Protein is a structural component of all human cells. It is used by the body in enzyme function for membranes, and in transport of hormones and precursors for nucleic acids, vitamins and hormones.
Protein combining is imperative for a healthy vegetarian diet. It was once thought that you needed a variety of proteins to make a ‘complete’ protein in each meal, but the latest research shows that a variety of different proteins – such as eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds – consumed over a few days will give you the complete protein requirements. A general rule of thumb is to try to have protein with every meal; this also helps you feel satiated.
The concepts of protein combining are good to keep in mind, and once you have the basic concepts in your head, it’s easy to make sure you get adequate protein throughout the day.
Sources of protein
- Animal products: dairy, milk, yoghurt, eggs
- Plant foods: legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, soy
For complete protein for vegetarians and vegans, combine:
- Grains + legumes e.g. rice and lentils, wheat and peas, bean burritos
- Seeds/nuts + legumes e.g. hommus (chick peas and sesame/tahini), tofu and sesame
- Grains + milk or eggs e.g. rice and eggs, french toast, lasagne, quiche
- Vegetables + milk or eggs e.g. cream soups, vegetables with eggs or cheese sauce, salad with boiled egg, vegetable omelette, eggplant parmigiana
A great source of protein is to carry a nut or trail mix with you throughout the day or have it on hand to snack on at home. I make up a large mix every few weeks and store it in an airtight container. From this I make smaller portions to carry with me during the day. Almonds, brazil nuts and cashew nuts provide a range of protein so they form a good base. From here you can add other nuts, such as walnuts, and seeds, such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sunflower seeds. Make sure your mix is visually appealing; otherwise, you won’t be inclined to eat it. Inclusions such as dried cranberries, pawpaw, sultanas or goji berries can give colour to the mix.