Vegetarian? Find out if you’re getting enough of this vital nutrient.
To celebrate World Vegetarian Day, we’re spotlighting some gold medal ingredients along with our favourite high-protein vegetarian meals from The Fast 800 online programme.
The Fast 800 caters for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. It is estimated that 10 percent of the world’s population follow a form of vegetarian diet and, much like a non-vegetarian moderately low-carb, Mediterranean-style diet, vegetarian diets may;
- reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes; 1
- promote heart health; 2 and
- reduce the risk of cancer. 3
However, to reap the benefits of a vegetarian diet, it’s important to ensure the quality of the foods you consume provide well-rounded nutrition.
It is important to recognise the potential risks of a vegetarian diet lacking variety and quality nutrient-dense foods. Common risks include deficiencies of micronutrients often found most abundantly in meat, poultry or fish, like vitamin B12, iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids 4. Deficiency of these key nutrients can also lead to weakness and fatigue, anaemia and thyroid problems 5.
However, one vital nutrient vegetarians should be extra conscious of is protein. Insufficient intake can expose you to a plethora of health problems, such as fatty liver disease (a condition that can lead to liver failure), increased risk of infection and, superficially, lacklustre skin, hair and nails 6.
The nature of vegetarianism is that it can be quite easy to fall into the trap of not consuming enough protein, which is crucial for growth and repair. It is also responsible for maintaining muscle mass, which is important for sustainable weight loss, and keeping you feeling full. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, your body does not store protein, so it is essential to consume the right amount each day to top your body up. You should be aiming for at least 50-60g of protein per day.
How to hit your protein targets
Ensure you eat high-protein vegetarian meals. However, finding recipes that tick the nutrition boxes while being quick, easy and delicious can be tricky. It takes time, some number-crunching and a little nutritional know-how to pack protein and essential micronutrients into tasty meals every day. On The Fast 800 12-week programme, our nutritionist, Gabi, has done this for you. Our vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) meal plans contain at least 50-60g of quality protein each day within a moderately low-carb, Mediterranean-style diet.
Add high-protein ingredients to every meal. We’ve put together a list of just some of our favourite high-protein vegetarian ingredients with huge health benefits to help you make the most of a Mediterranean-style diet:
- Eggs protect your heart health by improving your HDL (good) cholesterol, contain a variety of vitamins and minerals (including B12 and vitamin D) and are a superb source of protein with all nine essential amino acids. Just one large egg contains 8g protein in a 75-calorie package. Despite some outdated rumours, eat the yolk – that’s where lots of the nutrients are!
- Full fat dairy products, such as cottage cheese and quark, are extremely high in protein with 11g and 14g per 100g respectively. When opting for dairy products, ensure you always go for full fat over low fat to avoid any added sugars or thickening agents.
- Tempeh, with its nutty flavour, is made from fermented soybeans and is an excellent source of protein (20g per 100g in most varieties). Not only this, it contains prebiotics and fibre for a healthy gut as well as micronutrients and antioxidants. Like tofu, it lends itself well to replacing meat in many recipes, like stir fries, curries and even savoury breakfasts.
Other vegetarian sources of protein members enjoy on The Fast 800 online programme include tofu, beans, pulses and lentils and quinoa. Many vegetarians find it helpful to occasionally include The Fast 800 shakes, which are high in protein.
You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy these fantastic protein sources throughout the week, but they are particularly great inclusions to put on rotation in every vegetarian meal plan.
For some inspiration and a taste of The Fast 800 online programme’s vegetarian meal plans, here are some of Gabi’s favourite high-protein vegetarian meals to try at home. Just because they’re not packed with meat, doesn’t mean they’re not packed with flavour!