When you hear the word protein, you might automatically think of meat. Thankfully, today there are more nonmeat protein options than ever before.
When you hear the word protein, you might automatically think of meat. Thankfully, the two no longer need be associated.
Today there are more nonmeat protein options than ever before, and that’s good news for those of us who don’t find a thick cut of marbled mammal particularly appealing.
Am I getting enough?
Many of us assume that a vegetarian diet will not provide adequate amounts of protein. Yet it’s easy to get too much protein in your diet, whether you eat meat or not.
To calculate your daily protein requirement, simply multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.80. An adult woman weighing 50 kg, or 110 lb, would need to consume 40 g of protein a day.
Renewing your supply
Our bodies are constantly using protein to fight illness and disease, to produce hormones, to create new cells, to build and repair body tissues, and for energy.
Although most of the amino acids we ingest are reused, we need to replace the ones our bodies absorb with food. If you want to avoid the hormone-laden, high-fat, meat protein sources, nonmeat alternatives can provide just as many, if not better quality sources to maintain great health.
Try these delicious and nutritious meatless recipes from cookbook author Tosca Reno.
- Tofu Cabbage Rolls
- Black Bean Patties
- Shepherd’s Pie Without the Sheep
Proteins can be broken down into complete and incomplete groups, depending on the types of amino acids they provide. Complete proteins contain more than adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins, on the other hand, provide only some of the essential amino acids your body needs.
So, if you choose to leave meat or other meat-related foods out of your diet, how can you ensure that you’re getting complete proteins? The easy answer is by combining them.
|Incomplete proteins||Complete proteins|
Combine these for complete proteins
Grains + legumes
Examples: bean burritos, black beans with rice
Seed or nuts + legumes
Examples: hummus, lentil soup with almonds
Grains + milk or eggs
Examples: French toast with multigrain bread, scrambled eggs in whole wheat wrap
Vegetables + milk or eggs
Examples: vegetable cream soups, veggie omelette
Vegetarian protein superfoods
Quinoa: This tiny treat leads the way in highest protein per serving, with a whopping 18 g per cooked cup. Even though quinoa is considered a grain, it is actually a seed and one of the few complete proteins that is a nonmeat source, providing all essential amino acids. It’s a quick-cooking grain that can be easily added to salads or used as a rice substitute, and it even tastes great on its own.
Beans, lentils, and legumes: These popular goodies come in a close second to quinoa in protein power. It doesn’t matter if you choose black, kidney, or navy beans; split peas; or chickpeas: all give great nutritional value at an affordable price. One cup of kidney beans contains about 13 g of protein. Since beans, lentils, and legumes are considered incomplete proteins, remember to combine them (see sidebar Proteins explained) to reach your daily protein requirement.
Nuts: Tasty nuts make great protein-rich snacks but can be high in calories, so measure out a 1/4 cup (60 mL) serving size to make sure you don’t go overboard. Nut butters, such as almond or cashew, make a great alternative to a handful of nuts and when combined with whole grain bread, add up to a complete protein. Two tablespoons (30 mL) of peanut butter contain about 8 g of protein.
Seitan: You’re missing out on a power-protein food if seitan isn’t part of your diet. This wheat-based cheat-meat has the look and texture of meat without the animal protein. Just 100 g of seitan provides a whopping 21 g of protein.