When you hear the word protein, you might automatically think of steak or chicken. But today there are more alternative protein options than ever before – good news for those who’d rather not eat meat. If you want to avoid animal-based protein sources, there are readily available options that provide just as much, if not better quality sources to help maintain great health.
Am I getting enough?
Many of us assume that a vegetarian diet won’t provide adequate amounts of protein. Yet it’s possible 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 0.08. An adult woman weighing 50 kg or 110 lb, would need to consume 40 g of protein a day.
Quinoa leads the way in highest protein per serving, with a whopping 18 grams per cooked cup. Even though quinoa is thought to be a grain, it is actually a seed and one of the only complete proteins (a protein source that offers all of the essential amino acids your body can’t make itself) that is a non-meat source, providing all 9 essential amino acids. Even better, it cooks quickly and can be easily added to salads or used as a rice substitute. It even tastes great on its own.
Beans, lentils and legumes are another great supplementary protein source. 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 13.4 grams of protein but since beans, lentils and legumes are considered incomplete proteins, remember to combine them with other food sources (see chart below) to reach your daily protein requirement.
Nuts make great protein-rich snacks – but they’re high in calories. Be sure to measure out a serving size to make sure you don’t go overboard. Nut butters, like almond or cashew make a great alternative to a handful of nuts and when combined with whole-grain bread, make a complete protein. Just two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein.
Protein powders: not just for bodybuilders
If you want to add an easy source of protein to your diet, a quick vegan protein shake might fit the bill. Pea, hemp, rice or soy are some good choices to start out with. Not all vegan proteins are complete proteins, but certain combinations of vegan proteins comprise a complete source. For example, rice and pea protein are a perfect pair! Orange Naturals offers a customized vegan protein blend for the whole family. Complete with multivitamins and minerals, the ND Shake is a great addition to your daily routine and provides up to 18 grams of protein (for adults).
The full spectrum
As mentioned earlier, 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.
Combine these for complete proteins:
Grains + Legumes: bean burritos, black beans with rice
Seed or Nuts + Legumes: hummus, lentil soup with almonds
Grains + Milk or Eggs: French toast with multi-grain bread, scrambled eggs in a whole wheat wrap
Vegetables + Milk or Eggs: vegetable cream soups, veggie omelet
Recipe | Black Bean Patties
From Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook by Tosca Reno (Robert Kennedy Publishing, 2007)
2 cups / 480 ml black beans, canned or cooked, rinsed and drained
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic left whole
1 carrot, chopped fine or grated
1⁄2 cup / 120 ml oats
1⁄4 cup / 60 ml natural nut butter–almond, cashew or peanut
1⁄4 cup / 60 ml unsalted, raw sunflower seeds
3 Tbsp / 45 ml flax seeds
Dash Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp / 30 ml coconut butter or best-quality olive oil
2 egg whites or egg substitute
Pinch red pepper flakes
1⁄2 cup / 120 ml chopped celery leaves
1 tsp / 5 ml paprika
1 tsp / 5 ml curry powder
1 tsp / 5 ml unrefined sea salt
1 Tbsp / 15 ml fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and combine the mixture until it becomes uniform. If you have only a small food processor you will need to do this in batches.
Divide the bean mixture into patties of equal size – about four inches in diameter – and place them on the prepared cookie sheet. When the tray is full, place the cookie sheet in the hot oven and bake the patties for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Serve the cooked patties on toasted Ezekiel or other whole-grain buns and garnish with sliced tomato, crisp lettuce and pickles. Add any of your favorite condiments, and serve with a fresh salad.
Nutritional value for one 4–inch patty
Calories: 178 | Calories from Fat: 80 | Protein: 7g | Carbs: 20g | Total Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0g | Fiber: 7g | Sodium: 367 mg | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sugar: 1g
As always, talk to your healthcare practitioner about your nutritional needs and preferences. Your Naturopathic Doctor or Nutritionist can help guide the way!