There is such a thing as a meatless protein diet. In fact, even vegan diets may contain hefty sources of protein. Certain plant foods offer abundant protein and you don't even need to combine special foods together (such as beans and rice) to reap the benefits. A meatless protein diet can provide healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
What to Eat on a Meatless Protein Diet
Protein keeps you feeling satisfied longer and it stabilizes blood sugar levels. Nutritionists sometimes recommend people with hypoglycemia or other blood sugar issues eat a little bit of protein with every meal to smooth out the natural highs and lows that can occur during digestion. They are also advised to snack regularly. For vegetarians, vegans and raw food diet followers, meatless sources of protein must meet certain requirements. Fortunately several meatless protein sources fit the dietary requirements of vegetarians, vegans and raw food diet followers.
Vegetarian Diet Protein
Vegetarians do not eat meat, but they may drink milk, eat eggs or consume cheese (as long as it is vegetarian cheese). Some cheese brands are made using rennet, which comes from a calf's stomach. Because the calf is slaughtered to obtain the rennet, such cheese is not usually included on a vegetarian diet. Eggs contain approximately 6 grams of protein per large egg. A glass of milk contains approximately 8 grams of protein. Soy products such as tofu, soy milk and tempeh also contain protein.
General Vegetable Sources of Protein
Vegetables do, indeed, contain protein. Nuts, seeds, nut butters and nut milks such as almond milk contain decent amounts of protein. Grains and legumes (beans) also contain protein, as do green leafy vegetables. All of these plant-based sources of protein are acceptable on vegetarian and vegan diets. A raw vegan diet can also implement these vegetable protein sources with the exception of cooked grains. Sprouted grains, however, are acceptable for raw food diet regimens.
A Sample Meatless Menu High in Protein
If you're trying to follow a meatless protein diet, you may find yourself seeking sample menus to help you choose foods rich in protein. Select one of the following meals and adjust it according to your caloric needs and specific diet philosophy.
Vegetarian High Protein Menu
- Breakfast: scrambled egg, whole grain toast with jam, glass of milk or juice
- Lunch: large Greek salad with crumbles of feta cheese
- Snack: apple slices spread with almond butter
- Dinner: meatless lasagna, large green salad, Italian bread
Vegan High Protein Menu
- Breakfast: tofu scrambler or soy-based breakfast sausage, whole grain toast, jam, glass of soy or almond milk
- Lunch: large salad with black beans or other beans and whole grain bread
- Snack: apple slices spread with almond butter, or carrot sticks and hummus, handful of almonds or nuts
- Dinner: brown rice and red beans with cornbread on the side
Years ago, people considering a vegetarian diet were advised to carefully and scientifically combine certain legumes and grains to form so-called 'complete' proteins. Amino acids join together to form proteins and the human body produces some amino acids. Certain other amino acids must be obtained from food srouces. Vegetarians were warned of all sorts of health problems if they did not ingest 'complete' or matched protein sources that included specific amino acids that would combine to become proteins within the body.
Today, that research is considered outmoded. Scientists now believe the body takes in amino acids from plant foods and stores what it needs in the liver until it finds a 'matching' amino acid to form the complete protein. If you eat beans today and rice tomorrow, your body will likely take from storage what it needs. It's not necessary to eat them at the same meal, although this can certainly produce a tasty option!
Plant Based Protein for Health
The modern-day obsession with protein hails from a time in the agrarian past when protein was considered a necessary building block of the daily diet, the fuel for big muscles and energy. It wasn't uncommon for a family to breakfast on thick ham slices, lots of fresh eggs from the henhouse, and slices of whole grain bread slathered with butter. Such meals would be washed down with whole fat milk. Researchers have studied populations eating low protein, high protein, and plant-based high protein diets and noticed startling trends. The book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, P.h.D. details the results of these studies, particularly one very large study on populations in China. As the amount of meat-based protein in the diet increases, so do the odds of contracting a chronic disease such as heart disease or diabetes increase. Plant protein sources appear to either protect against these conditions or act differently than meat protein within the body. So, eating a meatless, yet, high protein diet is probably a smart choice for many people, particularly people who crave more substance in their diet.