One of the main issues facing vegetarians and vegans is ensuring that they have enough protein in their diet.
Meat may be off the menu, but there are plenty of protein rich alternatives out there which will help to re-build muscle tissue and support your immune system.
When trying to incorporate different forms of protein into your meals, there are several main groups to consider.
These are: nuts, seeds, and soy products, pulses, including beans and lentils and grains high in protein such as quinoa. Meat alternatives such as tofu and Quorn are also high in protein, low in fat and are a great substitute for real meat when cooking a dish for a group of people that includes vegetarians.
Vegans especially will be missing out on the proteins from dairy products, which is why it’s important to check how much calcium and protein your body needs and that your diet is meeting these levels. On a daily basis, two to three servings of high protein foods should be sufficient for most adults although this does vary.
The easiest option if you want to increase your protein intake is to prepare your own power snacks in the morning. Boxes or freezer bags of granola mixes including your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruits and oat clusters will energise you and keep you feeling full throughout the day.
Athletes with vegetarian diets often need a higher intake of protein to help fuel their muscles more efficiently and increase oxygen flow during a work out and to then repair any damaged tissue afterwards.
Home made protein bars are a quick and tasty treat before heading to the gym. I recommend you find your local weigh shop for the dried ingredients to save on money.
In a large bowl, mix together: -1.5 cups oats, - ½ cup shredded coconut, - ½ cup chopped dry apricots, - ½ cup dark choc chips, - ½ cup chopped almonds, - 4 tbsp mixed or flax seeds, - ½ tsp cinnamon.
In a smaller bowl combine all the wet ingredients: - 1 ripe banana, mashed, - ½ cup maple syrup, ½ cup crunchy whole peanut butter, - 1tsp vanilla extract.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Spread the mixture into an 8 x 8” baking dish lined with baking paper and press flat. Place in the freezer for a few hours until firm. Turn out from the tray and cut into 15 pieces.
The great thing about protein bar recipes is that they all differ, but overall the main components will be the same. You can alter the recipe to your own taste. For example, I prefer using honey instead of syrup, crushed pistachios instead of almonds and a mixture of dried fruits.
Another great snack to take out on the go is homemade hummus with vegetable crudités. Compared to what you can buy at the supermarket, freshly made hummus tastes so much better and has a much nicer texture.
This is a lower fat recipe which substitutes olive oil for plain yoghurt. Vegans and those who follow a non-dairy diet can use plain soya yoghurt instead.
In a food processor blitz: - 425g canned chickpeas, drained. (Save the liquid) – 1-2 crushed garlic cloves, - 1 tbsp lemon juice, - 1 tbsp tahini or low fat peanut butter, ½ cup low fat plain yoghurt, - 1 tsp salt.
Blend until the mixture is smooth, adding a little of the liquid from the canned chickpeas if it’s too thick and add lemon juice to taste.
After finding a renewed love of chickpeas recently, they have become the star of many of my latest dishes. I love Moroccan food as it combines a lot of spicy, smoky flavours with exotic fruits and delicious roasted vegetables.
Cous cous is one of the easiest grains to cook as you simply pour boiling water from the kettle over a bowl of the golden grains, cover with cling film and wait for the liquid to soak in before you fluff it up with a fork. Make sure to follow the correct measurements on the packet.
I like to roast chunks of sweet potato, aubergine, mixed peppers and crescents of red onion, all mixed in harissa paste and olive oil for that sweet and spicy combination. Meanwhile I cook some chickpeas on the hob with sautéed white onion, lots of cumin and smoked paprika. I remove the pan from the heat and mix in spinach leaves which will wilt in the heat of the pan.
Once the vegetables are roasted, the chickpeas softened and the cous cous fluffy mix everything loosely and serve in a large round dish, ready to be delved in to by a group of friends, all poised with their pitta breads and hummus at the ready.
There are endless options to upping your protein intake, whether it be ryvitas for breakfast, spread with peanut butter and topped with chopped banana, or for the pescetarians; brushing a tuna steak with a little oil before rolling in mixed seeds and a few chilli flakes to then be seared off in the pan.
With just a little bit of effort and extra thought, there is no reason why vegetarians and vegans alike should miss out on those priceless proteins.