I used to think a meal with no meat was an incomplete meal. I am sure I am not the only one who has thought or thinks this. I am by no means a vegetarian but as I get older I think it is important to have a few plant based meals a week. Eating this way has also introduced me to an array of foods I wouldn’t usually eat as well as the joys of exploring new recipes. When I plan a plant based meal I like to make sure that I have a good source of protein in it to keep me full and to ensure I am satisfied!
Outlined below are my favourite healthy alternatives to animal sources of protein –
- Lentils : Lentils are a type of legume that are packed full of protein and other nutrients making them wonderful for vegans and vegetarians. Not only are they high in protein but they also contain a large amount of fibre, iron, folate and potassium whilst being low in fat. There are many different varieties of lentils on the market which are cheap, versatile and readily available. The iron content in lentils is also very beneficial for vegetarians and vegans as it is quite common for non meat-eaters to have low iron levels. Lentils contain a whopping 17grams of protein per cup!
- Quinoa : Often called a ‘superfood’ quinoa is in fact a seed not a grain which originates from South America. Quinoa pronounced Keen-Wa is a complete source of protein containing all the essential amino acids as well as various vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre whilst being gluten free. Quinoa can be prepared much like rice and can be used in a variety of ways. I like to make quinoa salads, quinoa porridge and also find it quite useful in baking as well a substitute to rice and even pasta! Quinoa contains 11grams of protein per cup!
- Nuts and seeds – Adding nuts and seeds to anyone’s diet is going to be highly beneficial, they are all considered superfoods in my eyes. Each and every one of them has a different nutrient profile however they are all extremely nutrient dense meaning you only need a small amount to reap the benefits. The following are all extremely high in protein: pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, flax seeds and sesame seeds – they are my top picks when it comes to protein content however cashews, walnuts and hazelnuts are also great additions to your diet.
- Tempe – I love tempeh however I only ever tend to eat it when I am back home in Bali as it originates from Indonesia. Tempeh and tofu are great sources of protein for vegetarians. They are both made from soybeans however in two very different ways. Tempe is made from fermenting the soy beans, the fermentation process of tempe adds an additional health benefit to eating them. The fermentation process increases the amount of vitamins such as riboflavin, vitamin B6, nicotinic acid (niacin), and pantothenic acid . Tempeh has an outstanding 20grams of protein per cup.
- Edamame – Beans in general are high in protein however edamame beans have a higher protein content than others. Edamame beans are a complete protein, providing all 9 essential amino acids. They are also high in vitamin C, fibre and calcium. Edamame beans contain 20 grams of protein per cup!
Try experimenting with eating plant based meals and including the above ingredients into your diet – even if it is only for one meal a week! I really hope this article has helped you realise that you don’t need to eat a meat source to get protein into your diet.