There are many reasons why everyone should start eating meat-free dishes: They are always cheaper, contain less calories, and are better for our environment. It’s quite simple to receive enough protein without eating meat, but many people believe differently: Are these meat-free protein sources giving us the right amount of protein the body needs?

The term “complete protein” refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. There are 20 different amino acids that can form a protein and nine that the body can’t produce on its own. These are called essential amino acids—we need to eat them because we can’t make them ourselves. In order to be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine of these essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts.

For example, meat and eggs are complete proteins but beans and nuts aren’t. The body doesn’t need to consume every essential amino acid every time we take a bite of food; it only needs a certain amount of amino acids every day. Many dietitians state that plant-based diets contain a wide amount of amino acid profiles and vegans will get all the amino acids they need without consuming meat and with little effort.

complete protein

Many people still want proteins in all of their meals, but this isn’t a problem at all as meat isn’t the only contender. Eggs and dairy also contain protein, which is why it’s easy for vegetarians to get the right amount of protein they need daily. But these aren’t the only ways you can get complete proteins on your next meatless Monday. Here are a few easy ways:

1. Quinoa

Protein: 8 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked

This food is so healthy that NASA is trying to grow it on interplanetary space flights. Quinoa is very similar to couscous, but it’s way more nutritious. It has a great source of fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa is a great substitute for rice and it is versatile enough to make muffins, fitters, cookies, and breakfast casseroles.

Here are a few recipes:

Black Bean and Cilantro Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers
Roasted Strawberry Quinoa Parfait
Crispy Quinoa Fritters with Dill and Garlic Yogurt
Chocolate Quinoa Cookie Cake

Tip: Add to salads and baked goods!

2. Buckwheat

Protein: 6 grams per 1 cup serving, cooked

Buckwheat actually doesn’t contain any wheat at all and is actually a relative to rhubarb. The Japanese turn this plant into noodles called soba, but many different cultures would rather grind the seeds to make flour (which makes great gluten free pancakes) or cook them similarly to oatmeal. Buckwheat is extremely health and many studies have proven that it will improve circulation, lower bad cholesterol, and control blood glucose levels.

Here are a few recipes:

Mushroom Buckwheat Risotto with Goat’s Curd
Roasted Spiced Pumpkin with Toasted Buckwheat
Soba Noodles with Peanut Dressing

Tip: Sub for regular flour.

 

3. Soy

Protein: 10 grams per ½ cup serving (firm tofu), 15 grams per ½ cup serving (tempeh), 15 grams per ½ cup serving (natto)

While beans are normally low in the amino acid methionine, soy is a complete protein and thoroughly deserves its status as the go-to substitute for the meat-free. Tempeh and natto are made by fermenting the beans, but tofu is probably the best-known soy product. If protein is a concern, it’s important to choose the firmest tofu available—the harder the tofu, the higher the protein content.

Here are a few recipes:

Beer-Marinated Tofu
Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh
Noodles and Natto
Soy Bean and Napa Cabbage Salad

[the_ad id=”4150″]4. Rice and Beans

Protein: 7 grams per 1 cup serving

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to have a vegan meal and receive the full amount of protein the body needs is by beans and rice. Many types of beans are low in methionine and are high in lysine. Rice, on the other hand, is low in lysine and high in methionine. When you mix them together, you get a balanced out meal. If you’re not a big fan of beans you can always replace them with lentils or chickpeas both of which will give the same effect. This meal is a great way to get enough protein and carbohydrates for an intense workout.

Here are a few recipes:

Mango Salsa Black Beans and Coconut Rice
Hot and Smoky New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
Palestinian Lentils and Rice
Indian Chickpea Stew with Brown Rice

Tip: Serve as a side dish

5. Ezekiel Bread

Protein: 8 grams per 2 slice serving

“Take wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt, put them in one vessel and make them into bread for yourself.” This fragment of Ezekiel 4:9, while initially intended to help a besieged Jerusalem make bread when supplies were low, who would have guessed that it contains all of the essential amino acids. This is usually made out of sprouted grain, which increases bread’s fiber and vitamin source, it’s also very easy for the body to digest.

Here are a few recipes:

Ezekiel Bread from Scratch (Note: Requires a flour grinder)
Ezekiel Bread Pizzas
Ezekiel Flour Pumpkin Muffins
Ezekiel Pasta with Lemon, White Wine, and Caper Sauce

Tip: Sub for your go-to bread.

6. Seitan

Protein: 21 grams per 1/3 cup serving

Wheat gluten usually gets criticized by many people, besides the ones who are dealing with celiac and are gluten intolerant. This was first made thousands of years ago to replace meat for Chinese Buddhist monks. Seitan is made out of gluten (which is the protein in wheat) mixed in with herbs and other spices, and it is hydrated by water or stock and simmered in a broth. This one isn’t complete as it needs to be cooked in soy sauce broth to receive the amino acid lysine, making it a meat-like product.

Here are a few recipes:

Seitan Fajitas
Seitan Stir-Fry with Black Bean Sauce
Beer-Simmered Seitan Carnitas
Barbecue Seitan Sliders

Tip: Sub for meat in Mexican dishes

7. Spirulina With Grains or Nuts

This is a part of the algae family and as it’s not a complete protein source as its lacking methionine and cysteine. All that needs to be added to complete it is grains, nuts, oats or seeds.

Here are a few recipes:

Raw Spirulina Energy Crunch Bars
Mixed Nutty Spirulina Smoothie
Spirulina Popcorn
Spirulina and Hemp Truffles

Tip: Add to energy bars and smoothies.

8. Peanut Butter Sandwich

​Protein: 15 grams per 2-slice sandwich with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

See how easy this is? Every time legumes like beans, lentils, and peanuts are combined with grains like wheat, rice, and corn, a complete protein is born. Peanut butter on whole wheat is an easy snack that, while pretty high in calories, provides a heaping dose of all the essential amino acids and plenty of healthy fats to boost.

Here are a few recipes:

Grilled Pumpkin, Peanut Butter, and Apple Sandwich
Roasted Tofu Sandwich with Peanut Sauce
Peanut Butter, Green Tomato and Jalapeño Jam Sandwich
Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Tip: Have for a pre or post workout snack

9. Chia

Protein: 4 grams per 2 tablespoons serving

Chia seeds are the highest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and they contain more fiber than flax seeds or nuts. However, they are a bit low in lysine. Chia is also a powerhouse of iron, calcium, zinc, and antioxidants, but the best thing about these little seeds is that they form a goopy gel when combined with milk or water. This makes them fantastic for making healthy puddings, thickening smoothies, or replacing eggs in vegan baking.

Here are a few recipes:

Coconut Chia Pudding
Pear and Chia Whole Wheat Pancakes
Chia Vegan Protein Muffins
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower with Chia Seeds

Tip: Sprinkle in smoothies and baked goods.

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There are many reasons why everyone should start eating meat-free dishes: They are always cheaper, contain less calories, and are better for our environment. It's quite simple to receive enough protein without eating meat, but many people believe differently: Are these meat-free protein sources giving us the right amount...