The other day I was working on my FAQ for healthy eating and meal planning, and I got the question about whether you can get enough protein following a vegetarian diet. I answered the question as part of my post, but I decided to take it a step further. Every Wednesday I post pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with what I eat that day along with calorie information.
I usually stay in the 1600-1800 calorie ballpark which covers the majority of dieters and use it as a chance to show what you can do within that range with a little creativity. Yesterday I challenged myself to see what I could do vegetarian style. I purposely didn’t plan anything ahead of time and I used ingredients and foods that you can buy at Walmart and normal grocery stores. I didn’t want food that required a trip to a health food or specialty store.
I actually love doing this kind of thing because it really helps me relate to clients as a wellness coach. I have a few vegetarian clients so I have experience working with them, but being a meat eater is still a different
animal concept. (Heehee, I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist that one.) I made a couple interesting observations at the end of the day.
The first was the need to add fat. I’m a fat hoarder. I admit it. It’s due to my love affair with all things peanut butter. I typically don’t add a lot of oil in cooking so that I can have my daily rendezvous with the butter. I also usually don’t use salad dressings because I don’t like them or cheese because of The Kid’s dairy allergy. The vegetarian choices along with my usual habits had me quite low in fat at the end of the day.
The second was that it’s a lot of food! Now I eat a ton of veggies and things to begin with, but this was over the top from what I’m used to. I had to eat two servings of tofu to get close to the amount of protein in my chicken. The calories were similar but the volume was very different. Combine that with the massive bowl of salad greens and chick peas, and I was unbuttoning and leaning back in my chair. LOL.
Lastly, was the most surprising to me. Yes, it should have occurred to me but until I actually lived it I didn’t think about it. To keep your protein up around typical meat eaters, you need to eat pretty clean and healthy. Things like lentils, chick peas, whole grains are all high in protein. Bread, chips, cookies, cereal and things like that are almost nil in the protein numbers. So without mostly whole foods, you’re going to hit your calorie goal well before your protein numbers. This isn’t necessarily an issue and is not a vote for or against any foods, but just an observation.
So in honor of yesterday’s adventure, here is the recipe for my dinner last night. Ha, and my lunch today. There are tons of leftovers.
Vegan Green Lentil Dal with Brown Rice
- 1/2 cup (90g) uncooked brown rice
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup (100g) diced onion
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 3/4 cup (126g) dry green lentils
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups (170g) spinach
Cook the rice according to package directions. I used my handy rice steamer while the lentils cooked. Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil. Swirl the pot slightly to coat the bottom and add the onion. Cook the onion for about 3 – 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and spices and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. This will toast the spices and bring out their flavor.
Add the water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and simmer for about 25 minutes until just a little liquid remains. Add the spinach and stir to mix it in and wilt the leaves. This will take about 2 minutes. Don’t panic the amount of spinach gets much smaller as it cooks. Remove from heat. Divide the rice into 4 bowls and top evenly with the lentils.
Makes 4 servings at approximately 187 calories – 11g protein, 36g carbs, and 4 g fat.
- I actually make my own garam masala and use it in things like this and Shrimp Vindaloo. It’s really easy to make so you don’t have to run out and specifically buy garam masala unless you really want to. The recipe I used is included there.
- You can use any type of lentil for this. Red, yellow, green. I went with green because that’s the color I had. FYI, lentils are dirt cheap too so you get bonus money saving. 😉
Typically dal is eaten with naan which is a delicious crusty bread like a pita. I didn’t have any on hand so I improvised. I sliced a whole wheat flat wrap into “chips” and broiled them until toasty. You can use naan, pita chips, tortilla chips, or anything like that.
This was definitely a worthwhile experiment and it gave me plenty of things to keep an eye out for or to add to my suggestions when working with vegetarian clients. Very cool stuff and keep the questions coming. I’d also love for you to stop by on What I Eat Wednesday. Click on the buttons on the right to follow me and get some new food ideas.