How to Get Enough Protein as Vegetarians
“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”– Luciano Pavarotti
I know many parents who worry about their child getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet. While it is easier to get the daily requirement of protein if your child eats eggs and chicken every day, the protein requirements can be met on a vegetarian diet as well.
Importance of Protein
Proteins, which are made up of amino acids, are the building blocks for cells and are required for almost all biological processes. They are extremely important for growth and development since they are required to build, strengthen and repair tissue. That is why children who are growing and people who exercise a lot need more protein. Proteins are also important for a healthy immune system and also for creating essential hormones and enzymes.
How much protein does your child need?
Protein requirement varies according to age and gender. Here is what experts recommend:
10 Vegetarian Sources of Protein
While for most people who eat eggs and meat, getting the daily requirement of protein is not a challenge, it is often believed that vegetarians find it difficult to meet the requirement.
The following can be included in the diet as they are great sources of protein:
100 gm of chickpea has 19 gm of protein! Chickpea is a very versatile food which can be had in a variety of ways, from making a dip (hummus), to including boiled chickpea in salads or snacks, of making the chole with rice or paratha.
100 gms of paneer has 14gm of protein. Pair it up with spinach or peas (make palak paneer or matar paneer) and you notch up the protein content even higher. Cheese also has a very high protein content and can be given to kids to snack on (taking the calories into account of course).
Lentils and pulses are also a good source of protein. Horse Gram (locally known as kulthi or gahat – read detailed article about its benefits here) is full of protein with 100gm of horse gram having 22 gm of protein!
Tofu is a great source of proteins for vegetarians. 100 gm of tofu has 8gm of protein. Tofu is also very rich in calcium, a mineral which is required for bone health.
One cup of raw, chopped mushrooms contains 2.2gm of protein (100gm mushrooms have 3.1gm protein). It also has fibre, antioxidants and minerals like potassium.
6. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are loaded with protein. The fat content is mostly unsaturated fat, or the good fat. However, you must not overdo eating nuts, since they are high in calories. Almonds, pistachios and peanuts have a high amount of protein. 10 almonds can give you approximately 2.5gm of protein. Let your child snack on sunflower seeds or flaxseeds.
Milk is a great source of protein and also calcium. While it is not ‘vegetarian’, but most vegetarians do consume milk and hence its inclusion in this list. One cup of milk (240gm) gives you 8gm of protein! Milk products like curd, yogurt, buttermilk also have a high protein content.
100 gm soybeans give you 12.3gm of protein! You may have it as the beans, or as soya chunks, make a curry or add it with rice. It is a very versatile dish and can be prepared in a variety of ways.
100 gm of green peas gives 5 gm of protein. Boil and add it to any of your curries or salad. Make a paste and use it as a spread or stuff it in parathas.
Quinoa is a superfood that is also high in protein. 100 gm of quinoa gives 4.4gm protein (one cup of cooked quinoa provides 8gm of protein). Replace white rice with quinoa or add it to soups to thicken them.
Plant based proteins have a lower digestibility and some studies suggest that people consuming only plant-based proteins may need to increase their intake by 15-20%. To get enough protein, the simple trick is to include at least one protein rich food in every meal.
Happy Healthy Eating!
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