Meatless Monday – Where’s the Beef?

Well there is none on Meatless Monday or any other day of the week for the vegetarian/vegan. Along with taste and habit many carnivores tend to lament the loss of protein in a vegetarian diet. The vegetarian/vegan has a number of plant-based proteins from which to choose so this week’s Meatless Monday is a quick run-down of vegetarian sources of protein.

Protein is one of the 3 macro-nutrients required by the body on a daily basis. It is composed of building blocks known as amino acids. Nine of these are considered essential as they can’t be produced by the body and therefore must be obtained from dietary sources. Protein is found in every cell in the body and has many functions: structural; movement; immunity and repair of tissue to name a few.

There are 2 sources of dietary protein: animal and plant. Animal protein is complete (i.e. contains all the essential amino acids) while plant-based proteins usually are not.  They are often combined to make complete proteins (e.g. beans and rice). There are, however, some plant-based sources of complete protein: soy; kamut and quinoa.

Here is a list of popular vegetarian/vegan sources of protein along with some tips.

Dairy
This category contains both milk-based products (i.e. milk; yogurt and cheese) and eggs. The lacto/ovo vegetarian includes dairy products in their diet. If you are one of these people, opt for organic and SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) approved only.
Cow’s milk and goat’s milk are the most common options available commercially. Let it be known, however, that there are other sources of animal milk consumed by humans (e.g. yak milk in Mongolia).
Eggs are a complete source of protein, low in calories and full of juicy nutrients (choline; selenium; Vitamin D and retinol-the animal source of Vitamin A).
Dishes: macaroni and cheese with steamed broccoli and cauliflower; roasted vegetable lasagna; egg salad sandwich.

Nuts/seeds
A plethora of nuts and seeds exist. Use them whole in salads or use their butter (crushed nuts/seeds) as a sandwich spread or in sauces. Be aware that nut allergies can be a serious concern for some people. Eat your nuts cautiously. Ironically the most prevalent nut allergy actually involves a legume i.e. the peanut.

Legumes
This category includes beans, lentils, peas and peanuts. Beans usually require a lengthy soak before they are edible. Once prepared, though, they can be added to numerous dishes to up the protein and fiber content. Use them whole in stews, soups and chilis and in cold or hot salads. They can also be pureed and used as the base in veggie burgers and pates. Use lentils, peas and peanuts in a similar fashion.

Soy
This is the food item that typically comes to mind whenever the words ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ are uttered. It can come in many forms: tofu; tempeh; milk or flour. Whatever form you consume make sure it is organic and non-GMO!
Soy is also the subject of the “eat or not to eat” debate. Some research suggests soy should not be consumed by people with hormone-dependent cancers (due to the presence of phyto-estrogens) and those with hypothyroidism.
Ideas: Substitute soy milk for the ‘regular’ stuff in sweet and savoury recipes; mash tofu with some vegan mayo, green onion and sulfuric salt to make ‘eggless’ egg salad; use tempeh like ‘bacon’.

Seitan
Gluten forms the basis for seitan so it is not at all Celiac-friendly. It does, however, mimic the look and texture of real meat. It is fairly straightforward to make your own. All you need is vital wheat gluten (just like flour), some liquid and spices. Mix the ingredients (it will be sticky) and prepare to your liking. Be aware that the end product can look so scarily like meat that it can be off-putting to some vegetarians/vegans (myself included). On the other hand it is a great item to include in a meal with mixed company. Some carnivores have been fooled by this ‘wheat meat‘ product.
Ideas: seitan bourguignon; seitan ‘turkey’ for Thanksgiving; seitan gyros or donairs.

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3 thoughts on “Meatless Monday – Where’s the Beef?

  1. I have been eating more vegetarian the past year and I love experimenting with new recipes! I have quite a few on my blog if you are looking for something to whip up for dinner.

    1. Hi Ani,
      Congratulations on eating more vegetarian. I have lots of recipes and if I had lots of time I’d spend it cooking! Nice blog and photos.

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