Food for Thought: Vegetarian Seeking Protein

When I tell people I’m a vegetarian, the typical response is, “But how do you get enough protein?!” – and the answer, really, is that I get it everywhere: vegetables, whole wheat pastas, eggs, beans, cheese, milk, yogurt.

Most vegetarians don’t have a problem fitting enough protein into their diet as long as they are varying the foods they eat. But it is difficult to find good, vegetarian sources of complete protein. A complete source of protein has all nine amino acids that our bodies need, packed together in one food item.

Before you start to worry about what you’re missing as a vegetarian, you should know that the human body is pretty amazing and combines different types of amino acids from different foods you have throughout the day, so that it’s not necessary to always have a complete protein. (Another good source of complete protein is quinoa.)

Protein PowderBut, to make it easy on yourself, one great source of a complete protein is whey protein powder. It is high in protein (about 16-23 g per scoop) but low in fat and cholesterol. It is also what is considered a “fast” protein, meaning that it is easily soluble and easily digested, so that it is absorbed quickly for fast energy. A protein shake for breakfast can even replace your morning coffee.

The trick with protein powder is to disguise the taste – because let’s be honest, no one really likes the taste – with other ingredients. I’ve found that peanut butter covers it up nicely in shakes, and you can also put some protein powder in baked goods – get creative! Try this recipe for a Peanut Butter Banana shake.

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Protein Powder Shake (that doesn’t suck)

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake

The idea of protein shakes used to make me cringe: I would mix a bit of powder into milk with a spoon and it never fully dissolved, which would inevitably lead to sips with clumps of powder. Yuck.

But I have come around to protein shakes, thanks to some important tricks:

1)      Get yourself an immersion blender: Blending your drink ensures that the powder is fully dissolved, and using a handheld immersion blender means that you don’t need to take out, dismantle and clean your blender each morning – just stick this hand blender in the cup you’re going to drink out of. Easy! I use one similar to this one on Amazon.

2)      Add peanut butter: Using peanut butter covers any unpleasant taste from the protein powder – and you only need a little to get the job done. A banana helps too.

3)      Keep it cold: Add some ice to your drink – a room temperature shake is not as appealing as an ice cold one.

My standard base recipe is below. You can also add other ingredients that you have around the kitchen, like strawberries, mango, some yogurt – mix it up! I use both whey protein powder and hemp protein powder, which has a slightly grittier texture, but you can use any protein powder you prefer.

Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake

6-8 ounces of almond milk (you can use regular milk if you prefer)
1 banana, in pieces
1-2 tsp. creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp. whey protein powder
1 tbsp.  hemp protein powder

Combine ingredients in your  cup. Use immersion blender to mix, about one minute. Throw in a handful of ice (remember tip number 3), and you are good to go!

Veggin’ Out: Mango Guacamole

The Veggin’ Out series is all about easy (yet still delicious) recipes – made for lazy days.

For Cinco de Mayo, I’m whipping up some Mexican-inspired meals. This easy guacamole recipe is sweet and citrusy, perfect for topping off a spicy enchilada or just for dipping with corn chips. (It’s also best when served with a margarita!)

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Mango Guacamole

2 ripe avocados
1 ripe mango, diced into small pieces
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa (I like Trader Joe’s Pineapple Salsa for this citrus version)
1/2 lime
Cilantro and salt to taste

  1. Scoop avocado meat into a bowl. Mash with a fork to desired texture.
  2. Add salsa, mango pieces and cilantro (if you like cilantro).
  3. Squeeze the juice of half a lime onto mixture.
  4. Stir and taste. Add salt if needed.

*Guacamole tip: squeezing lime juice onto any guacamole you make will not only add nice flavor, but will also help protect your guacamole from turning an unsightly brown color that naturally occurs with oxidation.

Mini Ve(d)getable Frittatas

I love breakfasts foods – but as someone who is perpetually running late, I never seem to have time to make a real meal in the morning. I like these mini frittatas (made in a cupcake tin) because you can make a week’s worth ahead of time and warm them up each morning (or take them for lunch). The recipe below includes some of my favorite fillings, but you can really use any vegetables or cheeses that you like.

Mini Frittatas

Mini Veggie Frittatas

7 eggs
1/3 cup lowfat milk
1/4 head of broccoli
1/2 cup spinach
10 grape tomatoes
1-2 ounces gruyere (this is a perfect cheese for quiches and frittatas – white cheddar as a less expensive substitute that also works well)
1-2 ounces smoked mozzarella
Italian seasonings

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare fillings by cutting into bite size pieces.
Chopped fillings

3. Combine eggs and milk in bowl. Whisk.
4. Add fillings and a few dashes of seasoning to egg and milk combination and mix until evenly distributed.
5. With cooking spray, generously coat the cupcake tin.
6. Fill each slot until almost full.

7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a knife comes out nearly clean.

**Tip: while still warm, take a butter knife and circle the edges to make sure the frittatas don’t stick to the sides. After five to ten minutes, you can take them out and cool them on a plate. Refrigerate until ready to warm and eat.