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A Dietitian’s Guide to Meatless Mondays

By Alexa McDonald, Contributor

Meatless Mondays seem to be gaining followers and attention wherever I go these days. Most Americans eat at least one meatless meal a week. Now that New Year’s resolutions are in place, why not add the goal to eat more meatless to your list? With positive impacts on the environment, animals and your health, I’m all about celebrating different sources of plant-based proteins.

Can diets comprised mostly or totally of plant-based protein provide enough protein for your body? The average diet should include anywhere from 1.0-1.5 gm protein/kg body weight with 1.5-2.0 gm protein/kg recommended for those looking to gain muscle or active in power sports.

(Hint: Divide your weight by 2.2 and multiply by 1.0 and 1.5 for your average recommended protein intake.) In fact, most Americans actually far surpass their daily protein needs. When done right, a plant-based diet can provide just enough protein for your body to both function and thrive.

Check out my five favorite plant-based protein sources:

Chia Seeds

A sure superfood, are packed with 5 grams of protein and 140 calories per 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce (one serving). One serving also packs 10 grams of fiber, over 20 percent of your needs for calcium, and all nine essential amino acids Mix with four times the amount of liquid (your choice of milk or 100 percent juice) and top with nuts, dried fruit, or coconut shavings for chia pudding.

Quinoa

an ancient grain, can be mixed into salads, prepared as a side, or even ground into flour for baking. One cup, or 200 calories worth, add 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of iron.

Check out wild rice, brown rice, farro, barley, and freekeh for other protein-packed whole grains.

Lentils

Less than 10 percent of Americans take advantage of this delicious legume.

Considering it’s packed with plenty of nutrients and protein, Americans are missing out.

1 cup of 230 calories serves up: 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber and plenty of potassium, zinc, phosphorus and B-vitamins

A cheap alternative to meat-based proteins, mix lentils into soups, chilies or as a side dish.

Tofu

Tofu is sometimes looked at as bland and undesirable, but this vegetarian favorite can be versatile, tasty, and nutritious. ½ cup serves up 180 calories and is packed with: Over 75 percent of your daily calcium needs, 20 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.

When concentrating on protein intake, think the firmer the better. When prepping yourself, marinade it for 10 minutes with any acidic-based marinade to pack it full of flavor!

Beans

With 12+ grams of protein per cup cooked, they’re packed with so many benefits.

Both cheap and versatile, 1 cup provides: about 240 calories, about 10 grams of fiber, and plenty of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamin A

Available in the salad bar, pile onto soups, cooked whole grains, salads and even to top off healthy tacos!

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