If you’re vegetarian or just toying with the idea of eating less meat, people will inevitably ask you again and again: how are you going to get enough protein?
Most seasoned vegetarians will tell you that if you eat a wide variety of healthy foods, protein isn’t much of an issue. A cup of asparagus contains three grams of protein. A cup of milk contains eight grams. The average woman needs about 46 grams per day, a number that is not difficult to achieve.
Athletes need more protein, as do pregnant and breastfeeding women. If you’re trying to build muscle, or if your doctor or dietitian suggests you watch your protein intake closely, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet. Plus, the more educated you are about nutrition, the more you can lecture the curious who think vegetarians are doomed to waste away.
To put it simply, let’s call “vegetarians” people who do not eat meat and vegans people who do not eat any animal products (eggs, milk, etc.).
Beans are generally an easy and economical way to get protein, especially if you cook them yourself instead of buying canned. Still, a can of beans is pretty cheap, so they’re not going to break the bank anyway.
In the past, there was a lot of concern about combining foods to get a “complete” protein because beans don’t contain all of the essential amino acids. Now, it’s understood that you probably don’t have to eat these complementary foods at the same meal. Even so, rice and beans are a tasty and popular combination for a reason.
Tofu, tempeh and edamame, yum! Tempeh is a fermented soy cake, often made with other grains. Both tempeh and tofu can taste pretty awful if you don’t cook them flavorfully, but they can be great in the right hands. Tip: Steam tempeh before sautéing or baking.
Women with cancer or hormonal issues should talk to their doctor about eating soy in a balanced way, but many healthy people include soy in their diet. The sneaky soy byproducts in processed foods may be the real problem.
3. Dairy products
Why do you think all these lifters drink chocolate milk after training…other than chocolate milk is delicious? Dairy products contain an excellent combination of carbohydrates and proteins for recovery, or so they say. Greek yogurt contains incredible amounts of protein and is low in carbs.
Ah, the humble egg. It’s had its PR issues, but it still has plenty to offer: riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and selenium, plus about six grams of protein per pop. Yes, the yolk has the most fat and cholesterol, but it also has the most nutrients.
Also known as “wheat meat” because it is made from gluten. Hi, where are you going? Come back! Gluten isn’t bad unless you’re sensitive to it, much like dairy. Some organizations handle it better than others. You can make your own seitan from vital gluten flour or buy it from pre-made health food stores. Often, if you buy “fake meat” at an Asian restaurant, it’s some kind of flavored seitan.
KEEN-wa is a tasty cereal that also contains complete protein. Win-win! Rinse it first to remove the naturally occurring bitter coating, then serve it to all your friends, carnivores and vegans, in a salad or wherever you would serve another grain like rice.