The number of folks choosing a vegetarian diet is expanding. You can get all the nutrition you need with a smart vegetarian diet; however, the biggest concern for vegetarians is getting enough protein, which can be particularly challenging when relying on emergency food or survival food. Still, it’s not difficult with a little bit of pre-planning.
How much protein do I need?
First, let’s talk about protein. As a general rule, between 10 percent and 15 percent of your total calories should come from protein. A gram of protein has 4 calories. Earlier we talked about how to calculate your BMR number. Once you have your BMR, multiply it by .10 then divide by 4.
BMR x .10 / 4 = grams of protein you need per day
Generally, women need about 40 grams and men need about 50 grams of protein per day.
Before you figure out how to get enough protein, it’s helpful to understand what protein is:
What is protein?
Proteins are chains of amino acids connected by peptide bonds. Humans use 20 amino acids to build muscle and other parts of the body. Of the 20 amino acids, humans can only make (synthesize) 11; the other nine (leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine) must be obtained from food. Vegetable sources of these proteins are low in fat and deliver lots of other essential vitamins and minerals at the same time, so it’s no wonder one in seven Americans has gone vegetarian.
Some vegetarians eat fish, dairy and eggs, qualifying for the lengthy technical title ovolactopescatarian.
- Fish - with few exceptions, fish is low in fat and the higher-fat kinds contain “healthy” fat, so fish is a great protein option.
- Eggs contain about 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein each, or stick with the whites and you’ll get 4 grams of protein with 0 fat.
- Dairy - milk and cheese comes in full-fat and reduced-fat varieties. Save the full-fat for special occasions and enjoy reduced-fat dairy for around 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat per ounce.
Whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore or something in between, getting some of your protein from vegetable, whole grain and legume protein is going to improve your health and expand your horizons. Here are the powerhouses of vegetable-based protein that everyone can enjoy.
- Quinoa - a little grain from South America that is a protein dynamo with 18 grams of protein per cup
- Beans, lentils and peas - around 14 grams per cup. Garbanzo beans (chick peas) are even higher.
- Soy - 7 grams per cup and can be found in everything from soy “sausage” to soy ice cream. Some recent research suggests soy can affect hormones - both beneficially and adversely - so do a little homework before you rely too much on soy milk, tofu, and the many soy-based meat substitutes.
- Nuts - around 8 grams per cup - but be mindful of the high fat content of nuts - you don’t want to eat a whole cup every day!
- Vegetables and fruit - dried apricots (8 grams per cup), avocado, asparagus and spinach (5 grams per cup) are MVPs when it comes to combining vitamin C, fiber and protein.
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