Whether or not you’re a meat-free eater, it is always a good idea to allow the body to process, detoxify, and heal without the added digestive stress and inflammatory properties of animal meat. Aside from the obvious health benefits, vegetarian meals are usually cheaper, create a smaller footprint, making the ingredients environmentally friendly, and all while generally being lower in total calories. There is, however, one stand-out fear circulating around a meat-free diet: is it possible to get enough complete protein on a vegetarian diet? The answer is yes. It takes a bit more finesse and pre-planning, but it is possible to achieve the same nutrition and performance goals on a vegetarian diet.
The push to consume complete proteins at every meal is based around the need to stay full, repair tissue, burn fat, and build a strong, whole body capable of intense athletic performance. There are a total of 20 different amino acids, also known as the building blocks of life. The human body is incapable of creating nine of these amino acids on its own, making it essential to get them in our diet, and so they are called essential amino acids.
To be considered a complete protein, all essential amino acids must be present in relatively equal forms. For example, while beans and nuts are high in protein, they must still be combined with other food items to make a full amino acid structure and therefore be considered a complete protein. (Eggs and meat are complete proteins because animals have already gone through this process with their food.) What’s commonly misunderstood is it’s not necessary to consume every amino acid at every meal. Having some of the amino acids at one meal and their complementary amino acids at the next is perfectly acceptable.
As stated previously, the finesse comes in creatively combining different food items and amino acid structures. I assure you, it is possible, so if you’re ready to try your hand at a vegetarian diet, here are some complete protein vegetarian snack and meal options that will fill you up on meatless Monday or any day!
Sunwarrior Protein Shake with Hemp Seeds
While Sunwarrior Protein is by itself a complete protein (1 scoop = 17 grams) due to its amino acid structure, adding a serving of hemp seeds (2 tablespoons) will add a whopping 10 grams of protein to your shake! Click HERE for some other great shake recipes.
Quinoa & Veggie Bowl with Chia Seeds
Quinoa is a high fiber, grain-like option that can be substituted for rice. One cup is bursting with 24 grams of protein! Chia seeds pack 4 grams in 2 tablespoons and add a nice crunch to any dish. Add some stir fried vegetables and you’ve got a protein-rich vegetarian meal worth raving about.
This sprouted grain bread is a great substitute for other carbohydrate sources as it is high in fiber and has 8 grams of protein with a two slice serving. Add 2 tablespoons of almond butter (or other nut butter) and a few slices of banana to the sprouted grain bread and you’re sitting protein pretty with this tasty snack.
TLT: Tempeh, Lettuce & Tomato
This sandwich holds a dear place in my heart as one of the tastiest vegetarian options I’ve ever had. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that contains 31 grams of protein in 1 cup! Combine it with toasted Ezekiel bread, avocado, lettuce, and tomato for a vegetarian spin on the classic BLT.
Mixed Nuts and Spirulina
Spirulina is 60% protein by weight while raw mixed nuts contain 6 grams of protein in a single ounce! Combine them together and you’ve got yourself a complete protein.