Any vegetarian or vegan will agree that “Where do you get your protein?” and “How do you make sure you’re getting enough protein?” are by far the most frequently asked questions when it comes to our dietary choices.
Protein deficiency is nothing to laugh about, but it’s a common misconception that meats and dairy products are the only sufficient sources of protein in a human diet. If this were true, all of us vegetarians and vegans would shrivel up and become weak little skeletons, right? Wrong!
Believe it or not, most humans are only required to consume 10-15% of their calories from protein. If you’re a vegan Ironman Triathlete (like Brendan Brazier), a vegan professional football player (like Arian Foster), or an extremely active vegan, you may require a larger percentage of protein in your diet. But most of us can get away with the 10-15% rule.
So how do we fulfill that requirement on a vegetarian/vegan diet? The options are endless! Beans, lentils, legumes, tofu, whole grains (especially quinoa), nuts, tempeh, and meat substitutes are all versatile ingredients that can be easily incorporated or substituted into traditional entrees that will not only fulfill our protein requirements, but will do so with fewer calories and less fat than typical meaty entrees. (Added bonus: they’re usually cheaper than meat!)
One of my favorite go-to recipes for a protein kick is a tofu scramble. I always keep a container of extra firm tofu on-hand to use with whatever veggies and herbs are lying around. For summer, I love to combine the sweet, fresh flavor of basil with the zesty spice of fresh jalapeno for a quick, light, refreshing, protein-packed Meatless Monday dinner.
Spicy Basil Vegan Tofu Scramble
-2 large jalapeno peppers, chopped (remove seeds and ribs for less spice)
-1 large sweet onion, diced
-3 large handfuls of fresh basil, chopped
-10-14 cherry tomatoes, quartered
-one package of extra firm tofu, cubed
-1 head broccoli, chopped into small peices
-natural sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
-olive oil spray (optional)
-2 cups cooked brown rice (optional)
1. Heat a large pan or wok to medium-high heat. (Optional: lightly spray with olive oil.) Saute onion in heated pan for 2-3 minutes until soft and slightly translucent.
2. Add broccoli and jalapeno to pan. Sautee for an additional 3-5 minutes until all vegetables are soft. Remove from pan. Set aside.
3. Add tofu to pan and sautee for 2-3 minutes until heated through (stir frequently to prevent sticking).
4. Combine cooked vegetables with tofu. Add tomatoes and basil. Sautee for another 2-3 minutes until the basil is wilted and all vegetables are warmed through.
5. Serve over rice (optional). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Wendy Fry is a vegan athlete who currently lives in Philadelphia and teaches first grade. Read more about her healthy transformation here: www.nomeatathlete.com/wendy/