Posts Tagged ‘protein’

My family LOVES lentils. They’re one of our favourite legumes because they taste so great, they’re cost effective and you can use them in so many dishes. Lentil patties, vegetarian lasagna, vegetarian Shepard’s Pie, various casseroles and the list goes on…

A bag of green lentils (not cooked or canned) cost $2-4 depending on where you shop. One bag of lentils could potentially make enough meals for a family of four (eating lentils once a week) for a month! They also provide a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium. Combined with rice, lentils are a complete protein meaning that they provide the body with all essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) making them an ideal protein source.

lentil rice
I made this casserole for the first time a few weeks ago and everyone loved it. It’s so simple to prepare yet so amazing! The one thing to note is the cooking time (2 hours 20 minutes).

Curried Lentil and Rice Casserole
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 TBSP finely chopped fresh ginger
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh tumeric, or 1 TSP dried
2 TSP curry powder
1 TSP ground cumin
1 TSP ground coriander
1/2 TSP cinnamon
2 TSP sea salt
4 carrots, chopped
1 1/2 cups French Lentils or black beluga lentils
1 cup long grain brown rice
5 cups water
1 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions, saute for 5 to 6 minutes. Add ginger, tumeric, spices, and salt. Continue to saute for another 2 minutes until fragrant.

Place onion-spice mixture into a large casserole dish. Add carrots, lentils, rice, water and coconut milk. Mix together well. Cover and bake for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, turn oven temp up to 425 degrees F. Remove cover and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes to let excess liquid cook off. Stir and serve.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

This recipe is compliments of the cookbook called “Nourishing Meals” by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre. I use this cookbook at least once a week. It’s $24.95 and can be found at most book stores.

If you have not eaten lentils lately this is a great weekend meal. The bonus is you will have leftovers for the work week ahead!


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A coworker of mine asked me if she could still build lean muscle while living a vegetarian lifestyle. The answer is yes! Although our bodies need good quality protein to support and repair our tissues, maintain fluid and acid base balance in our cells, transport nutrients throughout our bodies and support our immune system, these nutrients do not have to come from animal sources.

Even though our body’s primary source of energy comes from carbohydrates, protein, regardless of the source, also provides us with necessary energy.

In my household we eat about 80% vegetarian and 20% organic or free-range eggs, chicken and fish. When selecting vegetarian meals, considering good quality sources of protein is important.

Here are my favourite high protein vegetarian meal ideas:

1- Vegetable Omelette (Protein content: 12-15 grams)
– 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of shredded kale, 1/4 cup of broccoli florets and 2 Tbsp green onions. Add 2 slices of rye bread with butter and you increase the protein content by 5 grams!)

2- Greens Salad with hemp seeds and walnuts (Protein content: 14-17 grams)
– 1 cup of spinach leaves, 30 grams of hemp seeds, 1/4 chopped walnuts, 1 medium carrot, 1/4 cup chopped cucumber.

3- Quinoa Santa Fe Salad (Protein content: 13-16 grams)
– 1 cup cooked quinoa, 2 Tbsp corn, 2 Tbsp red pepper, 2 Tbsp black beans, cilantro to taste.

4- Almond butter and banana sandwich (Protein content: 11-14 grams)
– 2 slices of rye bread, 2 Tbsp organic or natural almond butter, 1 banana.

5- Protein Shake (Protein content: 16-25 grams)
– 1-2 scoops of brown rice protein, 1 cup of almond milk, 1 banana, 1/3 cup blueberries, 1 Tbsp flax oil.

6- Greek Yogurt, Berries and Almonds (Protein content: 20-26 grams)
– 150g serving of yogurt, 1/2 cup of mixed berries, 1 handful of almonds.

7- Lentils, chickpeas, black or kidney beans (Protein content: 14-18 grams)
– dishes like lasagna, fajitas or Shepherd’s pie that call for beef can easily be replaced with beans.

8- Tempeh/Tofu (Protein content: 15 grams)
– 1/2 cup serving of tempeh or tofu is a great way to increase your protein content without eating meat.

*all protein contents listed above are approximate and per serving*

To determine how much protein you need each day use the following calculation: multiply your weight in lbs X 0.37. Example: 130lb person X 0.37 = 48g. This means a 130lb person needs at least 48g of protein per day.

As you can see, getting your daily requirement of protein eating a vegetarian diet is much easier than you think!

What vegetarian meals are your favourite?

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I was first introduced to quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) 6 years ago while working at the Kootenay Co-op in Nelson, BC. This ancient grain, native to South America, has become a staple in my home ever since. It’s versatility, nutritional value and taste make it the perfect all around superfood. When comparing quinoa to other grains, meats and white rice, here’s how it stacks up:

* great source of protein
* contains all 8 essential amino acids (not the case with any other grain)
* ideal for those who suffer from digestive disorders, wheat and gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or colitis
* helps promote weight loss, stabilize blood sugar levels and even helps to build muscle
* can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and takes mere minutes to prepare…15-20 to be exact!
* it’s even great cold and stores in the refrigerator for up to one week
* great for pregnancy as it contributes to a healthy baby and enhances a mother’s milk production
* contains the amino acid histadine, which is necessary for human development therefore ideal for growing children
* it’s chock-full of fiber, iron and calcium among other vitamins and minerals – necessary for children and adults alike

Not only do I enjoy quinoa for its many health benefits but also because it’s great for people who have a wheat or gluten intolerance; something I have just discovered I do. My digestive system has been compromised for several years (see my previous blog post) but I was unaware of exactly what the culprit was. A recent trip to the Naturopathic Doctor and Colon Hydrotherapist have indicated that I suffer from non-celiac gluten intolerance, and in order to heal my digestive tract, I must avoid gluten all together.

