These days, eating more vegetables by following a vegetarian diet is easier than ever. From soy-based "meats" to tempeh, vegetarian options are endless. The one thing that stops many people from becoming a vegetarian is the concern that they will not get enough protein.
According to Patti Ennis, manager of the clinical nutrition program at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, adequate protein to maintain body tissues, including muscle, can be easily achieved on a plant-based diet.
“Not only are certain vegetables high in protein, but they also provide other nutrients, including fiber, vitamins and minerals,” she says, adding that these healthy proteins contain no saturated fat or cholesterol.
The benefits of a plant-based diet include:
- Reduced cardiovascular risk
- Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Reduced risk of some forms of cancer
- Improvement to environmental impact
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein needed for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight — for example, if an individual weighs 135 pounds, he or she would need 48.6 grams of protein each day. To calculate your RDA, multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.36.
When following a plant-based diet, ensure you are receiving the recommended amount of protein each day by incorporating these high-protein, vegetarian options:
- Black beans (1 cup) = 15.2 grams of protein
- Lentils, boiled (1 cup) = 17.9 grams of protein
- Tofu, firm (1/2 cup) = 19.9 grams of protein
- Quinoa, cooked (1 cup) = 11 grams of protein
- Chickpeas, boiled (1 cup) = 14.5 grams of protein
To help support eating more fruits and vegetables, the Food Nutrition Services Department at Sharp Chula Vista observes “Meatless Mondays.” If you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, start by dedicating one day a week to eating plant-based meals. That way, it is easier to either accept vegetarianism altogether or work toward maintaining a modified version of the plant-based diet.