How to Get Enough Protein in a Vegetarian Diet

Question: I’ve been a vegetarian for a few months now, and I’m having the time of my life. My question is, what can I eat to take the place of protein instead of meat, of course. I barely eat three square meals a day because I have a low metabolism. The most I eat in a day is a yogurt, waffle, take-out, or tofu every now and then. What can I eat to get at least three healthy meals per day? -I.W.

Dear I.W.,

Um … breakfast, lunch and dinner? I’m not quite sure what you mean by “low metabolism.” Not much appetite? Sluggish digestion? Physically inactive? Overweight? More water, fruit & veggies, herbs & spices, and exercise will improve your appetite.

Every time that you would formerly eat some meat, chicken or fish, you now should eat some beans, lentils, tofu, seitan, tempeh, nuts, or seeds, and protein-rich grains such as quinoa, amaranth, oats. Grain and legume combos give complete protein, e.g., rice and/or wheat + beans. And, don’t forget, LOTS of fresh fruit and veggies!

Be sure that you’re not allergic to anything new you’re eating. If you start to feel really tired, or have digestive problems, or big dark circles under your eyes, those are signs that something you’re eating doesn’t agree with you.

Especially if you are on a calorie restricted diet, make sure that every calorie counts for nutrition. In other words, easy on processed food, desserts, pop, fast food etc., generous with the whole, fresh, organic foods. Avoid depending on high fat sources of protein like cheese, and if you’re eating little or no eggs & dairy, be sure you’re getting B12 in fortified foods, or supplements.

I’m glad you’re having a good time with your vegetarian diet! Please let me know how you’re doing.

For more advice from Judy Kingsbury, visit The Savvy Vegetarian.

Health Disclaimer: Savvy Vegetarian provides education and support to individuals who want to become vegetarian, or improve their diet. We don’t advocate any particular vegetarian diet. We don’t claim to be health care professionals, or nutritionists, nor do we treat any illness. Any changes that you make to your diet, or results of those changes, are your decision and responsibility. For your protection, we ask you to be completely open with us about your health, and we may recommend a medical exam before changing your diet. We reserve the right to refuse or to end a client relationship if we believe the client’s actions may endanger his or her health.