Decreasing your meat intake can provide many health benefits, such as decreasing your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. It can curb your risk for obesity, and can even add years to your life. At CentroNía, we value providing a variety of healthy alternatives to meat to show our community that it’s best to give our bodies a variety of protein sources.
So, how can you implement Meatless Monday into your routine, while still getting enough protein? Some of our favorite plant-based choices and how we incorporate them are below.
At 18 grams of protein per cup, lentils are one of the highest sources of plant proteins. These legumes are an inexpensive way to pack a protein punch and are an extremely versatile choice.
CentroNía’s menu incorporates lentils often. One of our favorite ways to cook lentils is by mixing cooked lentils with a homemade marinara sauce to be served with whole wheat pasta and fresh veggies!
These legumes, also known as garbanzo beans, are our favorite way to replace animal protein at CentroNía! They pack 15 grams of protein in one cup, are a great source of fiber and healthy fats.
Try adding chickpeas to pasta and rice dishes, soups, and salads. At CentroNia, we like combining them with whole wheat pasta, sliced olives, and baby tomatoes, tossed with feta cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, for a colorful, refreshing lunch. Try mixing in baby spinach with everything else for some extra greens!
Beans and Peas
Similar to chickpeas, most beans contain about 8-15 grams of protein per cup. Peas tend to average closer to 8 grams of protein, with black eyed peas ranking the highest, at 11 grams per cup. Choose any of these in a soup, stew or rice dish to make a more filling meal.
Black beans almost always make an appearance on CentroNía’s taco days. More often than not, they’re all we need with our pico de gallo, fresh greens and corn tortillas. Try adding a bit of cilantro for a refreshing flavor that needs no extra salt!
Tofu is an ingredient that everyone may not be familiar with. Tofu usually contains about 10 grams of protein per serving, although some brands offer a high protein version that contains about 14 grams. What sets tofu apart from other plant proteins is that it is a complete protein. That means that it provides all of the types of proteins that our bodies need.
Cut a firm block of tofu into cubes or roughly chop, then in a mixing bowl add soy or tamari sauce, salt, pepper and two teaspoons of olive oil. After tossing, lightly brown the tofu in a skillet. Add veggies like carrots, celery, and onion to the tofu. This can be served with whole wheat pasta or brown rice.
Whole Grains, Nuts, and Seeds
A good rule of thumb is to always choose whole grains over processed and even enriched grains. Whole grain means that the entire part of the original grain is there as opposed to the nutrient rich parts being removed, as they are with processed or white grains. Look for products that say 100% Whole Grain.
Quinoa, spelt, wild or brown rice and whole wheat pasta are great ways to increase your protein, fiber, and micronutrient intake. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds make for a high protein snack and can add a crunchy texture to salads, atop soups, or in baked goods.
A Note about Dairy
While dairy is a great source of protein, try to incorporate plant-based proteins into your meatless meals to increase fiber and vitamin intake and to decrease your overall fat intake. The fiber will aid in digestion and keep you feeling full longer.
After implementing these sources of protein into your diet regularly you may notice a drop in your LDL (bad) cholesterol, an increase in your energy levels, and even weight loss!
What’s your favorite Meatless Monday dish?