Meat seems to be all the rage in diets today, with its high levels of protein and low carbohydrates. Since when was getting a hamburger without the bun healthy?
It’s easy to feel left out as a vegetarian. What are we to do for our protein? Well, lucky for us, we are most likely already eating more protein than we need. Eating varied foods from all the food spectrums provides more than enough protein to develop and maintain your health in a natural way. That is, unless you’re a body builder. And even if you are a body builder, I don’t recommend counting the grams of protein you get a day – this is an unhealthy and unnecessary exercise that places too much emphasis on the science of food, neglecting common sense and logic. An exception would be if your doctor or nutritionist instructs you to do so.
Nonetheless, if you’re not eating a healthy vegetarian diet, you do run the risk of protein deficiency.
Common Protein Deficiency Symptoms
- – Weight loss
- – Thinning hair
- – Chronic headaches
- – Fainting
- – Cuts and scrapes heal noticeably slower
- – Lethargy – severe lack of energy
- – Become more anxious
- – Lightening of skin pigmentation
Now, don’t start to panic if you’re feeling a few of these right now. They’re all common symptoms for all sorts of illnesses, for instance, the common cold. But, if you’re experiencing a few of these and are conscious that you have not been eating a well rounded vegetarian diet lately, try the following ways to get some more protein into your diet.
Protein Rich Vegetarian Foods
Beans and Legumes
Protein: Black Beans: 6.7gm / 100 cal; Kidney Beans 6.4gm / 100cal
These are the foods of the Vegetarian Gods. Packed full of fiber and protein, these are excellent staples to work regularly into your diet, even if you’re not protein deficient. And, if you’re on any sort of food budget, beans are a great way to save money at the store – especially if your buying them dry, in bulk (highly recommended). Soak a few cups worth of beans in some water for a day, boil for a few hours, and you’ll have protein rich meals for days.
Protein: Firm Tofu: 11.7gm / 100cal; Regular Tofu 10.6gm / 100cal
Not only is Tofu absolutely stuffed with protein, it’s also super fun to cook. There are all sorts of little tricks to try – breading and frying, baking, marinating, crumbling. There are also all other sorts of tofu / soy products out there, like soy milks, yogurt, and ice cream. Many of these are fortified with nutrients – but don’t worry about needing to cram too many nutrients into tofu. It already has more than enough, if consumed semi-regularly. I most enjoy firm tofu for its flexibility and toughness in the pan.
Seitan and Vegetarian Meats
Protein: Seitan: 22.1gm / 100cal; Veggie Dog: 13.3gm / 100cal
Vegetarian meats, like tofu, are a fun way to add some hearty substance to your entrée. If bought prepared, they are quick to heat up and throw on a bed of cooked vegetables for a well rounded meal. A veggie burger is a sure way to add a bunch of protein to your diet in a quick and easy fashion.
Protein: Scrambled egg: 6gm / 80cal
Eggs provide you with a perfect protein and are a highly flexible culinary item. Of course, they make a great breakfast, but can work well as an entrée for any meal throughout the day. Some worry about the the high cholesterol, but high quality eggs (free range chickens that are fed quality feed) actually contain higher quality cholesterol that is actually beneficial. That said, they should still be eaten in low amounts. I try to eat one a day – and what a treat it is.
Protein: Peanut Butter: 4.3gm / 100cal; Almonds: 3.7gm / 100cal
Nuts make a great addition to plenty of meals – pine nuts in pastas or almonds in granola, for instance. They are also a fantastic snack for the vegetarian on the go, just carry a little tub of them in your bag and munch whenever you need them. They also have high levels of monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are highly beneficial to your health.
Protein: Lentils: 7.8gm / 100cal; Quinoa: 3.5gm / 100cal
Whole grains are a delicious basis for any healthy meal. Simply boil them in vegetable broth and some garlic, dump onto a plate and serve with some cooked veggies and a fake meat, and you’ve got yourself one protein packed meal. Whole grains have all other sorts of benefits – like high fiber – but the high protein alone goes a long way.
Protein: Highly varied depending on product
There are a glut of these products out on the market today, and can be found at any grocery or health food store. Be careful of spending too much on these, though, as some can cost an arm and a leg. These are also largely unnecessary if you take to heart some of the other tips above. Protein supplements are only recommended to those who have special protein needs. Real food tastes better, anyways.