First, listen to my Green Divas Foodie-Phile segment—I dispel the myth of ‘not getting enough protein as a vegetarian, and shares some great vegetable-based protein sources. And hear GD Meg talk about making avocado brownies for Dr. Oz as an illustration of surprising sources of protein! Then read on for more info and another one of my Foodie-Phile segments…
A question I receive constantly as the registered dietitian on staff with Meatless Monday is:
“Can I get enough protein if I’m not eating meat?”
And the answer is a resounding yes! Whether you’re just participating in Meatless Monday one day a week, or you are a full-time vegetarian or vegan, there’s a bounty of meatless protein choices to choose from.
Protein is an essential macronutrient—it helps us build and repair our body tissues. But protein deficiency is extremely rare among healthy adults in the U.S. In fact, most of us are consuming way more protein that we need. Although protein needs vary by body size, the average Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.
Go ahead and wager a guess as to how much protein we’re actually consuming on a day to day basis…I’ll wait!
According to the most recent data, American men consume an average of 102 grams daily and women consume about 70 grams. That’s close to double what we need! What’s more, 80% of the protein we consume comes from meat, which is a shame considering all the other healthy sources of protein that are available.
Choosing meatless sources of protein is not only a healthy dietary choice—it’s also a great choice for the planet.
As an example, it takes five times more water to produce one gram of protein from beef as compared to the water it takes to produce a gram of protein from a legume. Read more about the environmental impact of meat in my post, 3 Ways Going Meatless Monday Benefits the Environment.
And listen to my Foodie-Phile podcast segment on the subject below:
As you probably know, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein.
They’re also low in sodium and packed with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. But don’t stop there! Many vegetables are surprisingly good sources of protein, too, including leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, seaweed, artichokes and Brussels sprouts. And don’t forget whole grains—many varieties, such as quinoa and spelt, pack in about 6 grams of protein per half cup serving.
Ready to take a protein-packed meatless recipe for a spin? Try this Shiitake Pomegranate Spelt Salad, from Karen of Sprouts in the Hood. It packs a whopping 21 grams of protein, including 6 grams from the spelt. Mushrooms lend 2 grams of protein per serving, plus their signature umami flavor, so you won’t even be missing the meat!
- 1 cup mung beans
- 2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups spelt
- 1 pomegranate, seeded
- 1 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
- white truffle oil, to taste
- olive oil, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Soak the mung beans overnight. Rinse, then drain.
- Soak again and repeat, draining twice per day for 2-3 days. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Place the spelt in 3 cups of water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Boil for 30 minutes, or until the spelt is cooked through. Drain.
- Prepare a sauté pan with a light coating of olive oil or nonstick cooking spray. Place the sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the sliced shiitake mushrooms and sauté for 3-5 minutes, or until the shiitakes become tender.
- Mix the cooked spelt, pomegranate seeds, sprouted mung beans and sauteed shiitake mushrooms together in a large bowl.
- Serve the salad in 4 equal portions on salad plates. Top each serving with chopped pistachios. Lightly dress with oil to preference. Toss, season with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.