A high protein diet is a hugely important part of a successful body transformation. Protein helps your body maintain and build muscle mass. So when your training hard and in a calorie deficit, its vital to get an adequate amount of protein in your diet so that your body can preserve muscle whilst losing body fat.
Being a vegetarian I often get asked about how I manage to get a sufficient amount of protein in my diet. When we think of high protein foods the first thing that comes to mind is meat! Chicken, streak, lean mince, etc. But in this day and age there are so many vegetarian and meat alternative foods that are great sources of protein.
I am 150lbs, so I try to get at least 150g of protein everyday to give my body the nutrition it needs to maintain and build muscle. So I will run through a few great sources of vegetarian protein that I incorporate into my diet everyday.
Grains & Pulses
Lentils, pulses and beans are an excellent source of protein – 100g of boiled lentils contains around 9g of protein and are a hearty way to bulk up soups, stews and casseroles. Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans and even baked beans are an easy way to power up your protein intake.
There are also a range of grains such as oats, barley, rice and quinoa that can add protein to a super-simple recipe. Quinoa in particular is a valuable veggie ingredient as it’s one of the few plant sources classed as a complete protein. This means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids.
Dairy products are packed full of calcium and protein, which are both essential as part of a healthy diet – 100g of cow’s milk contains around 3g of protein, while 100g of cheddar cheese contains around 25g of protein. Choose reduced-fat options if you are concerned about saturated fat and calories. Vegan options include nut milks, such as hazelnut or almond milk, but be aware that shop-bought versions contain very low levels of protein. Soya milk is more comparable with dairy in terms of protein content. A spoonful of Greek yogurt is also a great way to add in protein, with around 6g for every 100g of yogurt. Try topping your muesli, smoothie bowls or cereal with a dollop of fresh, natural Greek yogurt.
Soya & Tofu
Soy protein is a very versatile ingredient and can be turned into many different delicious forms. Tofu, for example, is made from the curds of soy milk and can be great when bulking out veggie stir-fries or salads. It comes in different forms: silken, firm or extra firm and is another low-calorie, high-protein ingredient you can make use of relatively easily – 100g of firm tofu contains around 8g of protein.
Soya beans themselves can be eaten alone or turned into soy milk, miso or tempeh. Per 100g, soya beans contain around 15g of protein. Although plant and animal proteins are digested in different ways by our bodies, soya is a great veggie substitute for meat and is decidedly adaptable.
Quorn and Vivera in particular have an extensive meat replacement range. All there products are completely meat free and many of them are a great source of plant based protein. These products are ideal to use as meat alternatives in your favourite dishes such as Bolognese, chilli and stir frys. Quorn mince has 14.5g of protein per 100g and is a great alternative in dishes to replace mince beef. Vivera chicken style pieces have 19.4g of protein per 100g and can replace any dishes that use chicken pieces such as casseroles and rice dishes.
There are so many plant based meat alternatives out there and they are all usually very high in there protein content. Take some time in the vegetarian department of the supermarket and try some of them out. They are great alternatives to have so that you don’t need to compromise your favourite dishes.
Nuts and seeds are a handy, snackable form of protein and essential fats. There are certain types that are particularly protein rich: almonds, cashews, chia seeds and flaxseeds are all popular protein options. A 30g portion size of almonds contains around 6g of protein and will see you through the afternoon slump.
Protein powders are a great way to supplement your protein requirements if you are falling a bit short. There are an extensive range of great tasting whey protein and plant based protein powders available and most of them include between 18g – 22g of protein per scoop. So a shake with 2 scoops in will get you between 35g – 45g of protein to help you reach those daily protein levels.
An example of an average day for me
2 Cups white coffee – 4g protein
5 Egg omelette with spinach and Heinz mixed beans – 41g protein
500g Low fat Greek yoghurt with berries, chia seeds and honey – 32g protein
Post workout protein shake (2 scoops) – 40g protein
Vivera chicken style pieces 175g with quinoa, mixed veg and spinach – 46g protein
So I managed to hit 163g of protein over my 3 meals and post workout shake. Thats 13g more than my target of 150g. 3 sit down meals that all had a good source of protein and 1 shake after a session in the gym. That’s all it takes!
So don’t let not eating meat be a reason for you to not hit those protein levels. There are so many alternatives out there and there is no excuse to not meet your protein targets even if meat is not part of your diet. So if your struggling, try to incorporate some of these vegetarian food groups into your diet to help hit your protein targets. Be creative, be adventurous and prep your food. You will be surprised at how easy it can be to reach adequate protein levels as a vegetarian.