How to add plant-based proteins into your vegetarian or vegan diet

23 April 2018

IT'S good for us and good for the planet and the message is increasingly hard to ignore: eating less meat is a win for us all. And according to the latest figures from taste.com.au, it seems we're listening, as vegetarian and vegan cooking is on the rise — in a big way.

But how can we skip the meat but not miss out on the essential proteins that fuel muscles and keeps us feeling full? There's a wealth of plant-based proteins out there that provide a satisfying alternative. Here's a selection of the most popular and readily available alternatives, and how you can add them into your diet.

CHIA SEEDS

What is it: Originally grown in Mexico, they are known for their multiple health benefits, including promoting healthy skin, reducing signs of ageing, supporting the heart and digestive system, and building stronger bones and muscles. They have a mild, nutty flavour.

Protein: 15g per 100g.

How to use it: While they can be eaten raw, the best way to access their vitamins and minerals is to either grind or soak them. They will then plump up creating a porridge-like consistency, which is great for desserts like chia pudding.

CHICKPEAS, LENTILS, KIDNEY, BLACK & PINTO BEANS

What is it: The legumes, or pulses, are like meat for vegetarians: rich in iron, calcium, zinc, folate, and dietary fibre for healthy bowels. They have a low glycaemic index ensuring they will keep you feeling fuller for longer and are low in saturated fat.

Protein: 6-8g per 100g.

How to use them: Add them to vegetable soups, mix them through salads, Mexican mince and casseroles; make them into patties or falafels for burgers or as a vegan substitute for rissoles or fish cakes. You can also puree them into dips, or dry roast them with spices such as smoked paprika for easy snacking.

SEITAN

What is it: Made from gluten in wheat and also known as wheat meat, it resembles the look and texture of meat when cooked. Usually available from the fridge section of health food stores, it is often the base for many vegetarian meat substitutes and can come in a variety of flavours.

Protein: 25g per 100g.

How to use it: Seitan can be sauteed, grilled or pan-fried and is commonly used as a filler in vegetarian sandwiches, covered in sauce for a plant-based alternative to chicken wings or a pizza topping. It can also be made into Thai or Indian curries or mixed with soy sauce and tamari for Asian-inspired noodle dishes.

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