Going meatless? Whether it’s a lifestyle choice or you simply observe Meatless Monday for health or budget reasons, make sure you’re getting enough protein in your vegetarian meals. When you remove meat from your favorite recipes, it’s too easy to fill up on excess carbohydrates or fats. Instead, start adding these vegetarian staples to your dinner plate.
You’re already a pro at cooking with various types of beans, but have you ventured into legumes? Lentils and chickpeas are just as easy to work with and add a new flavor to your palette. Use them as you would beans or ground meat. For example, season mashed, cooked lentils with cumin as a stuffing for enchiladas. Or, add a can of chickpeas to a pot of soup to add fat-free protein to the dish.
This vegetarian staple is made from soybeans and packs a powerful protein punch. Add cubes of tofu to a stew or saute it with vegetables and serve it over rice for a nutritionally-balanced meal. Try getting creative with tofu in your blender. Soft, silken tofu combines well with a splash of honey, fresh fruit, and soy milk when making a quick smoothie for breakfast.
Most people don’t realize whole grains are rich in protein. Peek at the nutrition data on the back of a package of brown rice, quinoa, or steel cut oats. These are great as side dishes, the base for a cold salad, or as the filler for meatless versions of popular dinner items, such as meatloaf or vegetarian taco salad.
Snacks are a great way to add extra vitamins and protein to a vegetarian diet. A handful of raw almonds or a dollop of peanut butter on a plate of apple slices is a great way to boost your nutrition. Or, try adding nuts to vegetarian meals. Experiment with slivered almonds on steamed green beans, chopped walnuts in a salad, or blending pecans in a fruit smoothie.
Finally, the quickest vegetarian breakfast you can grab is yogurt. Pick a natural Greek-style to really pack on the protein and avoid added sugars, artificial food coloring, and synthetic flavorings. Top the cup of yogurt with raw oats, chopped nuts, fresh fruit cubes and you’re set for the morning. Yum!
Not sure how much protein you need to get out of your vegetarian meals each day? Talk with your family physician for guidelines. Pregnant or lactating women and athletes need more protein than other women.