Just because you are a vegetarian, this doesn't mean you can't have a protein-packed meal! I find that many vegetarians (not to mention, vegetarian athletes) feel hungry all day due to the high concentration of carbohydrates in the diet. Compared to protein and fat, vegetarians often find themselves eating and grazing on carbs. More so, even when protein sources are included, there may be very little fat to promote satisfaction.
Sure, fruits and veggies seem to be the obvious vegetarian choices but grains, breads, crackers, cereals, sweets etc. may seem to comprise a large portion of your diet. With a high concentration of carbs (fruits and veggies included), comes an increase chance of fluctuating blood sugar levels, thus causing sweet cravings and a constant feeling of hunger. I can't tell you how many residents I saw in the nursing home (for a short stay, likely due to a fall), with a healthy BMI (18-24) and lab work showing blood sugar values of over 200!! Normal values are likely between 70 and 130 depending on how the blood sugar is taken and when. When I asked them about their current diet, instead of hearing "ice cream and sweets" I heard fruits, fruits and more fruits!! Can you imagine being diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes at the age of 70 or 80 yrs because you eat too much fruit?? With a little education, telling the residents to combine protein with carbs was the easiest way to help control the blood sugars.
I believe that the only difference between me and Karel is that he eats meat and fish and I don't. Therefore, when it comes to a protein-packed vegetarian meal, balance is key. When planning vegetarian meals, I find it helpful to decide on the protein choice, prior to planning the rest of the meal. Once you figure out your protein choice (ex. eggs, tofu, vegetarian meat, cottage cheese, beans) you can then complement that plant-based protein with other macronutrients. Typically, it will be really easy to fill your plate with a variety of carbohydrates (ex. fruit, veggies, grains, etc.) so don't forget about your heart-healthy fats to slow down digestion and help with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K).
I hope you enjoy my latest creation!
Protein-packed Asparagus and lentil dish
1. Prepare lentils according to bag (should take around 20 min).
2. While lentils are cooking, steam asparagus. When asparagus is almost ready (7-8 minutes), add mushrooms. Drain water and season with a little pepper and add 1/2 tbsp olive oil.
3. Cook tofu, onions and garlic in a non-stick pan w/ a little olive oil. Season with paprika to help with browning. Top with chili flakes for a little spice.
4. While tofu is cooking, cook eggs (with a little milk) in a large bowl (sprayed with a little non-stick spray) in the microwave for 60 sec. Give a little scramble with a fork and cook for 30-40 more seconds. Optional - add a little cheese.
Don't forget to make extra's for a super-delicious meal for work the next day!!!
I enjoyed this on my lunch break while interning at St. Vincent's Hospital.