they can consume. Contrary to popular belief, vegetarians can get just as much protein eating meat-free foods as people who do consume meat. The greatest problem that people face when they decide to become vegetarian is that they fail to complete proper nutritional research and often choose the wrong foods to eat–at which point becoming a vegetarian can become unhealthy. Do your due diligence and make sound choices; there are plenty of protein rich meat free foods that vegetarians, or anyone, can add to their grocery list.
Here are some high protein vegetarian foods to consider:
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is without a doubt the number one non-animal protein source that a vegetarian should include in their diet. Why? Because unlike many non-animal protein sources, quinoa is a complete protein. Complete proteins are protein sources that contain all of the nine essential amino acids. These amino acids are crucial for general health and well being. It’s important that vegetarians pay attention to the types of proteins they eat to make sure they are getting all of the necessary nutrients. Quinoa is often named a grain but it’s technically a seed. Its texture is much like that of rice so it’s great to add to a lot meals substituting rice. 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein.
Seitan is a very popular meat substitute among many vegetarians. When it’s cooked, it has a very similar look and texture of meat. “Wheat meat” is the nickname for this protein rich food because it comes from the protein portion of wheat. You can purchase Seitan in almost any grocery store or you can make it at home. Since this food comes from wheat, it is not recommended for people with wheat or gluten intolerance. 3 ounces of Seitan contains 31 grams of protein.
Though lentils don’t sound too appetizing, they are a great high protein, nutrient packed food that provide many benefits to both vegetarians and meat eaters. Lentils aid in weight loss because of their high fiber content. Fiber keeps you feeling full so consuming a diet high in fiber will help to keep your appetite at bay which in turn aids in weight loss. The high protein content also helps in the feeling of fullness, or satiety. Lentils are also an excellent source of iron which is another nutrient that some vegetarians don’t get enough of. One cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein.
Soy is one of the most popular protein sources in a vegetarian diet. Soy comes from the soy bean and is very popular in the Asian cuisine. There are numerous forms of soy products. Though soy is very popular for getting an adequate amount of protein, it is still not a complete protein so it is important to pair this food with another complete protein such as quinoa for the best benefits. Many of the mock meats found in the supermarket are made out of soy. These products are great, especially for people just starting off as a vegetarian because you won’t feel so deprived of meat. The simplest form of soy is the soy bean or edamame. These little green pods are an awesome protein rich snack. Tempeh is a soy product that contains the most protein. Tempeh contains 41 grams of protein per cup.
Many vegetarians still do consume animal products, just not the actual meat itself. Vegans do not consume any kind of animal product so eggs would not be a source of protein for a vegan. However, for vegetarians, eggs are a great source of protein. It’s best to purchase the organic, free range eggs when possible. The fresher, the better…When people think of protein, a lot of the times “egg whites” comes to mind. The egg white is not the only part of the egg that contains protein; the yolk does as well! Consuming the entire egg, yolk and all, is beneficial for your health and is a great protein packed food. One egg a day is considered to be “safe” for cholesterol reasons. The yolk, although is beneficial for many reasons, does contain cholesterol. To stay on the safe side, stick to one whole egg a day. A great trick to add protein without all the extra cholesterol is to mix one full egg with a couple of egg whites. One egg contains about 7 grams of protein; the yolk having 3 grams and the white having 4 grams.
If you’re looking for a seed that’s packed with protein, look no further. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of protein and have numerous health benefits. Some of the benefits of pumpkin seeds are that they are anti-inflammatory which can help people suffering from or helping to prevent arthritis, rich in monounsaturated fat (healthy fat!), have been shown to lower cholesterol, and may prevent prostate cancer. One thing to be careful about eating pumpkin seeds, or any other kind of seed or nut, is to make sure you get the unsalted kind. They have all kinds of flavored seeds and nuts but to get the best nutrition out of them, eat them raw with no added flavorings. There’s about 37 grams of protein in ½ cup of pumpkin seeds.
Again, if you are not a vegan and still consume animal products, dairy products are a great source of protein. It’s always best to choose the low fat kind of milk and cheese when possible. Great examples of high protein dairy products include low fat milk (8 grams of protein per cup), cottage cheese (15 grams of protein per ½ cup), yogurt (10 grams of protein per container), and hard cheeses such as parmesan (10 grams of protein per ounce.)
If you are a vegetarian or are looking into becoming one, you shouldn’t worry about not consuming enough protein. As long as you are educated and plan your meals well, you will be getting an adequate amount of protein and nutrients to build muscle, fight fat, and live a healthy lifestyle.