Ask Peter: Protein for vegetarians
What is a good meat substitute for a vegetarian when having meat and three veg? I don't want to cook a whole dish, I'm just after some delicious ideas of protein that I can replace the meat with. I've had enough vegetarian sausages, patties and falafel to last a lifetime, so any new suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Well Michaela - today's answer is somewhat more detailed and medical than I like to give, but I'm not sure I can answer your question without some basic nutritional facts as a quick Q&A with work colleagues showed few people understand what protein is for anyway.
First of all let's point out that many people eat way too much protein. It may seem like the best thing ever when we're at a BBQ and we eat our third steak or (in your case) tofu patty, but the increasing global hunger and demand for an ever-growing population in search of protein could ultimately be detrimental for the planet as we chop down forests and replace them with cattle farms, and at the same time purge the oceans of fish.
Insects are likely to be the eventual answer in sourcing our need for more and more protein but that's likely to be a long way off in the West. The recommended average daily amount of protein is somewhere in the region of 40-80g per day depending on how much exercise you do, how old you are, whether you're male or female, pregnant or not, and numerous other variables. An 85kg male who weight-lifts at competition level and exercises regularly needs around 110g a day.
A 60kg woman who works in an office and doesn't do regular exercise, but who is healthy, might only need 45g of protein per day. In New Zealand a minimum of 15 per cent energy from protein is recommended, which is about 78g in an 8700kJ day.
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids; some of these the body can produce itself, but the rest have to come from our food. All meats (from sea or land), as well as dairy foods and eggs contain these essential amino acids, but only two plant foods do.
The super-grain quinoa and soy protein are the only vegetarian foods which provide all you'll ever need. So, if you're not a fan of these it's really important you eat a variety of nuts, legumes and grains every day to ensure you're keeping your protein intake at a good level.
When planning your daily intake consider the following levels; 1 cup cooked quinoa 18g, 1 cup tofu 20g, a cup soy milk 7g, 2 Tbs peanut butter 8g, and 100g tempeh (sadly underrated, this fermented soy based "cake" is delicious) contains 18g. An egg gives you 50g. Or 3/4 cup dried, cooked beans about 135g.
As to what you can have at the Sunday roast when your mates are tucking into roast lamb, I'd say you do actually need to be quite imaginative. Serve hummus (high amounts of protein rich chickpeas) on toasted wholegrain (the grains contain protein) as a starter.
Make a side salad from roast carrots, tarragon, walnuts and quinoa tossed together, and serve steamed brown rice and barley with the roast as well. A thick slice of pan-fried Zany Zeus haloumi (dairy is high in protein) with pesto (pinenuts and parmesan have protein) would also be a good replacement for the meat.
See our collections for meat-free recipes
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you’re stumped over something food-related, send your question to email@example.com and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.