NUTRITION

Vegetarian Protein Needs

How to meet protein needs while following a vegetarian diet

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By Linzy Ziegelbaum

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Did you know that there are different types of vegetarians? There are lacto-ovo vegetarians, lacto vegetarians, and vegans.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians: do not eat meat, poultry or seafood.

Lacto vegetarians: do not eat meat, poultry, seafood or eggs

Vegans: do not eat meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy or honey.

With these dietary restrictions, it can be hard for vegetarians to meet their protein needs. The dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein is .8g/Kg of body weight. However, protein needs vary depending on a person’s age, activity level, and whether or not they have any medical conditions. In order for vegetarians to meet their protein needs, it is important for them to understand what foods are sources of vegetarian proteins.

I recommend including protein at every meal. Beans and legumes including lentils, bean varieties, bean dips, roasted chickpeas, and peanuts are all great protein sources. Nuts, seeds, and nut and seed butters are also great protein sources. Other vegetarian sources include soy foods (such as tofu), quinoa, vegetable burgers, and bean based pastas.

For vegetarians that include dairy and eggs in their diets, milk, greek yogurt, and eggs are also great sources of protein. Some milk and yogurt alternatives are also good sources of protein, however it is important to read all nutrition facts labels, as some alternatives are not protein sources. By using this list of protein options, it is easy to add protein at every meal.

Ways to add more vegetarian proteins to your diet

Beans, lentils and bean and lentil dips: Add beans or lentils to a salad, or combine beans with some avocado to make a delicious bean salad. Chickpeas are very versatile and can be roasted and enjoyed as a snack, made into hummus, or mashed up and served with toast for a mashed chickpea sandwich.

Nuts, seeds and nut and seed butters: Think beyond peanut butter. Almond butter, walnut butter, sunflower seed butter, and cashew butter are all delicious protein sources. Try them on top of toast, a waffle, a banana, an apple or in a smoothie. Nuts and seeds are great on their own, on top of yogurt, yogurt alternatives, oatmeal or salads.

Tofu: Tofu can be prepared many ways using many different sauces. Try making a tofu stir fry using your favorite vegetables and brown rice.

Quinoa: Quinoa is technically a seed, but eaten the same way grains are. Make a quinoa salad adding your favorite beans and vegetables, or enjoy quinoa the same way you would a hot cereal.

Bean based pastas: Did you know that there are pastas made out of chickpeas, black beans, lentils or edamame? These pastas are great sources of protein, and can enjoyed any way you would enjoy a wheat based pasta.

Whether you or a vegetarian or not, these plant based protein sources are great protein staples to add to any diet!

Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.

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