How can you possibly get enough protein on a vegetarian diet?
At Sewall House we provide mindfully prepared vegetarian food for our guests. It’s simply our belief in the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism that inspires us to offer those foods to the guests that come to our retreat, where wellness is our priority.
In order to understand the pros and cons of protein and vegetarianism, it’s important to understand what protein is, how our bodies get it, which foods provide protein, and how much of those foods we need to eat.
Guests who are not vegetarian but are open-minded may learn from the no-meat experience at Sewall House. Some of our carnivorous guests are curious may wonder what leaving meat off the plate every once in a while is like, or even how to do it. Our hope is that in this article you’ll find the confidence and tools to incorporate plant-based proteins into your diet in a knowledgable way and delight in the health benefits.
Some important facts about protein
Your body doesn’t need every essential amino acid in every bite of food of every meal you eat. You just have to make sure you get all of your essential amino acids each day. Dietitians agree that plant-based diets contain such a wide variety of amino acid profiles that even vegans — who consume no animal protein at all — are virtually guaranteed to get all of their amino acids with very little effort.
Here are some facts.
- 15-16% of your body is made up of protein
- Your body doesn’t store protein, so you need to get enough each day
- Once in the body, protein breaks down into amino acids
- Amino acids are classified as essential and non-essential
- There are 9 essential and 11 non-essential amino acids
- Your body can manufacture non-essential amino acids
- Essential amino acids must come from food
- Protein sources vary in the types of amino acids they contain
- Animal proteins are similar to the proteins in your body and tend to contain a good balance of all the amino acids we need, making them generally “complete”
- Many plant-based proteins are considered “incomplete” because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids
The average sedentary adult should eat about a gram of protein for every three pounds of body weight. So if you weigh 180 pounds, that’s about 60 grams of protein. These numbers vary depending on your activity level.
How much protein is in the food we serve at Sewall House?
Below is a list of some of the most common ingredients we use in the Sewall House kitchen and how many grams of protein they provide in the vegetarian diet we serve.
1 egg = 6g
1 slice of cheddar cheese = 7g
3 tbsp of coconut milk =1g
1 cup of whole milk = 8g
1 cup of almond milk = 1g
1 cup of soy milk = 8g
1 cup of pecans = 9g
1 tbsp of almond butter = 3.4g
1 cup of almonds = 20g
1 cup of walnuts = 12g
1 cup of cashews = 24g
1 tbsp of peanut butter = 4g
1/2 cup of sunflower seeds = 15g
1/2 cup of chia seeds = 16g
1/2 cup of sesame seeds = 12g
1/2 cup of flax seeds = 12g
1 cup of cooked black beans = 15g
1 cup of cooked kidney beans = 15g
1 cup of cooked chickpeas = 15g
1 cup of cooked lentils = 24g
1 cup of cooked mung beans =14g
1 cup cooked brown rice = 5g
1 cup whole wheat flour = 13g
1 cup cooked basmati rice =5g
1 cup cooked couscous = 6g
1 cup dry oats = 12g
2 tbsp coconut flour = 5g
1 cup cooked pasta = 3g
1 cup of avocado = 3g
1/2 cup of cooked spinach = 3g
1 medium potato = 3g
1 medium onion = 1.2g
1 cup of butternut squash = 1.4g
1 cup of peas = 8g
1 cup blueberries = 1g
1 medium apple = 0.5g
1 medium banana = 1.3g
1/2 cup of chopped dates = 1.8g
If your favorite vegetarian food was left off the list, you can easily search Google for “how much protein in ____” and find what you’re looking for. Packaged foods will list this information for you.
Which vegetarian foods provide all 9 essential amino acids?
Remember, when eating a vegetarian diet you must be sure to consume a variety of foods throughout the day to ensure you’re getting a diverse and complete amount of essential amino acids.
Below are some examples of vegetarian foods and food pairings that provide all 9 essential amino acids, giving you all the protein you need in your vegetarian diet.
- Barley + Lentils
- Chia Seeds
- Ezekiel Bread
- Greek Yogurt
- Hummus + Pita
- Lentil Soup + Whole Grain Roll
- Oatmeal + Peanut Butter
- Peanut Butter Sandwich
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Rice + Beans
- Rice + Chickpeas
- Rice + Lentils
- Spinach Salad + Sunflower Seeds
- Spirulina + Grains
- Spirulina + Nuts
- Whole Wheat Toast + Nut Butter
Sewall House Yoga Retreat has a great resource for its guests to continue their vegetarian experience when they go home, the cookbook A Taste of Sewall House at Home by Ravi Kirin. Her recipes are loaded with plant-based nutrients and protein. One of the biggest fan favorites, the Spicy Potato Curry provides about 10g of protein per serving. The French Lentil Soup comes in at 10g per bowl, the Black Bean Soup has about 15g per serving.
Desserts have protein, too! Raw Lime Pie has 4g per slice, Apple Pear Crisp has about 7g per slice, and the famous Trustworthy Seedy Bread has 5g per slice.
What is a typical daily menu at Sewall House Yoga Retreat?
To walk you through a day of eating at the retreat, here is a simple sample meal plan with a total of 63g protein and all of the essential amino acids:
2 eggs + 1 piece of seed bread + peanut butter and a banana = 22g of protein
Cheddar grilled cheese on seed bread + lentil soup = 27g of protein
Spicy potato curry = 10g of protein
A slice of raw lime pie = 4g of protein
Get all the protein you need from a vegetarian diet
We hope that this information leaves you feeling confident and excited to try out a vegetarian diet during your stay at Sewall House Yoga Retreat or at home. There are so many resources out there to support any questions you have about leaving your meat behind, even if just for a few days. Below is a list of resources we pulled from to write this article and more that will serve you well if you want to research the benefits of vegetarianism even deeper.
Here are some additional vegetarian diet resources
Environmental benefits of eating a vegetarian diet
The difference between animal and plant-based proteins
Plant-based foods with complete proteins
Health dangers of eating meat