A few days ago a friend asked me how I get enough protein if I don’t eat meat. I gave her short list of ideas until I was able to write this post. Since I stopped eating meat about two months ago, I have found that it has been pretty easy to incorporate enough protein in my diet and I am actually discovering many new foods as the result.
So here ya go food lovers…my list of meatless protein for everyone to enjoy:
Beans/legumes – This is one of my favorite sources of protein since they are so easy to incorporate into meals. I use canned beans for convenience most of the time. When I have time I soak and boil dried beans. This is a good method because then I can control the salt amounts as well as add all the garlic and cayenne I want. Yum! A lot of the time for lunch I make a homemade burrito bowl and bring it to work. I just throw beans, quinoa, salsa, lettuce, sliced peppers, and cheese in a Tupperware container and warm it up. Almost as good as Chipotle!
Whole grains – I loooove discovering new grains and rice blends to cook with. Quinoa is my favorite. It is a complete protein meaning that it contains an adequate portion of all nine essential amino acids. Millet is similar in taste, texture and cooking time. It is not a complete protein but it can be prepared with food that is high in lysine (such as lentils or eggs) in order to make it a complete protein. Trader Joe’s sells an awesome Harvest Grains Blend. The blend contains couscous, red and green orzo, garbanzo beans, and red quinoa. It’s super delish and you can’t tell me that all those different grains aren’t pretty in the bag.
Nuts/seeds – Nuts make for a great snack and are easy to carry around with you. I often keep a container of salt free almonds at my desk for when I have a snack attack. Chia seeds are my favorite way to get some protein in my breakfasts. We have all heard of chia… “ch ch ch chia!” Yes, the same seeds that can grow you your President Obama/Homer Simpson/Tweety Bird chia pet also pack a protein punch. I usually blend chia seeds into my green monsters or stir them into my oatmeal. They don’t really taste like anything and blend into food really well, so it’s a super easy way of getting in the protein.
Nut butter – Peanuts are not the only nut we can use to make nut butter with. I absolutely LOVE trying new nut butters and even creating some of my own. The ways to use nut butter are endless. I like adding a teaspoon to my green monsters and oatmeal for added flavor, and nothing is better then a classic PB&J sandwich. With different nut butters your PB&J’s can become AB&J’s or BB&J’s (Almond Butter and Brazil nut Butter…yes it exists!) Sunflower seed butter is currently my favorite. I totally recommend going to your local health food store and just experimenting with the flavors.
Eggs – They are a complete protein meaning that contain all of the essential amino acids. I buy my eggs from a local farmer’s market every few weeks, and have talked to the farmer and checked out his website to ensure that he has happy and healthy chickens. To those of you in the Northern Va area, the farmer’s market in Old Town, Alexandria is open year round on Saturdays, 5:30 to 11:00 am.
Tofu and soy products – I tend to limit my tofu intake to once or twice a week, if that. There is some controversy surrounding the effects of soy and it’s link to breast cancer. Since the debate is still out on this, I choose to eat it in smaller portions. But I do really enjoy making crispy tofu and using it as my protein option for supper. Also, the leftovers make for an awesome lunch.
Fruits and veggies – Of course fruits and veggies contain protein as well. While protein is found in smaller amounts, when paired with other foods you can ensure a nice balance of all the nutrients your body needs.
A simple meal for my meat-eater and I is stir fry. I cut up all the veggies and meat/tofu and use two different skillets to cook up our grub. Stir fry is great because you can add all the veggies, beans, nuts, and grains you want to create a totally nutritious and tasty supper.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. There are many more meatless protein options out there. Maybe I will talk about more in a Part II post. If nothing else, I hope you can discover new foods and new cooking methods you would like to try. Also, I am not a registered dietician or a nutritionist, so if you are thinking about changing your diet or even eliminating meat from your diet, do your research.
Experiment with food and find out what works for your body and routine. At the end of the day, it’s all about feeling good and being healthy. So eat up and get your cook on. I’m off to eat my
Chipotle Taylor-made burrito bowl!