How to Get Enough Protein if You Are a Vegetarian

Protein is considered a macronutrient, meaning if you don’t large amounts of it, your health and body composition will suffer.

The body uses protein to repair and build tissues including muscles. Every cell in the body contains protein. Protein is also essential to make hormones, enzymes and other important bodily chemicals.

Adequate protein is very important when it comes to losing weight. People who want to hold on to muscle they’ve already built may need to increase their protein intake when losing body fat, as a high protein intake can help prevent muscle loss that usually occurs when reducing calories to lose weight. (Source, Source).

How much protein an individual needs is based on several factors like muscle mass, activity level, health, physique goals and is best determined by a registered dietitian.

If someone is a vegetarian or vegan, it can be a challenge to eat enough protein.

Keep in mind that plant sources of protein are incomplete (they do not have all the essential amino acids), with the exception of soybeans and quinoa. If a vegetarian or vegan has a limited diet, they can potentially not be getting their daily protein needs met. They must be careful to eat a wide a variety of protein rich plant foods.

See here for more information on getting adequate protein.

For those eating meat, 1 ounce of protein provides about 7 grams of protein. But for the vegetarian, these options offer a meatless alternative for 1 ounce of protein or 7 grams of protein.

½ cup cooked chickpeas, black beans, edamame or lentils

1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

¼ cup tofu

2 tablespoons hummus

1 cup cooked bulgur or quinoa

12 raw almonds

1 tablespoon peanut butter

2 slices of bread

1 to 1.5 cups cereal

3 ½ cups vegetables

One large egg

One cup milk

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Maria Faires’ Slow Cooker Crock Pot Beans

Lima beans cooked in the crockpot

How to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker Crockpot

I have been making beans for years trying to come up with a recipe that would result in a flavorful satisfying dish. I think I have found it! These are full of flavor! The long, slow cooking method imparts a deep flavorful essence into the beans.

And being a dietitian, I am a huge fan of beans for their wealth of nutrients, antioxidants and value in a weight loss program since they are so filling.

And this method is the easiest I have ever tried. When beans are cooked in the slow cooker, pre-soaking them overnight is not important, so this method saves a step. The long, slow cooking process will soften them without the need to presoak.

The first time or two that you cook beans in the slow cooker, it’s best if you can be around to check on them toward the end of cooking. Some slow cookers and some beans will cook more quickly or slowly than others. Until you’re familiar with how long beans typically take in your slow cooker, start checking them around 4 and a half hours and then every 15 minutes or so after that until they’re done.

Flavor Secret: Aromatics

You may be wondering when you read the recipe what I mean by “aromatics”. Aromatics are ingredients like herbs, spices and vegetables (and sometimes meat) that are a base for the flavor of a dish. Cooking the aromatics slowly helps to release their flavors and aromas, creating a deep flavor foundation for dishes such as soups, stews, sauces, meat fillings, etc. Ever sautéed garlic in olive oil? That’s an example of using aromatics.

Different countries’ regional cuisines have a traditional combination of aromatics. In French cooking, the combination is the classic mirepoix: onions, carrots and celery and supplemented with the herbs parsley, thyme, bay leaves, herbes de provence. In Spain: onions, bell peppers and tomatoes, garlic, chilies, bay leaves, cumin, paprika, cilantro, ham or chorizo. For additional smoky flavor add some smoked paprika. Meanwhile, Cajun uses onion, celery, green peppers, garlic, parsley, shallots and paprika. And Indian regions use onion, garlic, chilies, ginger, tomatoes and various Indian spices.

Knowing the regional variations, after you get proficient with making beans in the slow cooker, you can experiment with different aromatic ingredients to flavor your beans.

To make, read through the general directions and then see my sample recipe for exact measurements.

General Detailed Instructions

Ingredients: Any amount of dried beans (other than lentils)  1 ¼  teaspoons salt (divided 3/4 tsp at the start and 1/2 tsp at the end)  per pound of beans, aromatics. (See above) OPTIONAL: Smoked meat, like ham hock, sausage, ham, chorizo, smoked turkey leg

Equipment:  5-6 quart or larger slow cooker

Pick through the beans: pour them onto a cookie sheet and pick through them looking for stones, and any dried, withered and discolored beans, then discard. Now rinse the beans in a colander.

Transfer the beans to the slow cooker.

Add aromatics.

Add smoked meat if using.

Cover with water: Pour enough water over the beans to cover them by about 4 inches. Add ¾  teaspoon of salt for one pound of beans and stir.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 7 hours. When the beans are soft but still a little more firm than you’d like, add a half teaspoon of salt for one pound and continue cooking until done.

NOTE: The first time or two that you cook beans in the slow cooker, it’s best if you can be around to check on them toward the end of cooking. Some slow cookers and some beans will cook more quickly or slowly than others. Until you’re familiar with how long beans typically take in your slow cooker, start checking them around 4 hours and then every 15 minutes or so after that until they’re done.

Cool and store: Cool the beans and then store them in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Smoky Pinto Beans

Here is exactly what I did so that perhaps your first time cooking beans in the slow-cooker you can copy mine.

I followed the above instructions and I used 1 pound of pinto beans, 6 cups water, 2 bay leaves, 1 ¼  teaspoons salt total, 1 chopped onion, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp smoked paprika and 2 slices of raw bacon chopped.

My pinto beans were soft in 4 hours 45 minutes.

**See above for full detailed instructions.

Ham Hock and Pinto Beans








Pinto Beans and Ham Hock

1 pound pinto beans. 1 cup diced onion. 1 cup carrot cut into 1/2 inch rounds. 1 cup celery cut into 1/2 inch pieces. 1.5 pound ham hock. 6 cups water. 1 bay leaf. 4 minced garlic cloves. 3/4 tsp salt at the beginning and 1/4 tsp at the end of cooking. I reduced the salt because of the salty ham hock to only. These cooked in four hours 15 minutes.

Great Northern Beans

When I used Great White Northern Beans they cooked in about 3.5 hours.

Small Lima Beans

When I used small lima beans they took 5 hours to cook.

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Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit!

So eat some beans at every meal!

The benefits of beans are so numerous that I can’t say enough in praise about beans. Beans are so outstanding that only green vegetables come close as a valuable food source!

I recommend that adults eat 3 cups of beans per week for health and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases because of the richness of antioxidants and fiber.

Beans are “heart healthy” because they contain soluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and unhealthy triglyceride levels.

Research is saying we should be eating more plant proteins. Beans are a great choice! 1/2 cup of beans delivers 7 grams of protein, the same amount as in 1 ounce of chicken, meat or fish.

With a low glycemic index, beans contain a blend of complex carbohydrates and protein. Because of this, beans are digested slowly, which helps keep blood glucose stable.

Beans contain protein, healthy carbs, fiber, antioxidants, and copper, folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium and zinc.

Beans can be incorporated easily into a main dish, salads, side dish, soup or dip.

Beans can are the least expensive source of protein, especially when compared to fresh meat.

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