I’ve always disliked the taste and texture of meat. I found myself stressed when I visited friends’ homes, worried that they would be serving something on a bone or fish (the worst). As a child in my parents household, I wasn’t allowed to be a vegetarian. However, in college, I realized that I could make the decision for myself now. And oh what a relief! I no longer feel guilty or stressed at mealtimes. I could simply say that I was vegetarian and get out of those unbecoming foods.
Unfortunately, when I first became vegetarian, I was exhausted all the time. When I finally did the research, I found that a protein deficiency could lead to some serious problems, and one of those could be perpetual exhaustion. As a premed student with a demanding schedule, that’s not something I can accommodate. Therefore, I’ve realized the importance of a balanced diet and went on the search for low calorie sources of vegetarian protein to fit my diet. While I focus on low calorie as a search filter, find what works for you! I just like to have lots of room left for my favorite carbs.
There are online calculators to tell you how much protein you should be getting in a day. For me, I like to reach 50 grams in a day. Below are some ways I fit protein in my diet on a typical busy day.
1. Protein Powder in Daily Coffee
I like to start my day off with a scoop of protein powder. As a self-proclaimed coffee addict, I have at least a cup a day. What better way to incorporate protein easily, than to add it really quick to the one thing I can’t and won’t give up? Use this powder in place of creamer!
When I bought the protein powder that I have, I recognized I was going to find it cheapest in bulk. I also looked for the lowest calorie per gram of protein, I thought that that would be an easy way to find a protein powder without a lot of additives that would take up extra calories.
I bought Muscle Tech’s Nitro Tech protein powder in vanilla. It provides 30 grams of protein in one scoop, and I usually use half a scoop in a small cup of coffee. And BAM I have downed 15g of protein at the beginning of my day. It comes in several flavors if you want to spend a little more. Get the chocolate version for your coffee, and you have an instant mocha!
Now, I bet you’re wondering hot or cold coffee? And the answer is both! Use a blender with your coffee and protein and you have a Frappuccino. Use this easy to use shaker bottle (with a fantastic snack compartment I’ll come back to) and you can shake up your powder into coffee before adding ice. With a to go mug like the one I have and you can add it straight to hot coffee as creamer. I usually add almond milk to my iced coffee for more of a macchiato version. Get creative and let me know what you get!
2. Cottage Cheese
Some people have a great aversion to cottage cheese. I am not one of those people. I love the salty cheese and have been eating it for lunch with canned peaches since middle school. Luckily, I had great friends who didn’t tease me for my lunch choice. A lot, anyways.
I love having cottage cheese with bananas, apple sauce, and peaches, but I also love having it with fresh bell peppers. It’s diverse and easy. In a half cup serving of my generic grocery store brand I can usually find 13 grams of protein for 90 calories.
3. Greek yogurt
When I am in a sweeter mood, but still in the need of my daily protein, I like to have some Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt comes in a lot of versions and they can be delicious. I like to go for the simpler versions without too much sugar.
These will usually yield 20+ grams of protein for a cup. The less sweet, the higher the protein and lower the calories. However, for those that haven’t had Greek yogurt before, I highly recommend that you work your way up to the less sugary versions. They are not that appealing for first tasters.
Depending on the time crunch in the morning, I’ll grab an individual yogurt to throw in my bag. Other times, I’ll portion out some yogurt from a tub to some Tupperware and maybe add a banana or granola. For unsweetened Greek yogurt, honey is a fantastic addition.
4. String Cheese
Cheese is a gift from Heaven. Consequently, one of my favorite snack foods is string cheese. With a good stock always in the fridge, it is super easy to grab on your way out the door or to compliment a morning banana. A string cheese generally has about 6g of protein to 80 calories. It’s a great way to satisfy hunger quickly!
5. Dry Roasted Edamame
I discovered dry roasted edamame in a vending machine. I originally tried it because it was wasabi flavored and I was hankering for some spice. It was love at first crunch. Imagine my surprise when I discovered how protein rich it was to boot!
I instantly ordered a tub of the brand off of amazon, which you can find here. It has 14g of protein in a ¼ cup serving worth 130 calories. The tub will last a while and the price is good! However, be cautious; while the wasabi flavor was delicious, it was also a chore to eat as a casual snack because of the spice. I suggest starting off with the sea salt version, which is delicious and simple!
Conveniently, this snack can be saved for later in the day, because it doesn’t requires refrigeration. It’s also vegan, making it more broadly accessible. I liked to put it in the snack compartment of the shaker bottle for my protein infused coffee that you can find above!
6. Protein Boxes at Starbucks
When you’re already out for the day, feeling hangry and lacking protein, I find it incredibly easy to grab a meal at Starbucks. Living in Seattle, there is usually a Starbucks on every corner, a quick dash inside will give you an extra 20g of protein through one of their protein boxes. They have a good variety, with a few vegetarian options. My favorite is the one with the PB&J sandwich. Stop in and try one!
What are your favorite sources of protein, or what are you excited to add to your diet? Let me know!