By Lauren Denos: 12/2/2014 (Nutrition)

There is a growing trend of people going the vegetarian and vegan routes. This is a fine personal choice. It may be that you do not like cruelty to animals, or it may be that you think it is a healthy way to go. Being vegetarian and vegan has its pros and cons. Going vegetarian does not mean you are automatically healthy. There are many people who go vegetarian and wind up just eating the not animal versions of junk food.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eat a lot of vegetables – and a wide variety at that! Vegetables are the main beneficial point to eating a vegetarian diet, and well, it is the namesake of the diet. You want to fill most of your plate with vegetables. Spinach, broccoli, celery, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, the list goes on and on. But you want to make sure you switch things around to get the full benefit of the vegetables you are eating. Link vegetables article

Keep your fruit intake low; keep it at no more than 3 pieces and focus more on getting your vitamins and minerals from your vegetables. DO NOT do fruit smoothies with tons and tons of fruit. Something like this should be a treat NOT a daily drink – unless diabetes is a goal for you. If you want to do smoothies then make them more vegetable with a serving or two of fruit. Do not get me wrong fruit can be a healthy sweet treat, it is a great alternative to many other dessert options because it does have more nutritional value but you do not want to forget that although fruit is a healthy form of sugar it is still sugar and too much of it is not good for your body. You are better off getting much of these nutrients from your vegetables.


What kind of carbs should you be doing?

Starchy vegetables like yams, squash, and peas are good. When you are vegetarian to balance everything out it would be better to use grains and other carbs that also have higher protein content already in them. Things like quinoa as well beans and rice are actually much higher in carbs then they are in protein, so they would be a good option for the carb portion of your meal. When you choose carbs that have a higher protein content, it will give you more bang for your buck so to speak. Keep in mind that vegetables have carbs in them as well. Some higher than others, but they all have them. Thus, you may do a bunch of greens with some chickpeas or other beans on it and you will have plenty of carbs.


How much do you need? This depends on your activity level, what specific activities you are doing and if you have blood sugar issues or other illnesses your body is healing from. Your height, age, weight etc. also play a role in this.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends limiting protein intake to 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound The typical answer we get for how much protein we should be taking in is about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men. Yet, this is a very flat answer that does not take many things into account. Many studies are finding many health benefits in diets with higher amounts of protein that includes a better working metabolism, better satiation and further more they are showing that the average person and especially athletes are needing much more protein than is typically recommended for optimal health and repair of the body.

Getting enough complete high-quality protein can be an issue for many vegetarians. This is where the difficult part of this diet choice comes into play. Meat and eggs are such obvious sources of protein and, like we said above, many vegetarians and vegans tend to go the beans and rice route. However, you need to understand that beans and rice are mostly carbs. There is some protein in them, but it is low. If you are an athlete or a body builder of any sorts then protein is going to be something you need to make sure you have enough of.

Protein powders
The amount of protein in these powders range wildly. But it is pretty common for a protein powder to have 20 grams or more per serving. This can be a very convenient thing to use if you like doing juices and smoothies. There are many types of proteins available and some really good ones that are an all-vegetable source. This can also be handy when you are a busy person and on the run.

Hemp seeds
3 tablespoons of hemp seeds contain about 10 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbs. Hemp seeds have all 9 of the essential amino acids needed to be considered as a food or complete protein. This is a very good choice for vegetarians needing a better source of protein.

2 Tbsp. of spirulina powder has 8 grams of protein and only 2 carbs. This is a complete protein and very easy to get in the amount you need since you can simply add a couple Tablespoons. your meal.

Chia seeds
1 Tablespoon of chia seeds offers 3 grams of protein to 5 grams of carbohydrates. They are also considered a complete protein and are quite high in fiber. A very unique and beneficial quality of Chia seeds is that they can turn any liquid they are suspended in into a gel-like consistency. This can be handy if you tend to eat a raw diet since it will allow you to create different consistencies with your food. Chia seed pudding can be a great healthy treat.

Flax seeds
1 Tablespoon of flax seeds have about 3 grams and 5 grams of carbs, and are full of fiber. The downside with flax seeds is that they are not a complete protein source. So, while it is fine to use them in your food, do not rely on getting all your protein from them alone.

Fermented soy foods such as tempeh, Natto, Pickled tofu and miso soup
1 cup of Tempeh or natto has 31 grams of protein. 1 ounce or 2 Tbsp. of Pickled tofu offers 2 grams of protein. 2 Tbsp. of miso offers 3 grams of protein and 7 grams of carbohydrates, making it not as protein packed as the other soy foods listen here. If you choose to eat soy products, make sure you go for fermented soy products instead of regular tofu. This way you get the protein benefits without the health downfalls of the food. Soy is also a complete protein.

Quorn is a Mycoprotein. It is a complete protein from a fungi created in a lab. This is currently a very popular meat substitute, yet there are claims of many people having adverse reactions to it. If you decide to go this route you may want to keep your portion very small to make sure your body can handle it before you go full bore. Two quorn filets hvae about 13 grams of protein and 6 grams of carbs.

Also known as vital wheat gluten, this obviously is not something you want to be eating if you have a gluten sensitivity. Even though this is derived from a grain, it is very low in carbs and very high in protein. Three oz. contains 21 grams of protein and only 4 grams of carbs. Many people have a hard time digesting this, so if you have a lot of bloating after eating this then you may want to go with a different option.

If you are doing a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, which means you will eat eggs and dairy, then some other good sources are.

1 egg has 6 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates; it also has 5 grams of fat. Eggs are not only a convenient food to keep on hand, but there is more and more evidence showing that it is a very healthy fat and protein that our bodies utilize very well.

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