It’s obvious that recipes that have no meat are vegetarian. But you need protein for your healthy diet, don’t you? So how can you incorporate protein into your easy veggie recipes? You’ll see here that there are loads of choices for you!
Option 1: Eggs
Eggs are a great option for protein in your vegetarian diet. You can have them plain–scrambled, sunny side up or over easy. You can also add vegetables to them to make them more dietarily well-rounded, such as in an omelet or just chopped up, cooked, and added to your scrambled eggs. Also, you can hard-boil them and eat them plain or make egg salad out of them for a sandwich or even a deviled egg dip–once again, adding a chopped vegetable if you’d like.
As you can see, your creativity can really take off here, because the list of ways in which you can prepare eggs is pretty long and varied! If you’re counting calories, eggs can be a wonderful protein option.
Option 2: Cheese
With the wide variety of cheeses that we have available, you can really have fun here. Something I really like to do is shred or cube my choice of cheese (such as cheddar, colby, colby-jack, muenster, swiss, monterey jack–the list definitely goes on!) and adding it to any number of dishes, such as the boxed macaroni and cheese, eggs, salads, and casseroles.
You’ll find that cheese combines really well with most vegetables, so I encourage you to play around with different combinations. Plain cottage cheese is always an option, of course, and you can also add chopped fruit to give it more nutritional value. I love to add crushed pineapple to cottage cheese for a quick breakfast or a sweet snack. Cream cheese is very versatile and can be added to any number of dishes.
One thing you need to keep in mind about cheese is that most varieties are high in fat, so if you’d like to reduce your waistline, cheese may not be a choice you want to make regularly.
Option 3: Legumes
Many people have no idea what legumes are, although they may have used them or eaten them.
Legumes, according to the Mayo Clinic, are “a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils — (and) are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber.”
If you’re focusing on losing weight in order to attain a healthy weight, legumes are definitely one way to go.
So what are some examples of legumes?
- pinto beans
- garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas or ceci)
- black-eyed peas
- black beans
- navy beans
- kidney beans
- green peas
And there are so many more!
You can sometimes obtain legumes fresh, but they’re most commonly available either canned or dried, and sometimes frozen (as is the case with green peas). Canned legumes are quite easy to use and are very economical. Preparing most dried legumes is a bit of a process, although very simple; we will cover that in a later post.
Option 4: Nuts
Nuts are such a delightful addition to a vegetarian diet! Just like with cheese and legumes, there are so many to choose from.
- brazil nuts
- pine nuts
- macadamia nuts
You can eat them plain as a snack, or you can chop them (if needed) and add them to a salad or to the top of a cake. I’m sure you’ve heard of pecan pie or nut bread, although you probably shouldn’t generally use sweet things as the focus of your dietary protein 😉
You may have noticed that peanuts aren’t listed as a nut. This is because they’re actually a legume.
Option 5: Tofu
Tofu has a well-earned reputation as a very bland food; as a matter of fact, it tends to take on the flavor of whatever foods it’s cooked with. As I mentioned in my introduction, I’ve blended silken tofu (the softest version) with my spaghetti sauce, or you can cube any of the firm tofus–firm, extra firm, and super firm–and toss the cubes into a stir-fry.
I’ve taken firm tofu, spread my choice of sauce or marinade on it, and maybe sprinkled some chopped scallions on it. Then I bake it at 425 degrees fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.
The key to success with tofu is to know how you’re going to use it in order to make the appropriate choice of firmness. In addition, silken (or soft) tofu has half the calories and fat of firm tofu’s content, and firm tofu has more than twice the protein than silken tofu. Silken tofu has a higher water content than firm tofu.
Option 6: Combinations
You can really have some fun here!
- One combination that may be obvious to you is a cheese omelet–cheese and eggs.
- The pinto beans in refried beans will also combine well with cheese.
- Perhaps you’d be interested in tossing some firm tofu into your scrambled eggs–once again, along with your choice of cheese!
- You can prepare a stir-fry with tofu and a legume that interests you, such as peanuts, or a nut such as cashews.
- Don’t forget soups and salads! You can combine different legumes in a soup (have you ever heard of 15-bean soup?) or in a salad, such as the old stand-by known as three bean salad.
As you can see, there is no shortage of protein sources to use in the easy veggie recipes you choose to prepare. In this site, I’ll be providing simple recipes that will hopefully capture your interest; some will include a vegetarian protein, others will have no protein at all. If you choose to add vegetarian protein to a recipe to make it more interesting or nourishing, you can see here that you have a wide spectrum of choices. Don’t be afraid of letting your imagination free; it can be really enjoyable and satisfying to experiment!
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please feel free to comment about them below.