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No Meat, No Problem

Bev Bennett
CTW Features
Dried Pulses
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

The question of protein sources comes up when people talk about a plant-based diet with Dr. David C. Huneycutt, Jr.

“I’m not at all convinced it’s an appropriate concern or focus,” he says.

In any case getting adequate protein from plant foods isn’t difficult, says Sharon Palmer, registered dietitian nutritionist.

The key is to make every bite count, so protein contributions add up.

Palmer recommends eating legumes every day. A half-cup of kidney beans has 7.5 grams of protein.

She suggests adding nuts and seeds to dishes. An ounce of almonds has 6 grams of protein. Whole grains also add protein to meals. A cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti has 7.5 grams of protein.

Don’t overlook vegetable proteins.

Any of the following provides about 2 grams protein:

½ cup cooked Brussels sprouts

½ cup cooked asparagus

1 medium cooked sweet potato

1 cup sliced mushrooms

“I recommend four servings of protein-rich food every day,” says Palmer, author of “The Plant-Powered Diet” (The Experiment, 2012)

Although the seasonings and ingredients may differ, healthy diets that have a long tradition in various parts of the world have in common, vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and modest amounts of dairy, eggs and poultry.

Think about the pattern, rather than specific foods and you can get excited, says Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, Boston, Mass.

Create a pyramid using more of the foods you’ll want to indulge in, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains and less of the foods you’ll want to limit, including red meat and sweets.

It’s really easy to do, says Baer-Sinnott, offering some examples.

• Perhaps you’re planning a spaghetti dinner. Top the pasta with vegetables instead of meatballs.

• Think of soup. Add vegetables.

• Make a vegetable salsa to top meat or fish.

Here’s a savory taste of the Mediterranean and plant-based styles:

“Plantiful “Asparagus and Noodles

3 cups fresh asparagus pieces, cut into 1- to 11/2-inch pieces (about 11/2 pounds)

8 ounces soba noodles

1 teaspoon olive oil

1garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh gingerroot

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup canned no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar or rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1/16 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable broth, optional

Bring large pot of water to boiling. Add asparagus and cook 2 minutes. Scoop out asparagus with slotted spoon and set aside. Bring water back to boiling. Add noodles. Cook 6 to 8 minutes or just until tender.

While noodles are cooking, heat olive oil over medium high heat in very large skillet. Add garlic, gingerroot and onion. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

When noodles are done, drain and add to skillet. Add asparagus, black beans, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Toss well with two large spoons. If mixture is on the dry side, add vegetable broth.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving (without added broth) has:

207 calories; 3 grams total fat; 9.5 grams protein; 39 grams carbohydrates; 380.5 milligrams sodium and 5.5 grams dietary fiber.


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