Mushroom risotto. Pumpkin and feta toastie. Eggplant parmigiana. Field mushroom burger.
Any vegetarian out there will tell you these are the staple vego items on a standard menu. Seeing these dishes every where makes us think they are great alternatives to meat containing dishes, but this is not the case.
When swapping out meat for a non-meat option you want to ensure you still have adequate protein in a meal. Mushrooms, eggplants, and other popular roast vegetables are low in protein, they contain on average only 2 grams of protein per serve. So you can go from having 25g of protein to 10g protein in a meal if swapping out for these options.
Why should we care about the protein in our meals? Surely we are getting enough over the course of a day?
Our body requires protein across the whole day, and it isn’t good at storing protein for use later. The protein we eat doesn’t like waiting around to be needed. No, our body will quickly get rid of excess protein if it’s not used. So we have to ensure there is a nice constant supply ready to be transformed into muscle tissue, immune cells, enzymes etc.
Protein in our meals is also important to help us to stay fuller for longer, avoiding hunger cravings later on in the day, and can aid in blood sugar maintenance and weight loss. Ideally, we want to eat at least 20 grams of protein at a main meal. 10 to 15 grams is not going to cut it.
Good vegetarian protein sources:
Eggs – Two at a meal will provide 12 grams of protein
Dairy – Whether it’s a cup of milk, tun of yoghurt, or a few slices of cheese, these will all provide you with 8-15 grams of protein.
Soy curd/ tofu – 150 grams contains 12 grams of protein
Textured vegetable protein – ½ a cup will give you 12 grams of protein
Legumes and beans – One cup contain approximately 12 grams protein
Grains - One cup of cooked grains can provide 5-8 grams of protein
Nuts and seeds – One handful of nuts contains 6.5 grams of protein
If you are ventruing into a more plant-based way of eating include one of these sources of protein in every meal to ensure you aren’t missing out. Next time you are perusing through a menu for vegetarian options, look for tofu, frittatas, and falafel on the menu instead.