High Protein Vegetarian Diet is a diet that is developed primarily to meet the nutritional requirements of vegetarians who do not consume animal foods that are believed to be the best sources of proteins. Protein is a very crucial macronutrient that is needed on a daily basis as it plays several vital roles in the human body. Every cell, tissue and muscle in the body is composed of proteins. Proteins form the basis of enzymes and hormones that are responsible for normal body functions. There are structural proteins, storage proteins, contractile proteins and proteins associated with immune system functions. Protein is basically needed for growth, repair and maintenance of tissues. There is a constant breakdown of different proteins in the human body and that’s the reason why they need to be ingested on a regular basis. There has been a strong misconception that vegetarians are disadvantaged as there are no good vegetarian sources of protein available to them. However, with more and more people switching to a vegetarian lifestyle due to ethical, religious or health reasons, many novel protein sources have been discovered that can be used to make the high protein vegetarian diet a reality.
High Protein Sources of the Vegetarian Diet
- Quinoa: All whole grains are good protein sources, but the highest protein content is found in Quinoa. Unlike most other vegetarian sources of protein, Quinoa is a ‘complete protein’ as it consists of all the essential amino acids. A cup of this cooked grain supplies as much as 18g of protein and 9g of fibre. Barley, whole wheat flour, oats and brown rice are other good protein rich options for both vegetarians and vegans.
- Legumes, Lentils and Beans: All beans, peas, pulses provide excellent proteins for both vegetarian and vegan. Chickpeas, black beans, lentils, chick pea hummus are foods that find their way into vegetarian and vegan meals. A cup of kidney beans provides approximately 13.4 g of proteins.
- Soy products: Soy beans, soybean milk, tofu, tempeh, and others new inventions such as soy yoghurt, soy cheese, soy nuts and even soy ice cream are all outstanding protein sources. Very often these may be fortified with other nutrients too like Vitamin B 12, Calcium and Iron which vegetarians and vegans require. While soy milk supplies 7 g protein per cup, ½ cup of tofu provides approximately 10 g protein. Soy products lend themselves to a wide variety of vegetarian and vegan preparations including soups, salads, stir fries among others.
- Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, almonds, cashew nuts, pecans, peanuts and all other nuts contain proteins. Similarly sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds also provide protein. These must be consumed in limited amounts as they are also high in fat content. As an occasional snack or post-workout snack a handful of mixed nuts provide good proteins. Kids would enjoy a peanut butter sandwich anytime and 2 tablespoons of it provide 8 g of protein.
- Meat substitutes: Soy based TVP [Textured Vegetable Protein] and Seitan (from wheat gluten) can be used as meat substitutes by vegetarians to obtain the chewy texture and feel of meats. Other than these commercial products even homemade seitan is high in protein; 21 g of protein is attained from 100g of seitan and a medium burger patty made of TVP supplies approximately 10 g of protein.
- Protein powders: Athletes and others like burn patients or those recovering from illnesses with increased protein needs can resort to using high protein powders composed of whey or soy proteins as per requirements.
- Whey Proteins: Whey is produced as a by-product during the manufacture of cheese from cow’s milk which may be used by vegetarians but not by vegans as a protein source.
High Protein Vegetarian Diet Menu Plan
- Breakfast: A high protein breakfast is the ideal beginning to a day as it provides a much needed boost to keep the system active for the first half of the day. Scrambled tofu, high protein strawberry smoothie or a baked quiche are excellent options.
- Lunch or Dinner: Indian meals often feature a combination of rice and lentils / beans and rice. Whole wheat pastas, stir-fried tofu with broccoli, Black bean and parsley Enchiladas (~35g proteins) or Quesadillas stuffed with cheese and savoury kidney bean filling (~22g proteins), Spinach, tofu and corn pizza(~21 g proteins), Walnut penne pasta (~ 13 g protein are all interesting options.
- Snacks: High protein options are Tofu Nuggets (~16 g proteins) or Seitan buffalo wings (~17 g protein)
- Soups: High protein lentil soup, Black bean and tofu soup or Asparagus and pea soup.
- Salads: High protein salads like Tri colour bean and tofu salad are high in fibre too.
These and many more such protein-rich options can easily help a vegetarian to meet his/her daily protein requirements without much difficulty.