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Vegetarian Protein: 12 Meat-Free Sources


Several of my friends and family members are vegetarian, and while I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon, I recently gave up red meat. I still enjoy chicken, turkey, and seafood, but I wanted to find healthy protein alternatives to further supplement my diet. I spoke with my nutritionist, Keri Gans, who gave me a few ideas and portion sizes to keep in mind. Here are a few serving options I’ve been enjoying.

Beans: 1 cup
Lentils: 1 cup
Quinoa: 1 cup
Tofu: 1/2 cup
Edamame: 1/2 cup shelled
Nuts: note serving sizes on label
Low-fat yogurt: 1 cup 
Low-fat cottage cheese: 1/2 cup
Egg whites: 3 + 1 yolk (yolk is optional)
Low-fat milk: 1 cup  
Soy milk: 1 cup 

As Keri notes, being a vegetarian does not equal being healthy if you stuff your face with cheese, bread, pizza, and potatoes. While eating more vegetables and fruits should be part of everyone’s diet, you still have to make smart choices if you do decide to give up meat and go vegetarian.

Note: Serving sizes above represent the main protein for your meal. Keri says that if you are eating vegetarian but including more than one option above, you have to adjust portions accordingly. For example, if you eat beans and quinoa in the same meal, adjust the serving sizes to a half cup of beans and one cup of quinoa or vice versa. In this case, one item counts as your protein and the other counts as your carb for the meal.

Our 2012 Weight Loss Diary writer, Yasmin, is a 33-year-old web content producer who is looking to get healthy and love her body! Follow along on her year-long weight loss journey!

Who’s helping Yasmin? Tiara Coaching Life coach Alison Miller, Ph.D, nutritionist Keri Gans, R.D, and Equinox personal trainer Stephanie Pipia.


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