Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting Ample Protein During Your Vegetarian Pregnancy

(It's Not as Hard as You Might Think!)

Everyone knows that your nutrient needs go up during pregnancy, but did you know that your protein requirement practically doubles?  Most sources say that a pregnant woman should be getting at least 80 grams of protein per day!  Are you getting enough?

Some vegetarians find it especially difficult to meet these numbers; I know I certainly did!  With patience and much time spent working with my diet (and keeping an accurate food journal), I was able to get there, and you can too.  It is easier to adequately meet your protein needs if you eat eggs and dairy, but the diligent vegan can accomplish it too.

Running low on ideas?  Here are some vegetarian ideas to bump up your protein intake.  (And note that all of these protein counts may vary depending on what brand you buy.)
  • Quinoa:  Technically a seed, quinoa cooks up like a grain and has a wonderful taste that most people enjoy just fine.  It's also worth noting that quinoa contains complete protein, meaning it has all of the essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own.  A cup of cooked quinoa usually has around 12 grams of protein.
  • Beans:  Yes.  Eat lots of these.  A cup of pinto or black beans has 14 grams of protein, a cup of garbanzo beans has 12 grams, and a cup of kidney beans has 13 grams.
  • Lentils: A cup of cooked green lentils has about 18 grams of protein.
  • Tofu and Tempeh: A serving of tofu, usually about 3 ounces, has 7-9 grams of protein, depending on the brand and firmness.  Tempeh is even better; a 4 ounce serving has 20-24 grams of protein.
  • Oatmeal:  A fantastic way to start off your day; a cup cooked averages about 7 grams of protein.  Better yet, you can add toppings to boost that even further!  I always top mine with walnuts, ground flaxseed, and chia seed, among other things.
  • Other Whole Grains:  You're going to eat bread and pasta anyway; choose whole grain!  Not only is it better for your blood sugar, but whole grains have a lot more protein than refined grains.
  • Veggies:  Wait, vegetables have protein?  Of course they do!  You should be trying to eat a rainbow of veggies every day, but some especially good options for protein are green peas (8 grams/1 cup), corn (4-5 grams/1 cup), spinach (5 grams/1 cup cooked), and Brussels sprouts (4 grams/cup).
  • Nut and Seed Butters: Spread 'em on toast, crackers, celery, apples, or whatever you want!  I buy ones that have no added sugars, salt, or oil (and definitely no hydrogenated oils!).  Try peanut butter (7 grams/2 tablespoons), sunflower seed butter (9 grams/2 tablespoons), almond butter (7 grams/2 tablespoons), or cashew butter (5 grams/2 tablespoons).
  • Nuts and Seeds: I prefer completely raw, but roasted are still a good option (be wary of too much added seasoning though). Try peanuts (7 grams/1 ounce), almonds (6 grams/1 ounce), pumpkin seeds (8 grams/1 ounce), cashews (5 grams/1 ounce), or sunflower seeds (6 grams/1 ounce).  Or try store-bought nut mixes if you like variety!
  • Greek Yogurt:  Sure, regular yogurt has protein too, but Greek yogurt usually has about twice as much.  It did wonders for my diet!  Plain, with fresh fruit or honey mixed in, or blended into smoothies were all delicious.  Most brands have 20-24 grams of protein in a cup.
  • Eggs: A single egg has about 6 grams of protein.
  • Cheese: Whether you snack on cubes or use it as a topping, cheese is delicious!  Most cheeses have about 7 grams of protein in a 1 ounce serving.
And here are some recipes to check out:

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