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If you’re a vegetarian looking for suggestions on how to include proteins in your diet, you must often meet disbelieving stares and standard replies such as, “Why don’t you just start having eggs”? A bunch of vegetarian foods come in with high quantities of protein to help you lead a healthy lifestyle without having to look over the egg counter for assistance.
Made from gluten, Seitan is a well-known protein source for vegetarians and vegans alike. It is also known as wheat meat or wheat gluten as it matches the texture and consistency of meat when cooked. Every 100 gr serving of Seitan contains 25 gr of protein. It also contains selenium and small quantities of iron, calcium, and phosphorus as well. You can pan-fry, sauté, or grill it to incorporate it in a recipe of your choice. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, or are suffering from celiac disease, you should avoid Seitan.
2. Greek Yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is differentiated from regular yoghurt by a straining process which removes whey – a liquid containing lactose that’s a natural sugar found in milk. This means Greek yoghurt has a lower sugar concentration than regular yoghurt. It contains calcium, protein, probiotics, iodine, and vitamin B-12. A cup of Greek yoghurt has 23 gms of protein. Thanks to a high content of protein, it can help in improving bone health, reducing appetite and hunger, boosting metabolism, improving gut health among other benefits
If you are opting for a vegetarian diet to fulfill your body’s protein requirements, soy products can be your best bet. Tofu’s origins can be traced back to China. It’s made from condensation of soy milk, that is then pressed into solid white blocks. Tofu is a protein-rich food and also contains all essential amino acids, important for your body. A 100-gram serving of tofu contains 8 gms of protein. Along with being rich in proteins and a number of healthy nutrients, tofu can also shield you against several health conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes and even certain types of cancers.
A traditional Indonesian food, Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. With a pretty impressive nutrient portfolio, it is a popular replacement of meat for vegetarians. In a study conducted in 2014, 20 obese men were administered a high-protein diet that included either soy-based or meat-based protein. After 14 days, it was observed that both the diets led to weight loss, a reduction in appetite, and increase in fullness with no significant difference between the two protein sources. An 84-gram serving of tempeh comes with 15 gms of protein. A cup of tempeh contains close to 2/3rd of the calcium found in a cup of whole milk. Since it undergoes fermentation, the phytic acid found in soybeans is broken down, facilitating absorption and digestion.
A protein powerhouse, lentils grow in pods and are available in red, green, black, and brown varieties. 100 gms of cooked lentils contain 9.02 gm of protein. Consuming it can lower risk of obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and promote a healthy complexion and hair, reduced weight, and increased energy. An economical source of protein, lentils can also make up for folate and manganese in your daily nutritional requirements. With a slew of recipes that can be used to prepare lentils, they are undoubtedly the most versatile protein-rich vegetarian food that can help you check off your daily health bucket list.
Edamame are immature soybeans, also referred to as vegetable soybeans. They are green in color and can be added to soups, salads, stews or can be simply consumed as a snack. A cup or approximately 155 gms of edamame comes with 18.5 gms of protein. In addition to being a rich protein source, it can also be instrumental in lowering cholesterol levels, hence lowering the risks of heart disease and improving the blood lipid profile. With a low carbohydrate and glycemic index count, it is a perfect snack for those trying to control their blood sugar levels as well.
Originated from the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Chickpeas, is also known as garbanzo beans. A cooked cup of chickpeas come in with 15 gms of protein. They are also great sources of carbohydrates, iron, fibers, folate, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, and a host of other beneficial nutrients. It has also been shown in several studies that a diet rich in chickpeas can help in lowering cholesterol levels, control blood sugar and can even help in reducing belly fat. Selenium, a mineral found in chickpeas, helps the enzymes of your liver to function properly and can also detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in your body.
8. Chia Seeds
1 tablespoon of chia seeds contain 3 gms of protein. Chia seeds are tiny black seeds and come from the plant Salvia hispanica. Their rich protein content is complimented by an impressive nutrient presence. They include high counts of fiber, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids and several other micronutrients. All the carbohydrates that chia seeds contain are fiber, which the human body does not digest. Fiber does not increase blood sugar and does not need insulin to be disposed of. Chia seeds are 40% fiber, making them one of the best fiber sources in the world.
Protein-rich, full of healthy fats, and known to improve heart health, peanuts can be an easy way to build up proteins in your body. Half a cup of peanuts come in with around 20.5 gms of protein. They are a low-carbohydrate food, thus making them perfectly healthy for diabetics. An excellent source of proteins and minerals like biotin, copper, niacin, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin E, and magnesium, peanuts can be easily incorporated in your daily diet as a snack or as part of a routine meal.
10. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is commercially sold as yellow powder of flakes. Its cheesy flavor can nicely be fitted into mashed potatoes or scrambled tofu. It can also be sprinkled over pasta or can be enjoyed as a savory dressing on popcorn. A 28 gram serving of nutritional yeast contains 14 gms of protein and 7 grams of fiber. Several studies have shown that S. cerevisiae, the yeast found in nutritional yeast can help in building immunity and can also reduce inflammation that occurs as a result of bacterial infection. It can be a great food to help you combat brittle nails or hair loss, thanks to a high concentration of protein.
Vegetarian meal prep ideas
Vegetarian – a person who, for whatever reason, chooses not to eat meat. It is best to clarify which type of vegetarian your guest is, before planning the menu. A person may be any of the following types of vegetarians or a combination of two or three!
Ethical Vegetarian – this person has chosen not to eat meat because they feel it is unethical. Depending on the personality of your vegetarian, it may be best that there is no meat on the table. Some ethical vegetarians find the sight of meat (especially something like a rare piece of beef) to be repulsive and it may ruin their appetite.
Health-Conscious Vegetarian – this vegetarian is conscious of what they eat because they recognize food as a source of nutrition to keep the body healthy. They may grow some organic vegetables at home, participate in healthy activities, and generally live a healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner so don’t assume that is the case. Always ask.
Junk-Food Vegetarian – The junk food vegetarian is often a person who became a vegetarian as a youth, teen, or young adult, usually for ethical reasons, and without any concern for nutrition at all. They may eat a lot of pizza, pasta, doughnuts, candy, soft drinks and the like. This type of vegetarian may not even like most vegetables. They most likely do not refer to themselves as a “Junk-Food Vegetarian” so tread softly when inquiring.
Vegan – a vegan is a vegetarian who not only excludes meat but also any animal products (including milk, cheese, eggs, and sometimes even honey) from their diet. Some vegans are strict with this and will not eat bread that has been made with an egg or some milk. Others are more flexible; choosing to be vegan at home and as close to vegan as they can get when they are out. I’m mostly vegan at home, but I’d rather be vegetarian than hungry if I’m out.
Flexitarian – this person prefers a vegetarian diet but may occasionally eat a small amount of meat.
Pescatarian – from the Spanish pescado (fish), this person will sometimes eat fish and/or seafood.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian -dairy products and eggs are eaten, but not meat.
Raw Food Vegetarian – a raw foodist chooses to eat a vegetarian diet that is uncooked. There are many health benefits to eating raw plants since cooking destroys many valuable enzymes. If you have a raw foodist coming over and you don’t have a raw food “cook”book, plan on a robust salad. (See below)
Macrobiotic – is a type of vegetarian with a very specific and healthy diet. It is best to ask them for some suggestions or to research recipes on the internet.
In general, the best way to feed your vegetarian is to simply ask them what they eat. I always appreciate when we have been invited to dinner at someone’s house and they ask if I eat this or that. It means a lot when someone goes through the trouble of setting aside a portion for me before they add the meat part of the recipe.
And sometimes that’s all it takes; if you’re making pasta, take some sauce out of the pan before adding the meat. The same goes for a salad that might have bacon, eggs, or cheese in it – depending on your vegetarian. Feeding a vegetarian is easier than you think; you may just need to make a few small changes to your recipes and get beyond some of the myths about vegetarians.
Myth #1: Vegetarians only eat salad and tofu.
While most vegetarians do enjoy salad, and some enjoy tofu; that is not all that we eat. If you are planning to feed a vegetarian only salad, it needs to be more than iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and carrots. More on that in the recipe section at the end of the article. Some vegetarians, myself included, are not fans of soy products such as tofu, and may not eat it at all.
Myth #2: Vegetarians don’t eat meat.
This part is actually true but I put it here because most people don’t realize that vegetarians don’t simply eliminate an entire food group from our diets… we replace the meat with other foods. If your entrée consists of lasagna with meat sauce, don’t assume that the side salad and peas will be enough food for your vegetarian guest. Leave the meat out of the sauce. Do not expect a vegetarian to pick the meat out of a dish. Replace the meat entrée with something of substance like beans and rice or a hearty vegetable dish like stuffed squash, peppers, or tomatoes. If you’re serving burgers as your main course, you are probably going to have a hungry dinner guest if you don’t have anything of substance to replace it.
Myth #3: Pasta is a good solution.
Pasta will suffice for one or two meals, but if this vegetarian is going to be eating at your table on a somewhat regular basis, pasta is going to get old fast; as will pizza. Many vegetarians choose this lifestyle for the health benefits gained from eating plants and eating pasta and pizza will not provide these health benefits. If your vegetarian is an ethical vegetarian, they may have no concerns about nutrition and pizza and pasta will work just fine for them. Remember to ask, but keep in mind that you can’t have a vegetarian without the “veg”!