When thinking about protein, steak, eggs or chicken might come to mind. But suppose you’re not a big meat eater and you’re a vegetarian or, well, an eggetarian. In that case, you have other options to ensure the recommended amount of protein your body needs. Protein is a macronutrient and the building block of your body. It gives about 4Kcal of energy for each gram of intake and is essential for our diet. In addition, high-protein diets promote muscle strength, satiety, and weight loss.
A common concern about vegetarian diets is that they may not have enough protein. However, talking to experts makes it clear that a well-planned vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients you need. Not only that, certain plant foods contain significantly more protein than others. What most of us don’t realize is that protein doesn’t just come from animal foods. Many plants are, in fact, extremely rich in protein as well.
How much protein do you need daily?
Keep in mind that it depends on other factors such as age, activity level, or whether you are recovering from any chronic illness. We suggest you talk to a nutritionist from a renowned platform like HealthifyMe to determine your exact daily protein requirement.
So if you’re planning to increase your protein intake but you’re a vegetarian and you think this will be an issue, don’t worry. You can still get nutrients from a regular diet. In addition, a diet rich in whole plant foods can also lower your risk of many chronic diseases.
Protein-rich vegetarian foods to add to your diet
1. Start your day with nuts!
Starting your day with a handful of nuts is a great way to incorporate protein into your diet and overcome sugar cravings throughout the day. Soak the almonds overnight and break the fast with them. If you forget to soak the almonds overnight, start your day with some walnuts for the protein boost you need. Also, they help control portion size during breakfast, as most vegetarian breakfasts are usually high in calories.
Along with the protein content, the cherry on top is the accompanying micronutrients and minerals! Nuts are low-carb antioxidant powerhouses and a great source of countless other nutrients.
2. More curd/yogurt
The next tip is to add more curds/homemade yogurt to your breakfast. In addition to increasing protein intake, homemade curd helps in the correct amount of probiotics. Probiotics are good bacteria for your body, which further improves gut health and aids in digestion, absorption and assimilation of the various micro and macronutrients.
3. Legumes and Lentils Dosage
Dosa is the perfect breakfast, and is enjoyed by many. So if you like dosa, replacing rice or Rava dosa with pesoattu or adai dosa would be perfect for you! Pesrattu or adai usually consists of many mixed legumes. Also, mixing some green leafy vegetables like spinach, methi, cilantro, onion, garlic and green pepper with the pasta can make it healthier. Finally, you can add a bowl of curd to make your breakfast even richer in protein.
In addition to breakfast, it can also be taken like any other meal like dinner, or even as a quick snack! Children love them too because they are tasty and quick.
4. Healthy Toast
Toast and butter is something we’re all familiar with, but it’s time to get creative with your toast without spending a lot of time or effort.
Some tasty and healthy options include paneer bhurji on toast or even paneer toast. If you’re not a big fan of dairy, we’ve got you covered too! Dip your slice of bread into a batter made from besan, add some spices and vegetables, and toast it in a pan instead of frying it, and boom! You have your simple, creative, tasty and healthy breakfast ready!
5. Protein-rich basic meal
Many of us don’t realize that by consuming a typical Indian vegetarian meal, we are already ingesting a sufficient amount of protein. Proteins consist of 20 essential amino acids, of which the body cannot produce 9. So it would help if you had a high protein diet to get the complete protein intake your body needs. When a food contains all the essential amino acids, it is called a complete protein. The biggest myth is that you can only get complete protein from animal sources.
Legumes and lentils are rich in lysine, which is lacking in grains like rice. But on the other hand, grains contain cysteine and methionine, which legumes lack. So consuming grains with lentils and legumes is the simplest way to get all the essential amino acids, making your meal a complete protein meal. Some meal options that contain all the essential amino acids include khichadi, pongal, and even rajma rice. Add some veggies to your khichadi to make it a powerhouse of nutrients, and get a side dish of raita on the side for a quick and simple dinner option.
6. Add some sprouts
You can add sprouted legumes like green moong, black chana, lobia, rajma, cowpea, horse grass, green peas or any legume you like. Creative addition of sprouts is an easy and effective way to improve the amino acid profile of your meals. Keeping sprouts on hand is therefore an excellent idea. You can add them to poha or any rice preparation for the added benefit of protein without cooking a separate dish altogether.
7. Homemade protein shakes
Are you tired of those fancy protein supplements? Then this DIY protein shake is all you need!
Mix all roasted lentils like moong chana, toor, masoor and even vegetables. Dust them into a flour consistency and then you can add a tablespoon or two to your chapati dough or even cornmeal roti mix. You can also add a tablespoon or two to buttermilk for a great post-workout drink. If you’re craving something sweet, you can also make pancakes with this flour! It’s great to mix them into semi-solid grains as a starter food for your babies too.
8. Paneer, Mushroom and Peanuts!
Having a small snack on hand is great for giving that energy boost in the second half of the day. Sauteing some paneer or mushrooms, and boiling peanuts and giving them a touch of chaat are some great options for this.
Having a small snack increases your protein intake. It also helps manage portion size for dinner as it shortens the gap between meals, effectively reducing hunger and cravings.
9. Have some seeds
Having seeds like sunflower, hemp, chia, sabza, pumpkin, watercress and melon increases your protein intake; It also helps to increase the intake of micronutrients and minerals, fats, fiber, magnesium, selenium, etc. You can add them to your soups, salads, porridges and even halwa.
In addition to helping you on your weight loss journey, they also help improve your skin and hair health, as well as manage hormonal fluctuations and, very importantly, prevent constipation.
Having nut butter on hand and adding it to smoothies, with fruit or as a sauce are good ways to get your daily dose of protein. When you don’t have access to a full kitchen, nut butter can work as a savior.
10. Salad and vegetable soup
Adding seeds, nuts like almonds and walnuts, lentils and sprouts to sauce is a great way to enrich your soup and salad with protein. The soups are easy to prepare, and the combinations of vegetables and dal like moong, toor, masoor, etc., make the soups tasty and a protein-rich option. Adding lentils thickens the soup without affecting the flavor, but increases your protein intake.
To summarize, vegetarian diets are not protein deficient. Seeds, nuts, nut butter, dairy, legumes, mushrooms and peas are some of the best sources of vegetarian protein. Protein-rich vegetarian diets need to be well planned. None of this is difficult; just a little effort and time!
Especially during monsoons and winters, pay attention to consuming a high protein diet. Add sprouts and peas to all your meals to curb cravings and get the right amount of nutrition from your meals. Thus, it manages your body weight and blood sugar levels during those times when your body craves crisps and fried snacks.