Meal Makeover: 6 Vegetarian Sources of Protein

I get it all the time: Wait, you’re not getting chicken on your salad? But how will you get your protein?

To clarify, I don’t eat (mostly) vegetarian because I’m against the consumption of animals. I’m not on a diet, either. Meat just hasn’t agreed with my stomach for years, and while there’s nothing I love more than a delicious bite of a burger, any more, and I’ll feel the aftermath for days.

So without a choice, really, I’ve learned to incorporate lots of other vegetarian protein sources into my diet, which my body digests without protest. And what I’ve learned is that, despite what our grandmothers have told us, vegetarians — and non-vegetarians who don’t eat meat for other reasons — can still consume more than enough protein without resorting to fauna.

The RDA recommends an intake of about 0.36 grams of protein per pound, so a 130-pound female, for example, should consume about 47 grams of protein daily. Meat eaters can satisfy about half of this daily requirement with four ounces of chicken, but here’s how I prefer to do it.

Black beans. One cup of black beans has about 15 grams of protein. It also packs in nearly 60 percent of your daily fiber requirement, a nutrient which plays an important role in digestion, so it’s perfect for me. My favorite way to eat ‘em? A Mexican-inspired salad made with homemade salsa and avocado.

Red quinoa. Dubbed “the gold of the Incas” for its endless health benefits, red quinoa is what’s known as a complete protein, meaning it delivers all nine essential amino acids — the building blocks of protein. Three ounces of uncooked red quinoa yields 12 grams of protein. (But it tastes better cooked.)

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). There are 14.5 grams of protein in a cup of chickpeas, along with 70 percent of your daily intake of folic acid — a vital nutrient for pregnant women and women trying to conceive.

Lentils. Lentils are one of the best sources of protein for vegetarian foodies. In fact, one cup of cooked lentils is loaded with 18 grams of protein, and it has less than a gram of fat.

Peanuts. Though high in fat, a serving of peanuts (about an ounce, or one handful) is packed with 25 percent of your daily protein requirement. If you prefer the buttery sort, try smearing two tablespoons of “Smooth Operator” from Peanut Butter & Co. onto an apple for a snack with seven grams of protein.

Greek yogurt. What doesn’t Greek yogurt do? A serving, or six ounces, of non-fat plain Greek yogurt has 18 grams of protein and just about 100 calories. Swirl in a spoonful of peanut butter for an added protein punch.

— StacyAtZeel, Zeel

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