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As a vegetarian I am always looking for high energy and high protein foods, new recipes and kid friendly snacks for our family. The pantry is full of a variety of beans, nuts and grains that help to support our dietary needs and our wish to follow the practice of Ahimsa, or non-violence. Ahimsa is the first Yama and includes the ideals of non-cruelty and compassion for all living things, ourselves included. Ahimsa is the reason that many yogis make the choice to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, though there are many ways to practice Ahimsa as we go about our day. Throughout the world there are people who do not eat meat for many reasons including for their health, for the environment and in some cases because it cannot be afforded.
I am often asked, especially with regards to my daughter, how do we get enough protein in our diets? Well there are a lot of foods that offer a substantial amount of protein, from vegetable or legume sources that also provide the body with fiber, vitamins and nutrients. The body’s requirements for protein differs between men and women and changes depending on life stage. It is recommended that proteins make up 10%-35% of our caloric intake, which can easily be done by eating a variety of protein sources throughout the day. The following is a list of my go-to protein sources, from meal items to light snacks.
Almonds– There are 8 grams of protein in only ¼ cup of almonds. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend tasting some almond butter, a yummy and nutty alternative to peanut butter. Also a great thing to munch on in-between meals.
Black Beans– In a cooked cup of black beans there is about 15 grams of protein. Black beans are easily added to burritos, soups and a variety of other dishes.
Cashews– About 20 grams of protein in 1 cup of cashews. One of the nuts we always keep stocked, raw cashews can also be soaked in water and used in a variety of dairy free dips and dressings.
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)– Crunchy and delicious, 1 cup has 12 grams of protein. My favorite way to enjoy chickpeas is made into hummus. Baked chickpeas are also a great high-energy snack between meals.
Flax seeds– 26 grams of protein per cup and a great source of dietary fiber. Add seeds to a smoothie, or substitute a half cup of ground flax seed for regular flour in your next baking creation, which is great in breads, pancakes and muffins.
Kidney Beans– These beans will get you about 13 grams of protein per cup. A wonderful and protein rich addition to any salad.
Lentils– One cup of cooked lentils provides about 18 grams of protein. Great in soup, added to rice or served chilled in a salad.
Peanut Butter– This all-time kid favorite contains 8 grams of protein in only 2 tablespoons. Go beyond the PB&J by adding peanut butter to smoothies, using it as a dip for fruit or as a tasty adhesive in granola or cereal balls.
Pistachios– With 25 grams of protein per cup, pistachios are a nutrient-dense nut. I recommend eating them by the handful and pistachio butter is divine!
Pumpkin Seeds– A fall favorite with 8 grams of protein per ¼ cup. We love to roast our own pumpkin seeds adding curry powder and other spices for a yummy eat-anywhere snack and a crunchy salad topper.
Quinoa– A whole grain that’s packed with protein as one cup (cooked) provides 8 grams! A great substitute for rice in prepared dishes, you can add it to wraps or top it with stir fried veggies.
Soy Milk– Has 7 grams of protein per 8 ounce cup (just slightly less then dairy milk). Great with cereal, in coffee or by itself.
Spinach– This leafy green has 5 grams of protein in every cup. Raw in salad, cooked in just about anything, spinach is a versatile veggie that provides protein.
Sunflower Seeds– In ¼ cup there are 6 grams of protein. As a salad topper or your favorite ballpark snack, these tasty little seeds provide just the right crunch.
Tempeh– Tofu’s lesser known nutty cousin, tempeh has even more protein than other soy sources with an average 18grams per 100gram serving. Can be used in a variety of ways and the prepackaged variety comes in an assortment of flavors from teriyaki to barbecue.
Tofu– A vegetarian staple that provides about 10 grams of soy protein per half cup. Since tofu is available in a variety of textures it is a very versatile food, cubed and stir-fried or silken and blended into a smoothie, tofu will take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with.
In addition to the items above there are many vegetables, typically those with a rich green color, that have about 2-4 grams of protein per serving. Whole grains provide additional protein so selecting brown rice, whole wheat bread and multi-grain tortillas are a great way to add little bits of additional protein here and there. Prepared vegetarian products like veggie burgers and chicken-less tenders, are made mostly from soy and gluten sources and provide a convenient way to incorporate meat substitutes into meals. Protein powders such as soy, whey, pea or hemp are another way to add protein to your diet.
Eat healthy, live long and prosper!
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+