Preparing vegetarian meals with enough protein may seem a challenge, but several plant foods are excellent sources of protein. Beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy are all good choices. If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can also choose eggs, milk and cheese, and pesco-vegetarians can get protein from fish. Protein is essential for energy and good health; and if your children also follow a vegetarian diet, protein is imperative.
Protein at breakfast gives you energy to get through the day, vegetarian or not. Plenty of breakfast options do not have to include meat. Scrambled or any style eggs with multi-grain toast spread with protein-rich peanut butter and a glass of milk offer a yummy way to start the day, particularly if you dress up the scrambled eggs with a seasoning mix. Mix strawberries or raspberries into a bowl of Greek yogurt for a morning burst of protein. For stricter vegetarians, make a fruit smoothie with 1 ounce of sunflower seeds or roll up lettuce wraps filled with cashew or almond butter and sliced bananas.
Eggs are a good source of protein, and egg salad -- made with mustard and either mayo or creamy salad dressed -- topped with sprouts on multi-grain bread can serve as your midday pick-me-up. Vegans can enjoy "egg" salad too. Tofu almost looks like hard-boiled egg whites, but it has a lot more protein. Crumble it, add chopped celery, chopped black olives or whatever you like, and mix it up with a vegan mayonnaise. Or cook up a shepherd's pie with meatless burger crumbles instead of ground beef. Use frozen or canned mixed vegetables, seasonings and vegetarian gravy. Top the pie with potatoes mashed with soy milk, which contains about the same amount of protein as dairy milk. Divide it into containers for an easy microwave lunch at work.
You can also make shepherd's pie for dinner out of the leftovers from lunch. A lentil stew made with peas, onions, celery, chopped tomatoes and seasonings packs a protein punch. Or use beans and tofu, as protein sources, in a vegetarian chili. Brown some crumbled tofu with chili powder and cumin. Add black beans, kidney beans and pinto beans, onions, diced tomatoes, corn, and finely chopped broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini. Simmer for a couple of hours and you will have a hearty three-bean chili suitable for vegetarians of all stripes. Serve the stew or chili with a side salad of mixed greens, your family's favorite veggies and a creamy dressing.
For the Kids
Children, especially, need adequate amounts of protein for healthy growth. Put a fun spin on vegetarian meals that will provide them with the energy they need. Tofu is an excellent source of protein, and the kids will love French toast dipped in a mixture of blended tofu, water, maple syrup, cinnamon and banana. For lunch, give them soy burgers with ketchup, creamy dressing, mustard and a side of low-fat baked chips or sliced veggies with ranch dressing for dipping. Go Mexican for dinner with bean burritos or enchiladas topped with salsa or cool creamy salad dressing. Use burger crumbles if you like, and if you eat dairy products, covering food with cheese is always a winner with kids.