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Posted Jun 03 2009 12:24am

I just saw the post below (in purple font) on the forum on

It's a good question, b/c a lot of people don't like beans.

Im a new vegetarian and im worried about not getting the right protein. I hear peanut butter and bread have it but I dont wanna have that every night. I also hear beans do, but, i dont really like beans. Confused

So I thought I'd answer it here. I think about protein and calcium every day, every meal. In addition to over 100 vegetarian/vegan recipes, our book Veggie Revolution has a very very thorough coverage of vegetarian and vegan nutrition and cooking tips. It's not hard at all to get enough protein without eating beans. And you don't have to be a gourmet cook. The only times I spend more than 15 minutes cooking are Thanksgiving morning and Christmas Eve.

So here goes:

One cup of soy milk has 7 grams of protein. I drink 4 cups a day, or at least 3. That's 21 to 28 grams of protein a day right there. There are so many flavors of soy milk now - it's much more tasty than cow's milk to me. I like Enhanced, a variety of Silk soymilk. Sweet, full of calcium and vitamins, yummy.

If you're into convenience, there's a big variety of soy-based fake meat products, from companies like Morningstar, foods that are really good. Chik 'n Nuggets are great, my college-age kids love those. Four little nuggets have 12 grams of protein. Morningstar and other companies make a variety of plant-based burgers too that are really good, in the frozen foods section. My kids like the Pizza flavored ones or the Philly Cheese Steak ones. I don't have any in the freezer at the moment, but I think they have 10 grams of protein per burger. There's also a "Smart Ground" product that's very much like ground beef but is plant-based, has several grams of protein per serving. YOu can use it anywhere you would use crumbled ground beef, like in chili. My conventional grocery store has all these products. The Smart Ground is with the tofu and salad veggies at Harris Teeter.

A cheaper product to use in chilis, soups, and casseroles, with just as much protein or more, is TVP or textured vegetable protein. It costs pennies per serving. You can get it at any health food store, in bulk. It comes in dried little pieces sort of like oatmeal flakes that you rehydrate by soaking in water. Or you can just put it directly into any soup or chili and and it'll soak up the broth. It's a soy product, loaded with protein.

If you drink cow's milk, don't forget yogurt and cottage cheese. If you're vegan, soy yogurt is pretty good these days. Both kinds of yogurt have several grams of protein. I have yet to find a soy cheese that I really like, but would love to hear suggestions from others.

Tofu is a favorite in our house. 40 grams of protein per package. You can dice it and heat it in your favorite tomato sauce, it soaks up the flavor of the sauce. Then put the sauce over noodles. My teenaged kids love this and ask for it. For a lot of tofu recipes, see our new book Veggie Revolution (amazon). I eat tofu for lunch with a little broccoil almost every day. I slice the tofu (2 slices) and put some frozen broccoli florets or frozen cut okra on a plate, sprinkle it all with powdered ginger and tamari, and heat it in the microwave until hot - 4 or 5 mintues. Hardly any calories and very very good.

Then there's tempeh and seitan. Tempeh is a soy product that can be substituted for meat in recipes, it has a tougher texture than tofu.

And seitan is a popular meat substitute in vegetarian restaurants, chewy and flavorful. It's actually a wheat product, not a soy product. There's a nice little vegetarian restaurant in GreensboroNC that serves seitan dishes that are wickedly good. I have only seen tempeh and seitan at health food stores. Of the two, I like seitan better. It is very meatlike in texture (not that I like meat, but I do like the chewiness of seitan). Just like tofu or tempeh, it can be sauteed and mixed with a variety of foods.

There's more about all of these foods in our book Veggie Revolution. If you have any questions about nutrition or cooking, post them here and I'll answer them.

Sally Kneidel
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