Vegetarian diets need to be planned carefully to include sufficient amounts of protein while keeping fat intake to a healthy range. This is no different than non-vegetarian diets, as proper nutrition is important for everyone. When shopping for low-fat, high-protein foods, take the time to read nutrition labels to ensure that you know the nutritional content of the foods you eat.
Soy is found in many vegetarian foods at the grocery store, including soy milk, tofu, veggie burgers and meat substitutes. Pay attention to the nutritional label on the packaging when purchasing soy products as they may contain high amounts of fat depending upon on the method of preparation. Soy milk generally contains 4.7g of fat per cup, which is the same amount of fat as 2-percent milk. The soy milk does provide 11g of protein per cup, which is much more than milk at 8g per cup. This amount may vary slightly from brand to brand, and flavoured soy milk can contain higher levels of fat. An average serving of tofu provides 4g of fat and 8g of protein, but beware of deep-fried or flavoured tofu which often contains added fats.
Low-Fat Dairy Products
Most dairy products are available in low-fat or fat-free varieties such as skimmed milk or fat-free cottage cheese. Low-fat yoghurt or low-fat Greek yoghurts are also good protein sources that provide a minimal amount of fat. Reduced-fat cheeses are made with 2-percent milk or skimmed milk and contain less fat than their whole milk counterparts, although the fat content may still be too high for your personal nutritional needs. While dairy products are not suitable for vegans, they are an easy-to-prepare protein source for lacto- or lacto-ovo-vegetarians.
Legumes include beans, lentils and peas. These foods are generally very low in fat and high in protein and fibre. 1 cup of lentils provides 18g of protein and less than 1g of fat. Surprisingly, 1 cup of green peas contains 8g of protein and zero fat, according to the CDC. Watch out for canned baked beans, as they may contain added fat or animal products.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians can enjoy egg whites as a low-fat protein source. Whole eggs usually contain 5g of fat and 6g of protein each. Removing the yolk drops the fat to less than 1g and still provides 3g of protein.
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- USDA MyPyramid: Vegetarian Choices in the Meat and Beans group
- Georgia Health Info: Vegetarian Diet: Will It Help Me Lose Weight?
- The Vegetarian Society: Information Sheet: Types of Vegetarians
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Lentil Protein
- CDC Fruit and Vegetable of the Month: Peas