When you get hungry, and I mean hungry, it’s your body calling out for protein. While you don’t have to go full-time veg to green your lifestyle, many people are surprised to learn that simply cutting back on meat consumption is one of the most significant ways to help the planet. And it doesn’t require subsistence on tofu. (Personally, I find tofu delicious, but it’s one of those vegetarian protein sources people either really love or really don’t.)
There are so many delicious options available that slipping out of meat mode is breeze. Try one meat-free dinner a week, and build from there:
Your kitchen is not complete without highly nutritious quinoa. Known as the “Mother Grain” of the Andes, quinoa (pronounced KEE-nwah) comes complete with all necessary amino acids, high iron content, a delicious nutty flavor, and a faster cooking time than rice. Try it hot with steamed vegetables, cold in a salad, or in the ingenious form of quinoa pasta.
VEGGIE BURGER (YES)
Even carnivores love a veggie burger – they no longer resemble sorry imitations of meat that isn’t that choice to begin with. Amy’s Kitchen makes the tastiest organic ones, in my opinion, but there are dozens out there. Rare is the veggie burger that really tastes like meat, but I personally wouldn’t want that, anyway. You’ve got a variety of flavors to choose from, each typically made with protein-rich soy and organic vegetables.
King of the nuts, the amazing almond is high in both protein and calcium (it’s a great low-carb snack with only a few grams of non-fiber carbohydrate per serving). Try almond milk or Living Tree’s naturally sweet organic almond butter, too. For a real splurge, go for raw.
With a 4,500 year history, organic yogurt is here to stay. Boasting protein, calcium and living cultures, organic yogurt with fruit slices makes for a healthy and filling breakfast or dessert. Buy plain, organic, full-fat yogurt – it’s the best for your body. Low-fat yogurt is highly processed and flavored yogurts are very high in sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup.
O.K., technically this is tofu. But wait! Organic and non-GMO tempeh, made from fermented soy beans and rice, is high in fiber and protein. It has a nutty flavor and tastes amazing in a stir-fry or on a kabob. I recommend Henry’s Gourmet. It’s much nuttier and chewier than tofu, which will satisfy a serious protein craving.
Though it’s not a vegan option, you can find cheeses that come from animals raised humanely (look for artisan or organic choices). Cheddar and mozzarella top the list of organic cheeses for protein content. I recommend raw dairy if you’re comfortable with that. Here’s a cheddar cheese scone recipe – simply substitute whole-grain flour.
It’s easy to get plenty of satisfying protein in your meals while still eating low on the food chain. While you’re here, don’t forget to check out my tips for making salads exciting again.
– with additional reporting by Sara Ost
Images: quinoa – Sashertootie, veggie burger – jslander, almonds – greencolander, yogurt – kim siciliano, tempeh – mache, cheddar scones – bloggyboulga, cheese plate – cwbuecheler, hummus – paul goyette,