Meet Your Protein Needs Without Meat

Thursday, October 10, 2013 2:44 PM comments (0)

Protein is an essential element of a healthy, well-balanced diet. In fact, protein makes up a large part of all your body’s cells, which is why it is so important that you get enough each day. And that’s especially true for those following a vegetarian, nearly vegetarian or vegan diet who don’t get their daily requirement from protein-rich sources like meat. The good news is that reaching your daily protein needs doesn’t mean having to include more meat or even any meat all.Vegetarian-Protein

Just how much protein do you need on a daily basis? Women need approximately 46 grams and men 56 grams of protein each day. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need to add additional protein to their diets. On average, it is recommended that they get 70 grams each day. Athletes and active individuals also require more protein based on the length, frequency and intensity of their workouts, which could mean increasing their protein intake by 50% more than a non-active man or woman.

Nearly every food contains some amount of protein but there are plenty of protein-rich, vegetarian-friendly options out there too. It might surprise you just how much protein there is in some of these healthy, meatless foods.

Jennifer Panicko, RD, LDN at NorthShore, shares some of the best veggie-friendly options to maximize daily protein intake:

  • Lentils. These pack a serious protein punch with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup. 
  • Greek yogurt. All dairy products are good sources of protein but Greek yogurt kicks it up a notch with approximately 20 grams per 6-ounce serving.
  • Chickpeas. There are 8 grams of protein per serving of chickpeas. Chickpeas also happen to be the main ingredient in hummus. Put it on crackers or veggies for a high-protein snack.
  • Beans. This one won’t surprise you. Most beans—black, pinto, soy—are heavy hitters when it comes to protein, with approximately 7 to 10 grams per serving. They’re also lower in calories than meat-based proteins and have lots of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Fruits and vegetables. That’s right! They are great sources of protein as well. Avocados have about 5 grams of protein per serving and a cup of spinach has 5 grams too.
  • Eggs. Many vegetarians won’t eat eggs but for lacto-ovo vegetarians (consume dairy and eggs), they are a great source with 6 grams per egg.
  • Tempeh and Tofu. These whole soy alternatives are great sources of protein with 8-12 grams per 3-ounce serving.
  • Quinoa. This grain is a complete protein, meaning it has the same protein content and quality of an egg! This super grain packs 8 grams of protein in 1 cooked cup.

What are some of your favorite vegetarian protein sources?

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