Is there enough protein in a vegetarian diet?

You can easily cover your protein bases on a veggie diet

Lite n’ Easy dietitian, Melissa Holloway dispels the myth about protein in vegetarian foods and how we can get enough every day.

Vegetarian food is moving into the mainstream, and that’s something as a dietitian, I’m feeling excited about!  A well-balanced vegetarian diet naturally includes more plant-based foods which we know are brilliant for our health.  However, people often avoid vegetarian food thinking it doesn’t contain enough protein.

 

We need protein but not as much as we think.

 

Protein is an essential part of our diet.  Among its many roles, it is needed to maintain our muscle stores. Plus, it has a role in maintaining healthy skin and in carrying oxygen in the bloodstream around our body, just to name a few. Despite its importance, we don’t actually need as much as people think.

 

While vegetarian foods don’t contain as much protein as meat, it doesn’t mean you won’t get enough protein from vegetarian food.

 

We tend to focus on protein in our dinner meals, and go for ‘the more the better’.  However, protein from a large T-bone steak won’t all be used as protein in your body. It’s more useful for your body to spread your total protein intake in meals across the day rather than all at once, and eat it in smaller amounts.

 

How much protein do we need in a day?

 

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that the average person should have 1 to 3 serves of protein foods per day. And that it should be from a variety of foods (including plant foods!) For the average meat eater, 3 serves of protein a day could look something like this:

  • Two eggs on toast at breakfast
  • A sandwich at lunch with chicken and salad
  • Mixed nuts as a snack
  • A palm-sized portion of steak at night

 

And for a vegetarian, 3 serves could look like this:

  • Two eggs on toast at breakfast
  • A vegetarian curry at lunch with lentils, chickpeas and rice
  • Mixed nuts as a snack
  • A stir fry with salt and pepper tofu at night

 

As you can see, sufficient protein in a vegetarian diet doesn’t look wildly different to sufficient protein in a non-vegetarian diet.

 

So what’s the real benefit of vegetarian food?

 

Focusing on just one nutrient in food and whether it’s the best source or not means that we ignore all of the other important health-boosting nutrients that foods provide.

 

Legumes

Legumes for example not only provide plant-based protein, but are a brilliant source of fibre (meat can’t do that!). Plus, they’re a healthy source of carbohydrates and, like meat, contain iron and B vitamins. Not to mention they taste great with fetta in a salad (check out our filling Chickpea, Sweet Potato & Feta Salad). And it works beautifully in a bold curry like our Thai Yellow Vegetable Curry or the Moroccan Pumpkin & Chickpeas with Pilaf Rice.

 

Eggs

Eggs are a versatile and filling source of protein that can be enjoyed at any time with any meal throughout the day. Try our protein-rich veggie options for breakfast like the Eggs with Baby Spinach and Fetta on Ciabatta or the Eggs with Cherry Tomatoes, Avo & Fetta on toast. Try our Curried Egg Spread and Baby Leaf on a multigrain roll for lunch. Or the Egg, Avocado & Crispy Ranch Salad for dinner.

 

Tofu

Tofu is made from soy beans, and is a great source of protein and iron. It’s also contains calcium, so it’s a nutritious alternative to meat. It’s slightly spongy texture means it absorbs lots of flavour from a dish. We’ve made tofu the star in our meals. Including the Honey Soy Tofu & Vegetables, Shredded Tofu with Quinoa & Cranberry Slaw, and the Vegetarian Special Fried Rice.

 

Nuts

Nuts also provide protein, but also healthy fats to keep your heart health in check.  We use nuts in some of our salads and they are included as an afternoon snack across our 1200 and 1500 menus.

 

Moral of the story

 

Meat can absolutely be part of a healthy diet, but it’s not the only source of protein. Vegetarian foods like tofu, legumes, eggs and dairy provide enough protein in meals. When a variety of these foods are included they can provide added health benefits, while still pumping up those muscles!

 

Lite n Easy’s chefs and dietitians have worked hard to create a vegetarian menu that tastes great! Plus, it meets the mark when it comes to a healthy vegetarian diet. We have ensured that there is plenty of protein in our meals and that it comes from a wide range of foods.

 

Why Lite n’ Easy?

Lite n’ Easy’s exciting new vegetarian menu contains all the goodness of our popular meal plans, minus the meat! This new offering makes it easy to live a healthy flexitarian or vegetarian lifestyle, with nutritious and great-tasting meals delivered straight to your door. Lite n’ Easy has done all the nutritional heavy lifting for you, producing a vegetarian meal plan that includes a great range of nutritious plant foods that bring you all the benefits of vegetarian eating. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or order online now.

 

Melissa Holloway is an Accredited Practising Dietitian with extensive experience across a range of industries including aged care, elite sport and in hospitals. She is passionate about ensuring people have access to not only fresh and healthy food options but also that people get to choose food that they truly enjoy. As a mum, Melissa loves preparing healthy and delicious food for her family.