I have been a vegetarian my whole life. When I tell people, the first thing they ask is if I get enough protein in my diet. Meat tends to have a lot of protein, but there are many substitutes for proteins if you are a vegetarian. Here are some that I frequently include in my diet!
- Chickpea/garbanzo beans
This substitute for protein tastes great hot or cold. It can be added to a variety of meals, including hummus, soup, salad and more. They also have carbohydrates, which is another essential macronutrient. One cup of chickpeas has around 39 grams of protein, and while this is less than the protein content of meat, chickpeas are a healthier alternative to highly processed meats. Chickpeas are packed with other nutrients like fiber, potassium, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. Chickpeas also have no cholesterol, unlike meat. I have been eating more hummus lately, which comes in different flavors and can be eaten with bread or pita.
- tofu and paneer
Paneer and tofu taste very similar but are made differently. Paneer is a milk product and tofu is a soy product. Paneer also has a high fat content. 100 grams of paneer has about 23 grams of protein and the same amount of tofu has 8 grams of protein. Paneer is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and more. Tofu contains all nine essential amino acids (these aren’t made by the body, so you have to include them in your diet) and other minerals.
- Kidney beans
100 grams of kidney beans has 8.7 grams of protein. Kidney beans, like chickpeas, can be added to salads and chili. Kidney beans also have many other minerals like iron and manganese.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts and more can be bought separately or in a trail mix, which makes a very healthy snack! More information about the nutritional values of these nuts can be found here.
Below is a recipe for a Mediterranean Chickpea salad that my family makes often!
- 1 ½ cups of home cooked chickpeas or 1 can of chickpeas (unsalted)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients, cook on medium heat and stir often.
Vegetables for salad:
- 1 cup chopped cucumber
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 1/2 cup parsley OR 1/4 cup cilantro
- Lettuce – 6 to 7 leaves for plating
Combine the chickpeas and the vegetables to make the salad! Add dressing and croutons as desired.
Vegetarian diets do tend to contain less protein. But this is not a problem because there are many substitute options! The recipe above is a very easy recipe to follow, and it is delicious too! There are lots of recipes like this one that ensure you are getting the recommended amount of protein in your daily diet.