May 22, 2014

Seven Vegetarian Protein Substitutes

Company Kitchen is headquartered in Merriam, KS, a suburb of Kansas City. In the culinary world, Kansas City is known for one thing – Bar B Que! If you can imagine any meat, chances are there’s a BBQ restaurant that serves it. It can be challenging being a vegetarian, and even more challenging being a vegetarian and eating out.

In 2008, a study estimated that more than seven million people in the United States are vegetarian, and nearly 23 million follow a largely vegetarian-inclined diet. With so many people opting away from meat, alternative protein sources have made a big jump in popularity. Since meat is out of the question, here are some popular and readily available sources of protein for vegetarians:

  • almondsAlmonds – Almonds and almond butter are more nutritious than traditional peanuts. While they have the similar amounts of protein, many people are not allergic to almonds. Add them to salads for an additional crunch and protein boost.
  • Soybeans – Tofu may still have that vegetarian, hippy stigma associated with it, but it is a great alternative to chicken or beef in many dishes, particularly Asian dishes. Besides tofu, steamed soybeans (edamame) are a great addition to any salad or vegetable dish. Plus, don’t forget about soy milk.
  • Quinoa – This whole grain is not only packed with protein, but it also has all the essential amino acids, making it a “complete protein.” This can be made as a side dish, or mixed with vegetables and dressing for a tasty whole grain salad.Chickpeas
  • Chickpeas – These little balls are traditionally known for being the main ingredient  in hummus, but they are popular in soups, stews, and even fried and used as garnishes.
  • Beans and Legumes – Kidney beans, black beans, lentils, etc. They have a great shelf life, are very economical, and very high in protein.
  • Pesto-Mole-1Vegetables – Avocados and peas lead the bunch, but green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and kale still offer a substantial amount.
  • Dairy – Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is very high in protein, offering more than 25% of the recommended daily amount in each serving. Cottage cheese, cheddar cheese and eggs are also popular sources that can be incorporated to many dishes.

Of course there are veggie burgers (made up mostly of items listed above), soy protein patties and imitation meats too. Most of the items above are everyday foods that you can substitute out if you wanted to give up meat for one meal. Next time you are at the grocery store, stop and check the number of vegetarian options in the prepared and frozen dinner sections. Visit any natural or gourmet grocery store and take notice how much shelf space is dedicated to the items listed above.

The smoky BBQ pits of Kansas City will probably never produce hickory-smoked tofu or BBQ hummus, the number of options for vegetarians continues to grow, and will most likely do so for a long time to come.