Meat, including red meats are not the only sources of protein. Here are some vegetarian protein sources you could try out. Protein is a vital nutrient that helps your body to heal, grow, and build muscle. But the average American eats more than they need, and very little comes from healthy, plant-based sources. Consuming an excess of protein-- particularly from animal sources-- has been linked with increased risk of heart disease, cancers of the breast and colon, osteoporosis and kidney disease.
Choosing grains, vegetables, fruit, and a few vegetarian protein sources can help you find a healthy balance in your diet. Whether you are interested in a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, or just want to decrease your overall meat consumption, there are more healthy protein options available than ever before, including some surprising sources.
Vegetarian Protein Sources
Meatless Protein: Peanut Butter
This lunch-box favorite is not just for kids. Two tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein and loads of vitamins and trace minerals. It's much cheaper than meat, has a long shelf life, tastes delicious and, best of all, you probably already have it in your cupboard! While most of us are familiar with peanut butter as a sandwich filling and an ingredient in cookies, it's also a versatile ingredient that works well in many savory dishes.
Peanut Butter In Sauce
Peanut butter combined with chillies and garlic, makes a delicious Thai style sauce for pasta or vegetables. For a delicious soup, saute some garlic and celery in butter, add a sprinkle of flour, then stir in some vegetable stock and half a cup of peanut butter and puree until smooth.
Tempeh is a soy product, but with a very different texture than the more familiar tofu. While tofu is made with only the milk from soybeans, tempeh contains the whole soybeans and therefore has a different flavor, texture and nutritional makeup. It can be prepared in many different ways, is widely available in health food stores (and, increasingly, in regular grocery stores) and flavor- and texture-wise is one of the best vegetarian protein sources to substitute for meat
Tempeh is often served fried, but a more healthy method is to shred the blocks in your food processor and use them in place of ground beef in recipes like chili, spaghetti or tacos.
Low Salt Cheddar Cheese
Ounce for ounce cheddar cheese has as much protein as many lean meats, with the added benefit of calcium. Because cheddar is the second most popular type of cheese in America (after mozzarella), you can find low-fat and low-salt varieties at virtually any grocery. Opt for sharp cheddar rather than mild because the stronger flavor will allow you to use less and still satisfy your palate. Try some melted on a whole wheat tortilla with some salsa or blend with butter, flour and skim milk to make a yummy sauce for pasta.
Increasingly available in American markets, seitan is made from wheat gluten and has a texture similar to poultry. Many makers of vegetarian meat substitutes (veggie "burgers" and Tofurkey, for example) include seitan in their products. It is available in both plain and flavored versions and can be used in casseroles, soups and even made into desserts.