Yesterday I talked about “why” aspect of my relatively recent shift to a vegetarian diet. I was initially super scared about how my athletic performance would be affected by this change of nutrition. I was never a huge meat person so this wasn’t an extravagant change but it was one that I wanted to welcome with open arms. However eating one chicken breast or a serving of salmon packs some major protein so my number one concern was getting the number of grams I needed every day without meat.
My family was super supportive which was really helpful. No one else in my household is a vegetarian but it hasn’t seemed too difficult to accommodate. We don’t eat meat every night as a family but on the nights we do I just don’t eat it. I will add some chickpeas/beans/faux ground beef to my dish or cook up some eggs or a veggie burger to get some protein. If we make stir-fry, we leave the chicken or steak out and I add some black beans or chickpeas to mine while the rest of my family adds the meat. If we have quesadillas, we have roasted vegetable ones with the option to add meat for the rest of my family but none on mine. If we have a BBQ I throw on a veggie dog or veggie burger (usually made of rice/quinoa/beans/mushrooms/soy protein) for myself. Most meals I haven’t really had to think about making something separate because I have been able to incorporate a protein source in some form.
If I know that my family is having steak for dinner I try and eat most of my protein throughout the day so that I don’t need anything extra at dinner for protein and will eat the side dishes with my family. For a family with young children it might be a little different but honestly, making vegetarian protein-packed meals for everyone is probably your best bet. If someone in your family absolutely HAS TO HAVE meat for dinner cook up a chicken breast for them on the side. My brother and I are old enough to be completely self sufficient so it is not as if my mom makes all of our meals – we are able to decide for ourselves 🙂 We tend to have dinner as a family most nights but that meal has been 100% adaptable to a vegetarian diet.
Favourite vegetarian protein snack: roasted beans. Roasted edamame is my FAVE but black beans and mung beans are really good too. The dry roasted beans sometimes come flavoured… BBQ is delicious!
My ‘er day protein: eggs. Scrambled, omelette, sunny side up, protein pancake (egg whites and oatmeal), hard boiled. Yum. Don’t forget to eat the yolk too because that is where most of the nutrients are (including Vitamin B12 which comes in huge doses in meat resulting in most vegetarians missing out on it). If you don’t like the taste of eggs, add them to something else, like oatmeal. It sounds gross but while your oatmeal is cooking on the stove, stir in an egg. You won’t be able to taste it but you will get all of the benefits!
When I need that little extra protein: smoothies. I don’t drink them a lot but when I am in a rush or just need that little extra dose of protein, I whip up a protein smoothie. My go-to recipe is frozen fruit, soy milk, and Vega vanilla protein powder.
Speaking of soy milk… it is the only milk I usually drink. On oatmeal, in a smoothie, on cereal. I love the taste of almond milk better but protein-wise, soy milk has a ton more. Most soy milk and almond milk is fortified the same way animal milk is with Vitamin D and calcium, but always check to make sure!
I mentioned that I had tried a few different products that are intended to replicate meats. Fake ground beef, called ground round, has been the most versatile because we use it just like ground beef. In pasta sauce, for tacos, taco salad, in chili, lettuce wraps, it works for so many different meals. It is made of soy protein and you can find my favourite kind HERE.
Veggie burgers have come a long way. Whether you make them at home or buy them at a grocery store, there are always options. Quinoa makes a great burger base because it is one of the only plant-based foods with all of the essential amino acids – a complete protein! Beans work well as a binder, whole grain rice is great, mushrooms have a meaty texture, and most store-bought burgers contain soy protein. You can find my favourite store bought veggie burger HERE, but like all processed foods, it has a long ingredient list that might make you think twice about not going homemade.
Don’t go buy these because they are so bad for you… buuuuuut they are so so good. “Chick’n” nuggets.
You thought this was a health blog but sometimes we all eat something that is completely horrible for you just because it tastes good. Enter “Chick’n” nuggets. You can tell I only bought them because they were 50% off 😉 11g of protein in 4. Just watch the fat and sodium because anything more than a serving size and it starts to be too much.
I swear I didn’t just talk about serving size and then put 1.25 servings on the pan! My brother wanted to try one too!
Just remember to eat them with a salad so you feel somewhat balanced.
As far as fake meat goes they were really good. I mean, they tasted like a chicken nugget. Not greasy, not heavily coated, just like lightly breaded chicken. I don’t remember the last time I had chicken nuggets, fake or not, so this was a huge treat.
Kids wouldn’t even know that these aren’t chicken. I promise vegetarian eating isn’t that hard. I don’t eat out at restaurants a ton which can sometimes be challenging if you have dietary restrictions but there is always a way to make it work. Like my amazing cousin Mackenzie pointed out (who I consulted about going vegetarian before I took the plunge), even if you can’t give up meat there are better ways to eat it. Look for local. Look for grass-fed. Do your research!
Vegetarian sources of protein:
- peanut butter
- almond butter
- dry roasted beans
- soy milk
- Vega protein powder
- greek yogurt