How to Get Enough Protein on a Vegetarian Diet
Most people believe that it can be hard to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet. Not true! According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarian diets can be healthy and nutritionally adequate if they are designed to include all the essential nutrients.
In fact, it is possible to meet your protein needs on a vegetarian diet if you eat a variety of food including lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, soy products, nuts, and seeds. For people who choose to eat eggs or dairy products, they would also be getting an excellent source of protein.
What’s the difference between animal and plant protein?
Proteins are made of small building blocks called amino acids. Proteins from animal sources are considered “complete proteins” since they contain all the essential amino acids the body needs to function properly. On the other hand, most plant-based foods are considered “incomplete proteins” since they don’t contain all the essential amino acids your body needs.
The good news is that if you combine legumes (beans, peas, lentils, etc.) with grain products (rice, oats, corn, etc.), you will get the full range of amino acids to create complete proteins. For example, red beans and rice; hummus and pita bread, or quinoa and black bean casserole.
Tips to get more vegetable protein in your diet:
- Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal and add ¼ cup of almonds or pumpkin seeds.
- Add tempeh or tofu to boost protein content of soups or stews.
- Add chickpeas, lentils or black beans to your soup or salad at lunch.
- Try quinoa instead of pasta or rice. It’s more nutritious and contains 4 g of proteins per ½ cup.
Are you following a vegetarian or vegan diet and you’re not sure if you’re meeting your protein needs? A registered dietician can help you plan vegetarian meals to ensure that you get optimal protein in your diet.
Jennifer Mikhael, P.Dt., nutritionist for Zero Diet
The Zero Diet brand is first and foremost the conviction that healthy eating is a primary factor to attaining a healthy weight and a balanced lifestyle. Thus, we offer nutrition counselling with nutritionists who are members of the OPDQ with our Zero Diet nutrition program in our centers and in companies. We have also developed a healthy frozen food product line that fulfills rigorous nutritional criteria as well as two healthy Zero Diet cookbooks.
Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19562864
Dietitians of Canada, 2016. Eating Well For Vegetarian Athletes. http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Sports-Nutrition-(Adult)/Eating-Well-for-Vegetarian-Athletes.aspx