• 86°

Follow these helpful tips to get your protein the vegetarian way

My good friend Julia’s granddaughter is a self-proclaimed vegetarian.

Julia, like many of you, is helping to raise a vegetarian grade “schooler” or teenager. She is worried that her grandchild may not be getting the necessary nutrients in her diet.

What should she do to ensure that her child gets the necessary nutrients? If you have a similar problem with your children or grands read the following article written by Shanta Retelny, who is a RDN, LDN with EatRight Organization. EatRight is an organization made up of qualified registered dieticians nutritionist and researchers.

She said that there are ways to make sure your child receives enough protein, calcium and iron for optimal growth and nutrition.

We should take a good look at the following nutrients:

Look at proteins

All plant proteins contain essential amino acids. These are the amino acids that our body cannot produce, and which must be consumed over the course of the day to complete our protein intake. While it was once believed that vegetarians had to consume “incomplete proteins” together at one meal — such as rice and dried beans for lunch — we now know that various proteins can be consumed over the course of a whole day for an optimal amino acid profile. Therefore, the rice consumed at lunch can still match up with the beans consumed at dinner.

Eggs, low-fat milk and tofu are examples of great sources of proteins. Nuts, dried beans and whole grains add additional protein to the diet and contain healthful fiber. A one-ounce serving (about one-third of a cup) of nuts provides anywhere from three to six grams of protein and 160 to 200 calories. Young vegetarians not only must meet protein requirements for growth, but activity as well. For example, an active teen vegetarian weighing 140 pounds could require 90 to 100 grams of protein daily.

Preferably, teens should have a meal plan that has five or six smaller meals or snacks keeping total calories within each individual’s needs. Ideally, each of the mini-meals should have 10 to 20 grams of protein — the amount in one-half cup dried beans, and one ounce of cheese, with some pistachios or almonds, or a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread with eight ounces of low-fat Greek yogurt.

Calcium sources

For vegetarians who consume them, dairy products such as low-fat milk and yogurt are concentrated sources of calcium, which is needed for optimal bone development. Other calcium-containing options include green leafy vegetables such as collard greens, kale, mustard greens, bok choy and broccoli, as well as fortified orange juice, fortified cereals and fortified soymilk.

The importance of iron

Nuts provide a nice dose of heart-healthy fats, essential fatty acids, iron and other trace minerals and certain B vitamins.

Plant iron sources are not as well absorbed as animal iron, so care must be taken to emphasize good sources such as lentils and dried beans, spinach, iron-enriched breads and cereals, and tempeh and soybeans. Pairing these foods with good sources of vitamins C such as orange juice, grapefruit and tomatoes improves plant iron absorption.

By keeping these tips in mind your child(ren) can grow up to be healthy, responsible adults. Resource: Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, LDN.