Did you know that vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy, nutritious, and may event provide a variety of health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases?
A vegetarian diet avoids meat, poultry, and seafood while focusing on eating plenty of healthy vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, and nuts. A vegan diet is a form of vegetarianism where participants eat only plant-based foods and avoid all animal products, including dairy and eggs. If you choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is important to plan your meals to ensure you are consuming foods that contain enough iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and especially protein.
There are many versatile plant-based sources of protein that fit into a healthy vegetarian or vegan eating plan. Here are some plant-based protein options:
- Beans: From kidney to pinto, beans are an excellent source of protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamin B6.
- Lentils: Lentils share the same protein-rich foundations as beans with a slightly lower fat content. They make a great addition to meals and can serve as a substitute for ground meat in many plant-based recipes.
- Seeds: Seeds have even higher protein levels contained in a conveniently compact size. Seeds also contain plenty of healthy oils, vitamins, and minerals. Pumpkin and sunflower are some of the most nutritious examples of seeds.
- Avocados: Avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats, which provide both energy and high protein levels. Avocados are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folates, as well as a broad range of minerals.
- Peanut Butter: A classic healthy snack food, peanut butter is full of natural oils and proteins. It can be used to add a rich depth of flavor and texture in a variety of ways from sandwiches, beverages, desserts, soups, or stews.
For more plant-based protein options, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website and mobile application. You can also take the MyPlate Quiz to learn how you can make healthier food choices and plan nutritious meals.