There are so many misconceptions about the vegetarian diet and getting enough protein, most people think that after giving up meat it becomes close to impossible to meet the suggested guidelines for daily protein intake. But there are plenty of delicious and actually healthier ways to get protein without meat. When I gave up eating anything with “eyelashes” as I like to say, I found it very easy to get enough protein and stay lean and fit, it just takes a little research and adding the right things to your diet!
The USDA recommends that women get about 46 grams of protein a day and men get about 56. Of course athletes as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women require more.
With new programs like Meatless Monday, Americans are expected to eat 12 percent less meat and poultry than they did five years ago as reported by USA Today. Check out the recipes at www.meatlessmonday.com
Protein is essential to human growth, building muscle, keeping our immune system strong and our hearts and respiratory system healthy, meat-free protein has the benefit of generally being lower in calories and fat than the animal variety. There are other ways to get the protein we need in our diets.
Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian sources of protein:
Quinoa- My personal favorite, the perfect non-animal protein source in my opinion. It contains 9 essential amino acids that the human body needs. I make salads with cranberries and nuts with a fresh ginger dressing, Yummy! Protein in 1 cup of cooked quinoa (185 g) contains 8.14 grams of protein.
Spirulina- This powerhouse is packed with protein, 65-71 percent complete protein, beef is only 22%.
Hemp- This plants proteins supply you with all the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own, these acids help build muscle and create more protein in the body. Protein in Hemp Seeds, 6 g per ounce.
Chia Seeds- Not as high in protein as the others, but Hemp is very rich in fiber. Fiber is filling so it creates a feeling of being full making you eat less. Protein: 4 g per ounce
Eggs (Non Vegan) You have heard it before and with good reason, the incredible edible egg! 6 grams of protein in each egg. My Personal Tip: Try to find a local organic farmer with a smaller flock that are well cared for, fed good diets and healthy happy birds! Studies show less contamination of salmonella in smaller flocks of chickens.
Other great sources for the vegetarian diet and protein are:
Almonds- a healthy handful is about 8 grams of protein
Beans- one cup is about 15 grams of protein
Lentils- one cup is about 18 grams of protein
Plain Greek Yogurt (Non Vegan)- 15-20 grams of protein per 6 ounces
Vegetables, Kale, Spinach, Green Beans and Peas, to name a few.