On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Getting the Protein You Need


Photo by Kelly Rossiter

Hands down, the number one response I get from people when I mention that my children are both vegetarian is "but how do they get enough protein?" Getting your daily requirement of protein is actually pretty easy. In fact, if you are eating meat, chances are you are consuming more protein than you need.
Eating any kind of balanced diet simply requires a little thought and a well stocked pantry. Just a cursory look through my cupboards and refrigerator revealed quinoa, green lentils, red lentils, dried chickpeas, canned chickpeas, dried kidney beans, canned kidney beans, canned navy beans, dried yellow split peas, dried black beans, tofu, eggs, cheese, cottage cheese, peanut butter, almonds, cashews, pine nuts and walnuts. They all provide varying amounts of protein to sustain you.

According to the Canada Food Guide adult men require three servings of meat alternatives and women require two per day. 3/4 cup of cooked beans or tofu translates into one serving, as do two eggs or two tablespoons of peanut butter. If you had peanut butter on your toast in the morning, then had a lentil or bean soup for lunch and a tofu stir fry for dinner, all of your requirements for the day are met. If you didn't have a protein for breakfast, then you mid-morning snack might be a handful of almonds or cashews. Just two ounces of nuts are a serving of protein.

There's no question that using dried chickpeas or beans takes a bit of forethought because you have to soak them overnight before cooking them, but if you soak them on a Saturday night and cook them on a Sunday morning, you'll have enough to use for your meals during the week. Toss some chickpeas into a tomato pasta sauce or make chickpea burgers or a chickpea salad sandwich to take for lunch. You can mix things up during the week so that you can have a different source of protein every night and keep things interesting.

This recipe was very easy and absolutely fantastic. I used sharp cheddar cheese rather than the Gruyere because that's what I had on hand.


Photo by Kelly Rossiter

Baked Quinoa with Spinach and Cheese

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 plump garlic cloves
4 cups cooked quinoa, (1 cup uncooked)
2 large eggs
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish.

2. Heat a medium frying pan or a wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Wash the spinach and without spinning dry, add to the pan and wilt in the liquid left on the leaves after washing. You may have to do this in 2 batches. As soon as the spinach wilts, remove from the heat and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry and chop. Set aside.

3. Wipe the pan dry and heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in it over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir with the onion until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the spinach and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the quinoa, the onion and spinach mixture, the Gruyère, and the sage. Add freshly ground pepper and stir the mixture together. Scrape into the gratin dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake until nicely browned on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for about 5 minutes, and serve.

From the New York Times

Before you all write to me with complaints, let me point out that some of the recipes linked to call for chicken or vegetable stock. You know, use the vegetable stock.

The challenge this week: Make dinner using a meat alternative that you've never tried before. I strongly recommend this quinoa recipe.

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Tags: Cooking | Vegetarian