People often tend to believe that a vegetarian diet lacks proteins because of insufficient intake of that food group. So, how can a vegetarian get his daily dose of protein? Read on to know more.
By Ashwin Dewan
Bhavesh Agarwal, father to four-year-old Ramesh, is a worried father. He feels that his vegetarian son will not be able to get the required proteins and nutrients needed for proper growth and development. One day, he meets an ex-colleague who assures him that a vegetarian diet can provide the essential nutrients provided the parents know what foods to give. Soon, Bhavesh starts incorporating certain foods rich in protein in his son’s diet and is now a happy parent.
Bhavesh’s problem with a vegetarian child is not an isolated one. Do you often worry about your vegetarian child's protein intake? Do you think being vegetarian may result in your child getting less protein than required? This is not necessarily the case. In fact, you can ensure that your child gets enough protein from certain protein-rich foods.
Although the protein content in mushrooms is less than that of meat, it is sufficient to meet the daily protein needs of a child. Mushrooms are also very healthy. Apart from protein, they contain lots of fibre and are an important source of vital minerals and vitamins. In fact, mushrooms also contain twice the amount of protein than many other vegetables.
Note: One cup of chopped or sliced raw white mushrooms contains 2.2 grams of protein
Are you worried your little one does not eat much rice? Give her quinoa instead. It is higher in protein than most grains and a great source of fibre. So, it is a great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans who don’t eat meat. One cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of protein. Quinoa can be a great substitute for starchy rice or pasta.
Note: Quinoa can be had in itself or added to soup to thicken it, paired with vegetables or even made into a vegetable burger.
Chickpeas are relatively low in fat and high in protein, which makes them the ideal go-to protein food for vegetarians. Plus, they are not expensive making them a nutritious, low-cost alternative to poultry and meat. Chickpeas are 23 per cent protein. They are great for making hummus (a thick paste made, which is made from ground chickpeas and sesame seeds, olive oil and lemon) or just added fresh to a salad.
Note: The most common type of chickpea appears to be round and beige. Other varieties can be black, green, and red.
Apart from being a rich source of vitamins A and C, Broccoli is a great source of protein. One cup of chopped broccoli has 2.57 grams of protein. According to the USDA's Nutrition Database, per 100 grams of broccoli contains 2.82 grams of protein. The best part is that, along with proteins, Broccoli also provides fibre and nutrients. Broccoli is also high in fibre, antioxidants, and minerals.
Note: Try to pair broccoli with whole grains like brown rice, barley and quinoa. Alternatively, one can steam or stir-fry broccoli and add in a few roasted walnuts, and sunflower seeds for a delicious and healthy side dish.
If your child likes matar paneer, it’s a good thing. For the matar (peas) in the dish are full of protein. One cup of peas contains eight times the protein when compared to a cup of spinach. They also contain phytonutrients such as sponins, phenolic acids and flavanols, which have a number of health benefits.
Note: You can always put peas into a rice preparation or even a salad to increase the protein quotient.
A favourite of vegetarians and vegans everywhere, lentils are loaded with proteins making it ideal to give to your child. One cup of lentils provides about 18 grams of dietary protein, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database. Besides, lentils are inexpensive and easy to make. This means lentils provide a significant amount of protein.
Another great source of protein is pulses. Not only are they an excellent source of fibre, but they are low in fat as well making pulses the ideal addition to your little one’s daily diet.
Note: Try simple recipes like rajmah chawal to boost the protein intake.
Often, people advise others against eating too much nuts due to the fat content. But, this is totally wrong. Nuts have unsaturated fat, which is of the good kind. And the best part is nuts are loaded with proteins. Cashews, almonds, pistachios and peanut contain higher amounts of protein as compared to other nuts like hazelnuts.
Note: Eat only a limited quantity of nuts every day. Eating too much may lead to weight gain, digestion problems, and muscle and joint ache.
Does your child love snacking? Perhaps, incorporating seeds into his diet will be a great idea. Seeds are a powerhouse of protein. Take sunflower seeds for example. They contain 3.3 grams of protein per 100 calories. Sesame seeds, flax seeds are other examples of seeds that provide a good amount of protein apart from other essential nutrients.
Note: Seeds can be tossed into any dish to increase the protein quotient of that dish. Sprinkle them into your porridge, cornflakes, or even salad dressing.
Soybeans are among the best sources of plant-based protein with a cup of boiled soybeans containing an impressive 29 grams of protein. Soy protein contains all the essential amino acids, which makes it is a complete protein. It also contains fibre and isoflavones as well and is enjoyed by both vegetarians and vegans for its protein content as well as its delicious taste.
Note: 35 per cent of the calories in soybeans come from protein. One can safely say that in terms of quality, soy protein is on par with meat and dairy protein.
Milk forms an important part of a child's diet. It is known to provide children with calcium. But, do you know that milk contains protein as well? In fact, it contains two different types of protein, whey (20 per cent) and casein (80 per cent), which are high-quality proteins that contain all the essential amino acids. Other dairy foods like yogurt and cheese contain protein as well.
Note: Paneer, commonly used to prepare vegetarian dishes in Indian cuisine, contains about 7 grams of protein per ounce. Cut paneer into small slices and put it into salads or even dal to increase the protein quotient.
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