Vegetarian, Vegan, Pescatarian, paleo, lacto-vegetarians… there are so many different diets out there that people will choose to live by for a variety of reasons. These could be a lifestyle choice or for ethical reasons or to benefit our environment. Whatever food choice you decide to make for whatever reason, I do not judge. As a nutritionist I am here to educate you on how to achieve and maintain the best version of you and to help guide you to ensure you are getting all the right nutrients your body needs regardless of your dietary preferences.
I don’t particularly like ‘labelling’ and I support any decisions people make about why they may want to go ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ however, a concern of mine is that some people make the decision to become ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ and forget to consider the nutrients that they may have lost from cutting out certain food groups. To address some- vitamin D, omega 3, calcium and vitamin B12, all need to be found from alternative sources.
Today I am going to talk about protein. Because protein often comes in its highest and most complete quantities when derived from animal products. Therefore if you have chosen not to consume animal meats and/ or dairy, you need to be mindful about your food choices in order to ensure you have enough protein in your diet.
In short, protein is extremely important for building and repairing the body’s tissue. Proteins are used to make hormones and enzymes, and are essential for building muscles, cartilage, bones, skin and blood cells.
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up protein and essential amino acids must be derived from food as they cannot be made by the body (unlike non-essential amino acids). ‘Complete protein’ means that it contains all of the essential amino acids; animal proteins are complete proteins and these include- meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. There are also a few non animal complete proteins which are -soy, hempseed, quinoa and buckwheat, however you are also able to pair different plant based proteins together, in order to achieve ‘complete proteins’….
- Red beans with rice
- Black beans and polenta
- hummus and seed crackers
- Chickpeas and quinoa
Making an effort to consume a variety of plant based foods (variety being the key word), like wholegrain, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, should see that you’re getting enough of the nutrients that you need.
I have a listed a few specific plant based proteins below-
Quinoa- 1 cup contains more than 8 grams of protein and includes all nine of the essential amino acids that our body needs for growth and repair. Quinoa is great of either lunch or dinner, and is flavoursome mixed with different herbs or spices and vegetables.
Beans- Black, white, soy, kidney beans etc. all contain high amounts of protein. 2 cups of kidney beans will provide us with around 26 grams of protein. I regularly have kidney beans with my dinner- mixing them with rice, lentils and plenty of veg.
Nuts and nut butter (such as peanut butter)- They are great sources of protein, and contain essential fats. I LOVE peanut butter paired with apple, or just snacking on a handful of raw almonds.
Tofu- Contains around 10 grams of protein per 100g. You can either bake of make into a stir fry with veg and noodles. Soy is also a complete protein.
Green peas- legumes are sources of plant based proteins. Green peas provide 8 grams of protein per 1 cup.