When one thinks of protein, steak, eggs, or chicken might come to mind. But suppose you’re not a big meat eater and are a vegetarian or, well, an eggetarian. In that case, you have other options to make sure you get the recommended amount of protein that your body needs. Protein is a macronutrient and the building block of your body. It gives about 4Kcal of energy for every gram of intake and is essential to our diet. In addition, diets rich in protein promote muscle strength, satiety and weight loss.
A common concern about vegetarian diets is that they might lack sufficient protein. However, talking to experts clarifies that a well-planned vegetarian diet provides you with all the nutrients you need. Not just this, certain plant foods contain significantly more protein than others. What most of us don’t realise is that protein doesn’t just come from animal-based foods. Many plants are, in fact, extremely high in protein, too.
How much protein do you need daily?
Please remember that it is dependent on other factors like age, activity level or whether you are recovering from any chronic illness. We suggest you talk to a nutritionist from a reputed platform like HealthifyMe to determine your exact daily protein requirement.
So, if you’re planning to increase your protein intake but are vegetarian and think that’s going to be a problem – don’t worry. You can still get the nutrients from a regular diet. In addition, a diet rich in the goodness of whole plant foods can also lower the risk for many chronic illnesses.
Now let’s take a look at some of the 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 almonds overnight and break your fast with them. If you forget soaking almonds overnight, start your day with a few walnuts for the protein boost you need. In addition, they help control the portion size during breakfast since most vegetarian breakfasts are usually high in calories.
Along with protein content, the cherry on the top is the micronutrients and minerals that come with it! Nuts are antioxidant powerhouses that are low in carbs and a great source of countless other nutrients.
2. More curd/Yoghurt
The next tip is to add more home-set curd/yoghurt to your breakfast. In addition to increasing your protein intake, homemade curd helps you by the correct quantity 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 macro-nutrients.
3. Legumes and Lentils Dosa
Dosa is the perfect breakfast, and it is fancied by many. So, if you’re fond of dosa, replacing rice or Rava dosa with pesarattu or adai dosa would be just perfect for you! Pesrattu or adai usually consists of many mixed legumes. In addition, mixing a few green leafy vegetables like spinach, methi, coriander, onion, garlic, and green chillies with the batter can make it more wholesome. Finally, you can add a bowl of curd to make your breakfast even more protein-rich.
Not just breakfast, it can also be taken as any other meal like dinner, or even as a quick snack! Kids love them too because they are tasty and quick-eats.
4. Healthy Toast
Toast and butter are something we’re all familiar with, but it’s time to get creative with your toast without putting in too much effort or time.
Some yummy and healthy options include paneer bhurji with toast or even paneer toast. If you’re not a big fan of dairy, we’ve got you sorted too! Dip your bread slice in a batter made of besan, throw in some spices and veggies, and toast it on a pan instead of frying it, and boom! You have your simple, creative, yummy and healthy breakfast ready!
5. Protein-rich staple meal
Many of us don’t realise that by consuming a typical Indian vegetarian meal, we’re already getting a sufficient amount of protein. Proteins consist of 20 essential amino acids, of which the body cannot make 9. So, it would help if you had a protein-rich diet to get the complete protein intake that your body needs. When a food item has 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 missing in grains like rice. But, on the other hand, grains contain cysteine and methionine, which are missing in legumes. So, having grains with lentils and legumes is the simplest way to get all the essential amino acids, making your meal a complete protein meal. Some go-to meal options that have all essential amino acids, include khichadi, Pongal and even rajma rice. Add some vegetables in your khichadi to make it a powerhouse of nutrients, and get an accompaniment of raita by the side for a simple, quick dinner option.
6. Add in some sprouts
You can add sprouting legumes like green moong, black chana, lobia, rajma, cowpeas, horse gram, green peas or any legume that you like. Creatively adding sprouts is an effortless and effective way to improve the amino acid profile of your meals. Keeping sprouts handy is hence an excellent idea. You can add them to poha or any rice preparation to get the added protein benefit 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 the roasted lentils like moong chana, toor, masoor and even legumes. Powder them into a flour consistency, and then you can add a tablespoon or two to your chapati dough or even to millet flour roti mix. You can also add a tablespoon or two of it to buttermilk for a great post-workout drink. If you’re craving something sweet, you can also go ahead and make pancakes out of this flour! It is great to mix them into semi-solid grains as a starter food for your babies as well.
8. Paneer, Mushroom and Peanuts!
Having a small snack handy is excellent to give you that energy boost in the second half of the day. Sautéing some paneer or mushrooms, and boiling peanuts and giving them a chaat twist are some great options for this.
Having a tiny snack increases your protein intake. It also helps manage your portion size for dinner as a snack reduces the gap between meals, effectively reducing hunger and cravings.
9. Have some seeds
Having seeds like sunflower, hemp, chia, sabza, pumpkin, garden cress, and melon increases your protein intake; it also helps with increasing your intake of micronutrients and minerals, fats, fibre, magnesium, selenium, etc. You can add them to your soups, salads, porridge and even to halwa.
In addition to helping with your weight loss journey, they also help improve skin and hair health along with managing hormonal fluctuations and, very importantly, preventing constipation.
Having nut butter handy and adding it to smoothies, having them with fruit or as a dip, 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 saviour.
10. Vegetable salad and soup
Adding seeds, nuts like almonds and walnuts, soaked lentils and sprouts is a great way to enrich your soup and salad with protein. Soups are easy to prepare, and vegetables and dal combinations like moong, toor, masoor, etc., make soups tasty and a high-protein option. Adding lentils thickens the soup without affecting the taste yet increasing your protein intake.
To sum it up, vegetarian diets are not protein deficient. Seeds, nuts, nut butter, dairy, legumes, mushrooms and peas are some of the best vegetarian protein sources. Protein-rich vegetarian diets need to be well-planned. None of this is hard; all it takes is a little bit of effort and time!
During monsoons and winters especially, please pay attention to consuming a high-protein diet. Add sprouts and peas to all your meals to cut down on cravings and get the right amount of nutrition from your meals. Thus, it manages your body weight and blood sugar levels during these times, when your body craves fried snacks and savouries.