When people discuss protein foods, they typically think of meaty options like a piece of steak or a chicken breast. There are also many vegetarian protein sources that can ensure that our plant loving friends are well catered for too.
The building blocks of proteins are the amino acids, and there are hundreds of these in nature. Of these about 20 are important in human nutrition, with eight being classified as essential, meaning that we must obtain them directly in our diet as our body cannot make them.
It’s easy to meet all of your amino acid requirements from non-meat sources if you eat combinations of foods to obtain complementary proteins.
GROUP ONE: Dairy products and eggs (e.g. milk, yoghurt, cheese, boiled egg)
GROUP TWO: Grains and grain products (e.g. oats, wholegrain bread, pasta, rice)
GROUP THREE: Nuts and seeds (e.g. almonds, pumpkin seeds)
GROUP FOUR: Legumes (e.g. lentils, chickpeas, tofu)
Vegetarians need to include at least two groups in the same meal, and across the course of day include them all.
Protein Combination Examples
- Indian Dahl with a dollop of natural yoghurt
- Wholegrain toast & nut butter
- Wholegrain crackers & hummus
- Pumpkin and chickpea soup with a slice of crusty sourdough
- Tofu stir-fry with brown rice
- Oat porridge with mixed nuts & seeds
- Pita bread with falafel
- Baked beans on wholegrain toast
- Vegetarian bolognaise and spaghetti (using lentils)
- Poached egg on wholegrain toast
- Yoghurt with untoasted muesli
- Tortilla & Mexican refried beans
- Smoothie including oats and yoghurt
Top 10 Vegetarian Protein Sources
Delicious scrambled, poached, hard boiled or as an omelette eggs are a versatile and affordable protein source
Skim milk is a rich source of leucine which muscles love, but your body will also love yoghurt and cheese so mix it up
Nuts make the perfect snack or can really transform a stirfry or salad sprinkled on top!
Pumpkin seeds to quinoa, don’t overlook these tiny little morsels. They pack a punch in the protein department!
Lentils are perfect in a vegetarian bolognaise or an Indian curry, but they also work beautifully tossed into soups and salads
Whether you use diced in a stir fry or grilled on a BBQ, tofu is a sensational protein source that really has filling power
Nut butters, ricotta, hummus, tahini are all wonderful sources of protein. Spread on a wholegrain wrap with salad and you are hitting the complementary protein goals
Quinoa actually contains 9 amino acids, so it’s already a complete protein – BOOM! It truly does deserve its superfood crown
Blitzed into a smoothie, cooked as porridge or added to muesli, oats have a range of health benefits. Oats at breakfast with some yoghurt or milk will keep you satisfied all morning
Chickpeas are amazing in salads, but don’t forget to add some to your soups and curries. Smash some on your plate as an alternative to mashed potato.
Free Recipe: 12WBT Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
You can still enjoy cannelloni – just ditch the béchamel sauce and stick to the correct portion serves.
30 min prep time
40 min cooking
331 Cal / serve
2 Packets Frozen Spinach (500g), thawed
400g Reduced Fat Ricotta
2 Cloves Garlic (6g), crushed
100g Reduced Fat Cheddar, grated
18 Tubes Cannelloni Pasta Tubes (200g)
3 Handfuls Rocket (120g)
2 Teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar (10g)
1. Combine spinach, ricotta, garlic and 40g of grated cheese in a bowl. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
2. Preheat oven to 180C. Pour a little passata over base of a 20cm x 30cm baking dish.
3. Fill cannelloni tubes with spinach mixture, using the end of a spoon to push mixture through. Place filled tubes in baking dish.
4. Pour over remaining passata and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake for 35 minutes.
5. Sprinkle rocket with balsamic vinegar and serve with cannelloni.