I have been fully vegetarian for about five months now. So many positive changes appeared in my health after making this decision: my nails grew stronger and faster, my energy levels increased, and I ultimately feel so much more positively about my body. One concern I hear a lot from people struggling to adapt to this lifestyle is the stigma around the scary P-word: protein.
There seems to be a common misconception in the United States that sufficient protein can only be found in meat, fish, and other animal products. The reality is, protein is an extremely versatile nutrient found in everything from seeds and lentils, to breads and eggs. Even better, many of these protein sources can be dressed up or dressed down, depending on which meal you’re cooking. Here is a compiled list of my eight favorite sources of vegetarian protein.
1: Chia Seeds. Not only is this protein source perfect for those trying to lose weight, but it can also reduce risk of heart disease. Shake a tablespoon of chia seeds into a morning berry smoothie, or sprinkle it on top of your evening salad. Chia seeds are dense and crunchy, and taste a bit like a poppy seed.
2: Boca Burgers. The only con to this tasty soy-based burger brand is that they are not available outside of North America! Boca products are also completely egg-free, and some of their products are also vegan. The burgers almost perfectly mimic the taste of a cheeseburger, a taste I found myself missing upon coming fully vegetarian. You can pick up a box at your local supermarket or club store.
3: Quinoa. There are more than 1,400 quinoa products on the market right now, so why wouldn’t you shake up your diet with some of this crunchy grain? Because quinoa is a great source of both protein and fiber, it will keep you feeling fuller longer. Quinoa is perfect for adding a touch of flavor to your salad, veggie burger, or breakfast bowl.
4: Peanut Butter. Ah, peanut butter, yet another renaissance man of protein. In a healthy portion size (about seven grams), peanut butter provides a punch of protein and several healthy fats. Consuming peanuts can also reduce heart disease, so go ahead and spread it on your toast or sandwiches. Peanut butter is also a delicious staple for any breakfast smoothie bowl.
5: Eggs. While they used to be something of a dirty word in the food industry, eggs are now admired for their nutritional benefits and metabolism-boosting proteins. An egg a day will keep your stomach full and your hunger levels low, along with hosting the fat-burning nutrient choline. Tofu scramble is one of my favorite breakfast egg dishes.
6: Chickpeas. A primary member of the legume family, chickpeas are chalk-full of energizing vitamins and minerals. They are also a great source of both fiber and protein, and can be cooked in various different forms. Enjoy a bag of flavored, cooked chickpeas, or toss them raw onto your salad to add a blast of texture.
7: Hummus. In my nineteen years on this planet so far, I have met many, many hummus fanatics. It’s something about that smooth, creamy taste that draws people in, and the endless amount of pretzels and veggies you can dip into your hummus. Hummus, a hearty mix of amino acids and lysine, is a lovely way to squeeze in some daily complete protein. Hummus is a healthy alternative to putting mustard or mayo on your sandwich, while still delivering a fluffy punch of flavor. Upon asking hummus-enthusiast Eli Ratner about his favorite hummus attributes, he replied, “Oh, what isn’t my favorite thing about hummus? Its subtly complex and satisfying flavor. Its lovely creamy texture. It is a nutritious and satisfying snack.”
8: Peas. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, green peas have always held an especially nostalgic flavor. Though they may appear measly on the outside, eight grams of green peas can supply almost 100% of your daily vitamin C. Peas make an excellent side dish when sauteed with onion and garlic, but are also perfectly filling when consumed raw.