Avril Reilly, pharmacist and weight-loss coach in LloydsPharmacy Governey Square, is back this week to tell us about why you don’t need meat or fish to get your protein fix!
You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy vegetarian meals; personally, I like to enjoy the best of both worlds and a large proportion of my meals include vegetarian sources of protein. Vegetarian proteins can be very cost-effective, lower in calories and saturated fats, more sustainable and better for the environment compared to animal sources of protein. Meatless Monday is all the rage so why not give it a go and switch just one or two of your weekly meals? I’d like to give you some ideas as to how you can go about boosting your intake of vegetarian proteins.
Hemp Protein Powder Or Hemp Seeds: A rich source of fibre, protein and a host of other minerals these can simply be added to smoothies, cereals, yoghurt, salads as well as in baked goods. A great whey-free and lactose-free option for anyone in need of a post-workout protein boost.
Chia Seeds: Known to be the ancient food of the Aztecs, these amazing seeds are one of the highest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids and we should all know how important they are at this stage! They are also a fantastic source of fibre, iron, calcium, magnesium, selenium and zinc, and they are classed as a complete protein as they contain all of the essential amino acids. They are completely tasteless so they go with everything! When combined with liquid they develop a thick, gel-like consistency so they make a fantastic thickener for smoothies or soups as well as delicious puddings. Check out my recipe for chia seed pudding on our recipe blog, which can be enjoyed as a delicious breakfast or a healthy dessert. Alternatively, sprinkle over salads or stir into your porridge for a great nutritional boost.
Nuts, Nut Butters & Tahini: These are very valuable sources of both healthy fats and proteins and are a delicious way to incorporate more plant-based protein into your diet. Choose varieties that are raw and unroasted. Make sure to keep an eye on the portion size as they do contain quite a lot of calories. Meridian is a great brand of nut butters as they just contain nuts and a small amount of sea salt and are available in LloydsPharmacy branches. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds and can be used to make dips such as hummus.
Quinoa: This is the perfect protein as it contains all of the essential amino acids that the body needs for growth and repair but cannot manufacture on its own. As well as being highly nutritious, it is amazingly versatile and is a great substitute for rice. A quick tip for cooking quinoa – dry roast the seeds for a few minutes to bring out the flavour before adding water or stock! It also makes a great gluten-free alternative to oats for your morning porridge – I like to use quinoa flakes when making porridge as it is ready in just a few minutes and time is particularly precious in the mornings, right?! Check out our recipe blog for a great granola recipe containing quinoa flakes and many other ideas for using this awesome grain.
Buckwheat: Interestingly, this is not a wheat at all but a super-healthy relative to rhubarb! Not as protein packed as quinoa but a brilliant addition to your diet nonetheless. Again, it is highly versatile and comes in a number of forms such as Japanese soba noodles, buckwheat flour or just the kernels themselves, which are also a great alternative to oats in the morning!
Legumes: These include lentils (one of my favourites!), peas, a very wide variety of beans and one that you may not expect – peanuts! Lentils, peas and beans are very cheap, versatile and available dry or in tins. Give your soup a great protein boost by throwing in a tin of mixed beans or use tinned chickpeas instead of meat in your salad. They are fantastic in casseroles, stews, pies, stir-fries and curries. Check out my recipe for lentil curry – it’s proving to be a massive hit with meat eaters and would be a great option for Meat-free Mondays! Quick tip – if you are not used to eating legumes, start by eating very small quantities as some people can find them hard to digest and need to get used to them.
Tofu & Tempeh: Produced from soybeans, these are a wonderful and inexpensive alternative to meat. Try to buy organic, non-GMO versions for optimal health benefits. Ok, so firstly what’s the difference between tofu and tempeh? Well, tofu is the more popular option and is produced by curdling fresh, hot soymilk with a coagulant. It comes in a variety of forms from silken to extra firm. The softer versions are excellent in soups or smoothies or scrambled with some seasoning and spices as an alternative to scrambled eggs. The firmer varieties are yummy in stir-fries. As it is flavourless, it will just absorb the flavours that you are cooking with so it is incredibly versatile. Sometimes I like to cut the firm tofu into cubes, marinate in natural yoghurt and tandoori spices, pop into the oven until crispy and then toss into my salad or eat on its own as a tasty, protein-packed snack! Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and has a slightly earthy, sweet taste. Even though it contains more calories than tofu, it is significantly richer in protein and fibre as well as being less processed. It’s great in a stir-fry or try it crumbled over a salad!
Mycoprotein: This protein is actually derived from fungi and is an excellent source of all the essential amino acids. It is the key ingredient in the popular Quorn™ products which include a wide range of sausages, turkey and ham slices, burgers and products that resemble mince or chicken pieces. Very easy to incorporate these into your diet as you can simply use them in place of the meat version. Check out our recipe blog to learn how to make Quorn™ Bolognese.
Spirulina: Available in powder or capsule form, this natural algae is incredibly high in protein, almost 65% in fact, and also contains a rich array of anti-oxidants, B vitamins, iron and other nutrients. It is also a rich source of chlorophyll, which makes it a great detoxifier. Try a teaspoon mixed into your smoothie to super-boost its nutritional content!
Dairy Produce & Eggs: No explanation required here, these products are a key source of protein and the options and endless! Glenisk now produce a high protein Greek-style yoghurt, which makes a terrific snack, mixed with fresh or frozen berries, which I love! Choose the natural option as it is completely sugar-free and is simply made from milk and bacterial cultures.
Shake-Up: Let’s not forget this wonderful Irish product as a meat-free way to boost our protein intake! Produced using whey protein from grass-fed Irish cows, it is also a great source of calcium, vitamin D, fibre and B vitamins among other key nutrients. It is a very convenient option for those on the go, or just to blend into your smoothie. Simply mix a scoopful of the product with water and drink!
Some food for thought on how you can increase your intake of vegetarian proteins. Maybe the idea of meat-free Monday doesn’t sound so daunting after all?! And the great news is that some of the options mentioned are available in selected LloydsPharmacy stores, such as the Meridian nut butters, hemp protein powder, hemp seeds, spirulina, chia seeds and shake-up. We also stock a great range of protein snacks and bars to ensure that you always have a healthy option to hand when you are on the go.
Written by Avril Reilly, Pharmacist, LloydsPharmacy Governy Square