A question I receive constantly as the registered dietitian on staff with Meatless Monday is:
“Can I get enough protein if I’m not eating meat?”
And the answer is a resounding yes! Whether you’re just participating in Meatless Monday one day a week, or you are a full-time vegetarian or vegan, there’s a bounty of meatless protein choices to choose from.
Protein is an essential macronutrient—it helps us build and repair our body tissues. But protein deficiency is extremely rare among healthy adults in the U.S. In fact, most of us are consuming way more protein that we need. Although protein needs vary by body size, the average Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women.
Go ahead and wager a guess as to how much protein we’re actually consuming on a day to day basis…I’ll wait!
According to the most recent data, American men consume an average of 102 grams daily and women consume about 70 grams. That’s close to double what we need! What’s more, 80% of the protein we consume comes from meat, which is a shame considering all the other healthy sources of protein that are available.
Choosing meatless sources of protein is not only a healthy dietary choice—it’s also a great choice for the planet.
As an example, it takes five times more water to produce one gram of protein from beef as compared to the water it takes to produce a gram of protein from a legume. Read more about the environmental impact of meat in my post, 3 Ways Going Meatless Monday Benefits the Environment.
And listen to my Foodie-Phile podcast segment on the subject here:
As you probably know, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of protein.
They’re also low in sodium and packed with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. But don’t stop there! Many vegetables are surprisingly good sources of protein, too, including leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, seaweed, artichokes and Brussels sprouts. And don’t forget whole grains—many varieties, such as quinoa and spelt, pack in about 6 grams of protein per half cup serving.
Ready to take a protein-packed meatless recipe for a spin? Try this Shiitake Pomegranate Spelt Salad, from Karen of Sprouts in the Hood. It packs a whopping 21 grams of protein, including 6 grams from the spelt. Mushrooms lend 2 grams of protein per serving, plus their signature umami flavor, so you won’t even be missing the meat!
About The Author
The Green Divas share low-stress ways to live a deeper shade of green through a weekly radio show, podcasts, videos and blog posts. Working with talented partners and credible sources like myEARTH360 the Green Divas produce content on a variety of topics relating to a healthy green lifestyle. Visit The Green Divas website to learn more, and check out The Green Divas on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter too!