As a vegetarian, the most annoying question we get on a daily basis is “how do you get your protein?” It is not anyone’s business how we get our protein, however, we have to explain to complete strangers that it is possible to get a complete protein without eating meat. I have been a vegetarian for about nine years and it is still hard to answer this question without freezing. I try to quickly think about my diet and what I eat in 30 seconds so I answer the questions quick enough without seeming weird.
Although most vegetables are not a complete protein, it is possible to consume a complete protein with complimentary proteins and various grains. So what is a complete protein? A complete protein is a protein that contains adequate portions of all 9 essential amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, however, the body cannot produce 9 of the amino acids on its own, and so it is important to consume them. All meat and dairy do contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Consuming complete proteins is not as complicated as it seems. If you simply eat a variety of proteins throughout the day, you will most likely consume adequate amounts of each amino acid. However, if you are worried about consuming a complete protein, there are many different examples and complementary proteins below.
- Quinoa: Not only is quinoa a complete protein but it contains 5 grams of fiber per cup. It is great to use in salads and is a tasty addition to homemade granola recipes.
- Buckwheat: It contains manganese, copper, and magnesium. It is not a grain and is gluten free, so it is great for people who avoid grains. It contains an adequate amount of fiber, so it is ideal for people who are looking to lose a few pounds. You can find buckwheat flour, noodles, and cereal in your local grocery store!
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds contain an adequate amount of dietary fiber, so this product is also good for weight loss. It is rich in omega-3 fats and other vitamins and minerals. This little seed can be added to drinks, sprinkled on oatmeal or yogurt or added to a salad.
Complimentary proteins: There are many pairings that make complete proteins. Some include:
- Legumes with dairy, nuts, seeds or dairy
- Diary with nuts/ seeds/ legumes
- Grains and dairy
Some commonly eaten meals that are complete proteins are below:
- Rice and Beans: yes, this simple dish is one of the most commonly eaten complimentary proteins. It tastes great and is so easy to make!
- Macaroni and cheese
- Hummus with pita bread
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Tacos with beans
- Yogurt with nuts
- Peanut butter sandwich