How to Eat More Protein in Your Vegetarian Diet

Adopting a meatless diet doesn't mean missing out on protein. Whether you choose a vegetarian or vegan menu, protein is easy to find. Variety is the goal when striving for a nutritious vegetarian diet. Adding protein to a vegetarian diet is crucial because protein is a source of amino acids, which are used by every cell in the body. Of the 20 amino acids, 9 essential amino acids must be obtained from food, and vegetarians must take special care to include them in their diets.


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    Substitute soy products for meat. Soy products provide vegetarian-friendly protein and are a staple for meatless fare. Even if you follow a vegetarian diet, you can still enjoy homestyle favorites like meatloaf and gourmet dishes like chicken cacciatore--with the help of soy-based substitutes. Soy products come in a wide range of dishes, including imitation burgers, barbecue ribs, chicken patties, hot dogs, sausage links and nearly every other kind of meat dish. For convenience, choose vegetarian frozen dinners, many of which are designed to provide all the protein and other nutrients your body requires. Not only are these products vegetarian-friendly, they also add a substantial amount of protein to your diet. For even greater health benefits, try unprocessed soy such as tofu, tempeh and edamame, which can be used in a wide variety of dishes.
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    Combine foods to maximize protein content. Many foods, though nutritious, won't fulfill your protein requirements by themselves. However, if you combine them with complementary foods, you can meet your protein needs every day. Grains and beans, for example, boost your protein when you incorporate both into your diet. You don't have to eat them at the same time to reap the benefits, however. Simply including both in your diet in a 24-hour period offers the same protein boost. If you want to combine foods in a single dish, however, easy-to-make dishes include beans and rice, peanut butter and jelly, and stir-fry vegetables with tofu and rice.
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    Use protein-rich toppings. You can enhance the protein content of many dishes by adding protein-laden toppings and seasonings. Instead of sour cream, use Greek yogurt to top everything from baked potatoes to burritos. Instead of soy sauce, use liquid amino acids, which taste nearly identical and can be used to season everything from stir fry to fried rice. For a protein-dense snack, try hummus or nut butter, both of which contain all 9 essential amino acids.
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    Eat complete proteins. Some foods naturally contain all 9 essential amino acids, and adding them to your diet makes it easier to receive your daily protein requirement. Foods classified as complete protein sources include dairy, whey and eggs. Many plant-derived foods, including Spirulina, quinoa, soy, hemp seed, amaranth and buckwheat, also include complete proteins. They're easy to incorporate into many dishes, providing a wide range of vegetarian protein sources.

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Categories: Vegetarian Health | Protein