Choosing a diet high in protein is a good step towards reaching your weight loss goals. Protein makes your metabolism work faster, and helps you to improve muscle mass, both of which greatly contribute to more effective weight management. When you’re trying to lose weight, you should aim to eat about 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight each day.
It often seems hard to get lots of protein when you’re following a vegetarian diet, or if you’re just trying to cut down on meat. But in actual fact, there are plenty of great vegetarian foods that will give you all the protein you need, and keep you feeling strong, energised, and better equipped to reach your goals.
Here are some of our favourite vegetarian sources of protein…
Whole grains are a good source of protein, and quinoa is one of the best. Just one cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein and nine grams of fibre. Plus, unlike a lot of vegetarian sources of protein, quinoa contains all the essential amino acids, making it a ‘complete protein.’ You can cook quinoa just like rice (though it usually cooks more quickly) and use it as a base for a whole range of dishes. Other good whole grains to add into your diet plan for protein are brown rice, barley and whole grain bread- and most of these can be bought fairly cheaply.
Lentils, or any other beans, legumes or peas, are
great sources of protein, and can be cooked in many different ways, adding
tasty flavour to any meal. One cup of cooked lentils contains about 18 grams of
protein, as well as a large amount of dietry fibre, folate and vitamin B1. It’s
not surprising that lentils are often considered a staple of the vegetarian
diet! But if you need more variety, try black beans, kidney beans, soybeans,
chickpeas, split peas etc.
Tofu and tempeh
Tofu and tempeh are protein-rich foods made from soy, which are fortified with loads of essential nutrients including calcium, iron and vitamin B12. Tofu can be cooked in a lot of different ways, mixed with different flavours, and its texture makes it a good replacement for meat in a lot of meals. Half a cup of tofu contains 10 grams of protein- so try adding it to your stir-fry, pasta sauce, soups or salads.
Soy milk or yoghurt
If you don’t eat dairy, or just want to cut down, soy is a great alternative. It adds a unique flavour and gives you a lot of extra vitamins and protein- a cup of soy milk contains about 7 grams. Nowadays, soy is becoming a popular choice, so you should have no trouble finding great soy products at the supermarket, from soy milk, to all kinds of delicious low-fat soy yoghurt and even ice-cream.
There are plenty of protein-rich nuts, including peanuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts, as well as seeds such as sesame and sunflower. While nuts are quite high in fat and shouldn’t be consumed too heavily, they do make a good, energising snack once in a while, especially after a workout. You can also try using nut butters (peanut, soy nut, cashew nut) to get a little extra protein from your spreads- two tablespoons of peanut contains about 8 grams of protein.
Veggie burgers and seitan
Meat substitutes are becoming more and more popular. You can now choose between a whole range of meat substitute products, from burgers and sausages, to deli slices and mince. Most commercial meat substitutes are made from soy protein, wheat protein, or a combination of the two. So the average veggie patty will give you about 10 grams of protein, while 100 grams of homemade seitan will give you 21 grams. You can use these to replace meat in a whole range of meals, and it means you won’t have to be left out at barbeques.
So whether you’re following a vegetarian diet, or just trying to cut back on your consumption of meat, these tasty options give you plenty of ways to get the recommended daily intake of protein, giving you the strength and energy you need to support your body through your weight loss plans.
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