One of the first concerns people show over vegetarianism is dietary intake of protein. Funnily enough, this is one of the last things a vegetarian has to worry about. There are many protein-rich, vegetarian-friendly foods out there that most people already eat! In fact, most vegetarians exceed their protein intake thanks to how protein-rich many vegetables and legumes are.
Protein is not only found in meat. The true concern for most vegetarians is the endless search for a vegetarian-friendly source of the Vitamin B complex. Many B Vitamins come exclusively from meat, including the ever-important Vitamin B 12. Eggs can be a source of Vitamin B12, although this vitamin is commonly lacking in vegetarians and vegans. It usually has to be supplemented with supplements or foods with VItamin B12 added in.
So – have no fear about getting protein into your vegetarian diet! Here are some protein-rich foods to include in your every-day meal preparation.
This soybean creation is a perfect addition to soups, salads, and fry-ups. It has a somewhat meaty-like texture and is rich in protein. It’s easy to prepare because it doesn’t have a strong flavor. Rather, it soaks up the flavors of whatever you add to it.
Tofu comes in firm and silken varieties. Firm tofu is best used for frying and to toss through salads for its chewy texture. SIlken varieties can be used in pudding, to make “vegetarian meatballs”, or to blend through smoothies.
2. Legumes – Beans & Lentils
Legumes should be a staple part of any vegetarian diet. Aside from being rich with protein, they are also filling and versatile foods. They are also rich in fiber, making them very nutritious and of course – delicious! Legumes, like tofu, are extremely versatile. Use them to make home-made burritos or tacos, make them a filling for a veggie patty, cool and toss through salad, or stir through a soup to make it heartier.
If you’re using canned beans, there’s not much preparation time, either! If you’re cooking your beans or chickpeas from scratch, you can prepare a big batch for use throughout the week.
Eggs are a bit of a controversy when it comes to vegetarianism. While some vegetarians don’t agree with the world of eggs, there are many who still eat them. Eggs are one of the best sources of protein and Vitamin B12 for vegetarians. Egg yolks are rich with antioxidants, and best of all, eggs are filling! Eggs might not be the best option for those trying to minimize cholesterol, but overall, eggs are important dietary inclusions for those abstaining from meat.
4. Nuts & Nut Butters
This is my personal favorite. Who doesn’t love a good nut butter? For some reason, plenty of people think that peanut butter is bad for you! But it’s not! Just a handful of nuts gives vegetarians a protein-boost, and nut butters are one of the most delicious ways to enjoy nuts. When shopping for nut butter, choose those that have a very basic ingredient list. Avoid nut butters with high salt or sugar content. If you can’t find a good nut butter in your area, they are extremely easy to make at home. Simply blend your favorite nuts with a pinch of salt and honey. The fats will come oozing out of the nuts and create a delicious, oily, protein-rich butter that you can be spread onto toast in the morning.
5. Greek Yogurt
To all the yogurt lovers out there: did you know that the thicker, creamier, greek yogurt contains more protein than normal yogurt? It’s a perfect addition to granola or cereal in the morning, and can be enjoyed as a sweet dish or with savoury foods. Add a couple of tablespoons to soups to thicken, dollop on top of curries, or enjoy neat with some fruit and honey!
This list isn’t comprehensive. There are many foods out there rich with proteins that vegetarians can enjoy. Hemp seed oil, tempeh, spelt flour and nutritional yeast are all protein-rich, vegetarian-friendly foods. In all fairness, protein should be the last worry on a vegetarian’s mind!