Consuming an adequate amount of protein each day is important to help maintain muscle mass, build and repair tissues, and aid in the formation and growth of cartilage, skin and bones.
Vegetarian diets are generally considered lower in protein due to the elimination of meat. In addition to protein, a lower intake of meat can lead to decreased iron and vitamin B12 stores, which can result in lethargy and decreased immunity. Therefore careful planning is required in vegetarian diets to ensure that meals are balanced and contain adequate amounts of protein, iron and vitamin B12 to enable individuals to reach their nutritional goals.
It is also important to ensure that individuals who choose to follow a vegetarian diet are receiving alternative vegetarian protein sources that contain ‘complete proteins’. The term complete protein refers to the building blocks of protein also known as amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that make up proteins, however nine of these cannot be produced by the body itself. In order for a protein to be considered complete, it must contain all nine essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts.
See below a list of complete protein sources:
|Vegetarian Alternatives||Serving Size|
|Eggs||2 Large eggs|
|Nuts, seeds or peanut butter||30g|
|Milk (including soy milk)||250ml|
|Hard cheese||40g (2 slices)|
|Ricotta||120g (½ cup)|
|Yoghurt||200g (¾ cup)|
|Legumes including lentils and beans||150g (1 cup cooked)|
|Quinoa||½ cup cooked|
Some methods to help include complete proteins in vegetarian meals include:
If you’re wanting a high-protein vegetarian dish, try our recipe for Red Lentil and Paneer Dhal with Homemade Bhatura Bread, a re-creation of the classic Indian dhal dish.
Authors: Nikita Deo (Senior Dietitian) and Rachel Gray (Dietitian)