Although this news did not come as a total surprise to me, regardless if you’re prepared or not it always takes time to adjust to a new way of eating and essentially, living. If you find yourself dealing with digestive discomfort, wheat or gluten intolerance or even more serious digestive diseases, quinoa is a grain I think you will appreciate.

One of my all time favourite dinner recipes –

Quinoa and Veggie Bake (from Vegetarian Times)

1/2 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups celery tops
4-6 kale leaves, shredded
3 Tbsp. olive oil (divided)
1 medium onion
2 green onions thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or 1/2 Tbsp. dried dill
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup grated cheese (we use white cheddar)
1 egg lightly beaten

1- Rinse quinoa in a sieve. Toast in small pot over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until almost dry. Add 1 cup of water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer covered for 15 minutes.

2- While quinoa is cooking, prep veggies and sauté onions for 6 minutes, using 1 Tbsp of the oil. Add celery and green onions and sauté for another 2 minutes.

3- When quinoa is ready, pour 1 Tbsp. olive oil into 9-inch glass pie pan. Place in oven to heat.

4- Put shredded kale in a large bowl and then cover with the cooked quinoa. Then add the sautéed veg, dill and cheese into the bowl. Stir in egg and season with salt and pepper.

5- By now the oil in the glass pie pan should be hot. Remove from oven, ensure oil is covering the bottom, and then pour entire quinoa veggie mixture into pie pan. Bake 20 minutes, then drizzle 1 Tbsp over the top and bake 20 minutes more until golden brown.

Be sure to be on the lookout for quinoa grains on your next trip to the grocery store. They come in red, black, white or golden coloured seeds as well as ground for use as a creamy textured flour.

The majority of the information presented in this blog was taken from the cookbook “Quinoa – The Everyday Superfood 365” by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming. This book is amazing! It’s filled with all kinds of great recipes that use quinoa as the main event for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking options. Enjoy!

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Protein comes in many forms.  Meat, poultry, eggs, tofu, dairy, protien powders and even vegetables.

Protein comes from many different sources...explore the variety!

It’s surprising how many people are confused about what protein does for the human body, why we need it and how much we should eat on a daily basis. Protein is a part of every cell, tissue and organ in our bodies and its main function is muscle and tissue repair. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The majority of our energy comes from carbohydrates and fats, however protein does offer some energy in the event those two sources are depleted.

As you may know, the meat industry is constantly bombarding us with advertisements and misinformation which could be partially to blame for the confusion surrounding protein and its role in our diet. Because of this, most people in North America consume too much protein and not necessarily the best kind, in turn consuming too much fat and cholesterol. This is very detrimental to our bodies- not to mention the health care system.

A hallmark of healthy living is moderation and variety, and just like exercise we also need variety in our diets including the choice of proteins we consume. If we divided our diet into three segments; carbohydrates, fats and protein, protein should only be 10-15% of your daily intake. To make this even easier to understand, take your body weight in kg (1 lb = 2.2 kg) and multiply it by 0.8 and 1.2 respectively. This will give you a healthy range of exactly how much protein you need for your size and caloric needs.

For example, I weigh 135lbs / 2.2 = (61.4kg).

61.4 X 0.8=49.12 and 61.4X1.2=73.68. These values indicate that I should aim to eat 49-73 grams of protein each day.

Each gram of protein we consume provides our bodies with 4 calories or kcals as they are often referred to. Calories are basically the units of energy we obtain from food in order for our bodies to carry out the demands of life. Did you know that on average, we require at least 1200 kcals each day just to sustain our bodies needs for things like digestion, breathing, heart function, detoxification and many other reactions that happen internally without you even knowing it.

When we think of protein, most of us think of foods like meat, poultry, eggs and fish. These sources are called complete proteins meaning they contain all essential amino acids in the amounts we need them. Although these are great sources of protein there are many others that can also make up a healthy diet and provide our bodies valuable health benefits. Have you ever considered adding nuts, seeds, beans, legumes or tofu to a meal instead of meat? This is one way to reduce unwanted cholesterol and fat and add essential vitamins, minerals and fiber to your meal. Breads, whole grains and dairy products also contain small amounts of protein as do vegetables and some fruits. These particular proteins are called incomplete proteins because they are low in one or more of the amino acids required by the body. By eating complimentary proteins like nut butter and bread, pita and hummus or macaroni and cheese you can obtain all the necessary amino acids in the ratio we require them.

As you now know, protein doesn’t come just from meat, it is present in many foods. One of the best sources of vegetarian protein I enjoy at least once a week is quinoa. Quinoa is native to Peru, Chile and Bolivia and although often referred to as a grain, it is in actuality a seed. When cooked, Quinoa has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture with a naturally nutty flavour. It is high in magnesium, manganese and copper, easy to cook, tastes great and has one of the highest amino acid counts.

Give this yummy protein-rich salad a try…

Santa Fe Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

You will need:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

Combine in a bowl:
2 cups of black beans (1 lrg can)
2 stalks celery (chopped)
1 sm can of corn
1 small finely chopped zucchini
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1 green pepper, sliced thin

2 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp fresh cumin powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1 tsp salt
pinch cayenne
fresh ground pepper
Optional: 1/2 cup sliced olives

To cook quinoa, bring water to boil, add rinsed quinoa, turn down heat to minimum for 15-20 minutes. Scoop into a bowl, do not stir, and allow to cool. Mix the dressing well, add to veggies and quinoa. Stir well and serve.

*This recipe is courtesy of the Kootenay Country Store Cooperative in Nelson, BC*


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