Vegetarian Protein Foods

Healthy Vegetarian Protein Foods are Good Dietary Choices

       by  Seethalakshmi Seshabhushan Nagaraja MS BS BE RDN                                                                            Published on March 10 2020 | Updated on March 10 2020

Do you find vegetarian food to be bland or boring? Vegetarian food is not just lettuce salad, white bread, pasta with marinara sauce, or jackfruit.

Dietary trends are changing and there is growing awareness of the benefits of plant-based nutrient rich foods in the United States. We Indian vegetarians are lucky to have so many tasty and healthy vegetarian food choices.

If you have recently immigrated from India, here are a few interesting food facts -

  • Anchovies are used in Caesar salad dressing.
  • Oyster sauce is used in many Thai foods with vegetables.
  • Soups containing vegetables may also contain chicken stock.
  • Rice can be cooked in water or chicken stock.
  • Appetizing spinach salads in restaurants sometimes contain prosciutto added as a topping.
  • Sour cream used in Mexican food often has chicken stock.
  • Truffles and edible mushrooms are classified as vegetarian foods in many countries.
  • Doughnuts may have been fried in lard. Lard is extracted from animals while butter is extracted from milk.
  • Kelp and seaweed are considered vegetarian in many countries.
  • Processed snack foods may have added seafood flavors.
  • Some people consider seafood to be a vegetarian protein food option.

A holistic vegetarian diet can be delicious, well-balanced and nutritious. Vegetarian diets are fundamentally rich in fiber, antioxidants and vitamins. It is important to ensure that all meals are well-balanced and include the recommended amounts of carbohydrate, protein and healthy fat from nutrient rich foods. Vegetarian Indians have proven that it is possible to maintain a normal weight, stay healthy, nimble and active throughout their lives. There are vegetarian physical trainers and vegetarian Indian athletes who are muscular and strong.

Learn how to choose good healthy vegetarian protein foods

Here are good healthy meat alternatives for vegetarians who also eat eggs and dairy -

  • Egg whites are a high-quality protein source that have no cholesterol.
  • Skim milk is a healthy high-quality protein that also naturally contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium necessary for strong bones.
  • Fortified skim milk also contains the nutritional benefits of vitamin A and vitamin D.
  • Yogurt cultured from skim milk is a high-quality protein that also naturally contains calcium essential for strong bones and good bacteria to support healthy digestion.
  • Lentils like tuvar, moong, masoor, urad, channa, etc. are healthy plant-based proteins that also contain fiber and other important phytonutrients. Lentil is also known as dal in Indian cuisine.
  • Beans like garbanzo, cannellini, rajma, whole moong, soybean, whole urad, etc. are healthy plant-based proteins that also contain fiber and other important phytonutrients.
  • Soybeans and tofu which is made from soybeans are high-quality proteins.
  • Quinoa is a whole grain that is a complete protein and a good source of fiber, iron and magnesium.
  • Peanut butter is also a healthy vegetarian protein that appeals to kids. Many school cafeterias provide peanut butter and jelly, PB&J, sandwiches as a vegetarian food option for kids. Peanut butter with apple or fruit is also recommended as a healthy snack during pregnancy.

It is important to eat nutritious plant-based proteins with healthy carbohydrates that are rich in fiber. Did you know that eating lentils or beans together with grains provides all the essential amino acids required for health? These are known as complete protein sources. Some examples are - rice with dal, wheat roti or Indian breads with moong sprouts and tortilla with pinto beans.

Although dietary trends are continuously evolving and changing, the popularity of plant-based foods and drinks that use flavorful spices is historical. Plant-based foods have been the primary source of protein in some Asian countries for many centuries. Plant-based meals do not have to be bland or boring - try new, fun, yummy vegetarian recipes today.

1. Whitney, Eleanor Noss, and Sharon Rady Rolfes. Understanding Nutrition. Cengage, 2019.

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