Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Protein Argument

As a seasoned vegetarian, it never ceases to amaze me that when someone discovers my dietary preference, the first question they ask is, "Do you know you're not getting enough protein?"

It also never ceases to amaze me how incredibly strong the filters in my brain are - the ones that keep me from responding with, "Do you know there's undigested meat putrifying in your colon?" One of these days, one of those brain filters is going to blow....

So anyway, my standard response is, "So how much is 'enough'?"

Since the answer I get is usually something along the lines of, "Well, more than you can get from [insert carrots/lettuce/twigs/other non-dietary-staple here]," I thought I'd do a bit of research and gain some insight from someone who knows what the hell they're talking about.

As with most things nutritional, you ask 10 different "experts", you get 10 different answers. But most tend to express daily need as a factor of a person's body weight (grams of protein/day per lb. of body weight), and virtually all hover in the .35 - .45 range for a sedentary person, .40 - .60 for a moderately active person, and .60-.90 for an athlete or bodybuilder.

So... I am a 135 lb active adult. That means I should be getting somewhere between 54 and 81 grams of protein per day. Well, let's look at my food intake yesterday (a not-particularly-health-conscious day, as I was on the go from 5 A.M to about 9:30 PM) and see what we come up with:

1 8 oz. glass soy milk - 7 grams
2 oz trail mix - 5 grams

1 Bagel - 9 grams

Vegetarian Pad Thai - 11 grams
Spring Roll - 3 grams

Lentil Soup - 18 grams
French bread - 5 grams

8 oz soy milk - 7 grams

Total = 65 grams

65 grams is well within range, and as I stated earlier, I wasn't even being good yesterday.

Other foods I regularly consume that have moderate to high protein content, per the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18, 2005:

Seitan - 31 grams for 3 oz.
Black beans - 15 grams for 1 cup
Chickpeas (an Indian food staple) - 12 grams for 1 cup
Veggie burger (hey, I'm a busy guy) - 13 grams
Spinach - 5 grams for 1 cup
Spaghetti noodles - 8 grams for 1 cup
Broccoli - 4 grams for 1 cup
Tofu - 11 grams for 4 oz.

So I'm not too worried about running out of steam. And if you're contemplating a meat-free diet, rest assured that it can be done in a very nutritionally sound way. The above foods are vegan, so even if you make that step, there's nothing to worry about.

Disclaimer time:

Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that your best friend's weird cousin Ingrid, who is a proud vegetarian but subsists on potato chips, veggie dogs, and beer, is doing just fine and gets enough protein in her diet. Just like omnivores, vegetarians and vegans have to use a modicum of common sense regarding what they eat. For every pale, skinny vegetarian, there's a flabby, bloated "normal person" who eats at McDonalds every other meal and wonders why that flight of stairs is so hard to climb. That's just the way it is.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Recipe: Veggie Fajita Burritos (vegan)

This is an easy and healthy dish that can be prepared with absolutely no oil if you have a rice cooker/vegetable steamer. I steam the veggies beforehand, then add them to the fajita seasoning/water mix to stir-fry for a few minutes.

Burrito-sized flour or corn tortillas (check package to make sure they are vegan)
Broccoli florets (I usually use 1 crown)
1 tomato, cut into pieces
1 yellow squash, cut into rounds and then quartered
1 zucchini squash, cut into rounds and then quartered
8 oz white button mushrooms, sliced
1 poblano pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced into rounds and quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 packet fajita or burrito seasoning

1) Steam veggies (except for oniona nd garlic)according to your steamer directions. Lacking that, you can put them in a microwave-safe bowl with a little water, and microwave them for 5-7 minutes (though I've done it, and it really isn't quite the same). Lacking that, complete step 2 and then toss the veggies in a large skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes.

2) Stir fry the onions and garlic with 2 tbsp of water in a large skillet for 1 minute.

3) Add water and seasoning to skillet per seasoning packet directions.

4) If you steamed the veggies first, add them to the skillet and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

5) Add mixture to burrito shells. Serve with chips and salsa or Mexican rice (or both).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back in Columbus...

Hello all. I've been travelling a lot for work lately, so I've found myself unable to do a whole lot of cooking, let alone blogging.

Back home, I plan on starting back in the kitchen with some dal soup and naan, and catching up on some blogs and emails. I can't think of a better way to spend a February evening... at least not any that don't involve a beach and a warm tropical breeze...

I've been doing a lot of eating in restaurants, and I wish I could say I had some inspired vegetarian meals to share with you. Sadly, I found little in this department. I may never want to look at another veggie burger again...

On the bright side, I've had plenty of time to drum up new recipes to try, so I'll be posting those in the coming weeks.
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