Although once viewed as a fringe lifestyle in the United States, vegetarian and plant-based diets have consistently risen in popularity over the last couple of generations. The market for plant-based food was valued at $7.4 billion in 2021 — an all-time high. That growth is projected to continue in 2022.
But even with more plant-based options on the market than ever, many vegetarians and vegans struggle to increase protein intake to sustainable levels.
And that can pose a real problem. Even though experts agree that plant-based diets are safe for most individuals, that designation hinges on vegetarians taking in enough protein to compensate for the loss of animal products.
So if you’ve decided to go vegetarian but worry about maintaining a healthy diet, here are a few great ways how to increase protein intake while staying plant-based.
Swap Meat for Seitan
The best way to increase protein intake without sacrificing flavor is to substitute seitan for meat. Made from wheat gluten, seitan packs up to 25 grams of protein per 100 grams of product. This makes it one of the richest plant-based protein sources.
It can also be made to resemble the look and texture of real meat. This makes it an attractive option for vegetarians who miss their favorite animal dishes.
Experiment With Lentil Dishes
Lentils are a type of legume that is a staple food in cuisines around the world. With about 18 grams of protein per cup, they’re a great way to supplement your intake.
Not only are they delicious and packed with protein, but they’re a great source of fiber as well, helping to make them an excellent all-around addition to your meal plan.
Use Nutritional Yeast to Satisfy Your Cheese Cravings
If you choose to excise dairy from your diet along with meat, you might struggle to find an adequate replacement for cheese. Plant-based cheeses exist, of course. But they tend to be more expensive than dairy cheeses, and the quality can vary wildly.
A great alternative is nutritional yeast. This product is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast with a distinctly cheesy flavor. It’s great used in mashed potatoes, sprinkled over pasta, or even to make savory popcorn.
It also packs 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per 16-gram serving, making it an optimal substitute for a vegetarian diet.
Increase Protein Intake With Plant-Based Supplements
The best way to add protein to your diet in large quantities is to use a plant-based protein supplement. Usually sold in powder form, they come in all kinds of varieties, made from different base ingredients and for different purposes.
But not all of them are created equal.
To get the most out of your supplement, you want to use the best plant based protein powder available. This means looking for a product that uses quality plant-based protein sources. It also means looking for products that eschew fillers and additives like sweeteners, soy, gums, emulsifiers, solvents, dairy, hexane, or flavorings.
Eating a High Protein Vegetarian Diet
The popularity of plant-based diets will only continue to grow moving forward. In 2022, inflation, rising food prices, and the climate impact of animal agriculture are all strong drivers of the trend. And they’ll probably continue to draw more people to vegetarian lifestyles for the foreseeable future.
But knowing how to increase protein intake is only one part of leading a plant-based lifestyle. For ideas on how to elevate your next vegetarian meal to the next level, be sure to follow our latest food and lifestyle guides.
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