There are many misconceptions about protein-rich vegetarian food in India. As the number of vegetarians is more in India, it appears as if Indian vegetarian food lacks protein for outsiders. Ask any Indian vegetarian, they would have faced this question at least once: How do Indian vegetarians get protein? Well, yes that’s a common situation and understandable too.
Vegetarian food can be a great source of protein provided you know what to include and how to include it in your diet. Vegetarians lack vitamins B-12 because of a lack of animal-based protein. But studies prove that the Indian vegetarian diet is most beneficial to health when taken in a wholesome way.
Importance of protein rich food in diet
Protein forms an important constituent of diet for human beings. Protein plays a major role in the following body functions:
- Helps hair growth and skin health
- Protects eyesight
- Delays aging
- Maintain body weight by reducing cravings
- Improves metabolism
- Aids muscle and tissue growth
- Promotes heart health
- Speeds up recovery after surgeries and critical illnesses
We should include protein regularly, ideally daily in our diet. The reason being our body cannot store protein for a long time. Hence, it is important to include protein rich vegetarian food sources in our diet almost daily.
The best time to consume protein is at breakfast. Adequate protein in breakfast keeps you going throughout the day. It helps curb cravings that would otherwise attract your body towards unhealthy food rich in sugar and salt.
Sample Menu for High Protein Vegetarian Diet
Here is one sample menu that you can use as a quick help to understand how to include protein in a vegetarian diet daily.
Protein rich breakfast ideas for vegetarians:
- Homemade Idlis/dosas/vadas with Peanut chutney (if you are thinking of weight control, skip peanut chutney and shift to karappodi, tomato chutney, or sambar)
- Hot Pongal made with split green gram and tempered with a spoon of jeera and pepper in ghee (jeera and pepper help in cutting down fat and boosts metabolism, pesarapappu is the best form of vegetarian source of protein)
- Pesarattu or moong dal dosa served with coconut chutney
- Homemade Khichdi made with vegetables, tur dal, and rice
- A cup of fresh fruits along with a handful of soaked nuts (badam, raisins, and dates)
- Sprouts (either fresh or boiled according to your choice) and a big banana
- Milkshake made with figs and soaked almonds (Replace milk with lassi shake with banana, almonds, and flax seeds in summer)
- If you are an eggetarian, boiled egg or an omelet is the easiest form of protein if you are short of time.
Protein-rich lunch and dinner ideas for vegetarians
- Rice and home-cooked dal taken with ghee
- Rotis with paneer bhurji and or dal
- Bisi Bele bath ( a healthy south Indian recipe rich in vegetarian protein)
- Coconut rice tempered with jeera and Kaju(coconut is a rich source of protein)
- Homemade curd rice with curd set in the home (temper with pepper, green chilies, jeera, and curry leaves)
- Rotis/ jeera rice with peas masala or rajma masala
- Rice with jackfruit curry (jackfruit is a protein rich fruit!)
- Rice with sambar
- Rice with vegetable curry made with soaked chana dal or yellow moong daal
- Rice or rotis with soya chunks curry (meal maker is another best and yummy source of protein rich vegetarian food)
- Traditional Indian thali with all varieties of traditional and authentic recipes
Protein rich snack ideas for vegetarians
- Fruits rich in protein such as Guava, banana, apricots, Kiwis, cantaloupes.
- Boiled and tempered chana
- Soaked and or boiled peanuts
- Chilled homemade milkshakes with badam and flax seeds
Protein rich vegetarian food items
Here are popular protein rich vegetarian food sources in India. We have also given ideas on how you can include these in your diet.
Dals: Tur Dal, Masoor Dal, Moong Dal, Urad Dal, Chana Dal, ChickPeas
Tips to include dal in a vegetarian diet:
- Moong dal is the best form of Protein rich vegetarian food. It can be taken daily as dal, dosas, kebabs, and as soaked and spread on curries made with cabbage, cauliflower, and tomato, etc.
- Chana dal can be taken in the wadas, curries, and dal or sambar. You can also add it as a tempering to upmas, khichdi, and chutneys.
- Urad dal is the popular option for protein sources for vegetarians. Vadas, idlis, dosas, aviri kudumu, etc are specially made from urad dal.
- Masoor dal can be taken as dal and sambar.
- With tur dal, you can make dal, sambar, podis, chutney, etc.
- Always take ghee when you are eating the items made with these dals. It helps break down the protein and eases digestion.
- Soak the dals at least for half an hour before cooking. Throw away the water and add fresh water before you put it for cooking in a cooker.
- Kababs, cutlets, and tikkis are other lip-smacking ways to include protein in the vegetarian diet.
- Dals are best consumed during lunchtime. Take dal in moderate quantities at night.
Nuts: Badam, Kaju, Peanuts, Pista, Walnuts, Hazelnuts
Tips to include nuts in a vegetarian diet:
- Soaked nuts offer better benefits compared to dry hard nuts. By soaking, their enzyme activity gets friendlier to the human stomach.
- Chikkis is one delicious way to consume nuts.
- Always soak nuts like Badam and Peanuts for at least 6-8 hours before consuming for better benefits.
- Soaked nuts can make good breakfast choices and evening snacks.
- Include a handful of nuts daily for glowing skin and healthy hair.
- Add soaked nuts in milkshakes for better benefits.
- Kheer, bisi bele bath, sweets, upma, etc. are some vegetarian recipes where you can add nuts tempered in ghee as a seasoning for better taste and health benefits.
- Nuts can increase weight if taken in more amounts. So, limit their consumption to healthy doses, preferably only one handful daily.
- Choose nuts wisely; For instance, Kaju has more calories than badam, so use badam more and Kaju less.
Seeds: Sunflower seeds, Flax seeds, Sesame seeds, pine nuts, Chia seeds, Rajma, green peas.
Tips for including seeds in a vegetarian diet:
- Sprinkle in salads.
- Consumer as evening snacks
- Make laddus mixing them with jaggery
- Add honey and eat them as desserts
- Sprinkle seeds on fruit salads.
- Peas (green and dried) should be soaked and boiled before consumption.
- Add in curd and lassi and drink them up!
- Nuts boost metabolism and help maintain your body weight.
- Excessive consumption of sesame seeds may create more heat in the body.
- So, drink more water when you include seeds in your diet.
Fruits: Guava, banana, jackfruit, Avocado, apricots, kiwi, Figs, Dates, cherries, pineapple.
Tips to include fruits rich in protein in diet:
- Guava is the top fruit that contains the highest amount of protein.
- You can consume these fruits on an empty stomach or as evening snacks.
- Jack fruits are best consumed as curry or evening snacks.
- Figs, bananas, dates, etc. make perfect choices for making milkshakes or lassi shakes for a quick breakfast or evening meal.
Dairy: Paneer, Curd, Milk.
Tips to include dairy in diet:
- Give whole curd and whole creamy milk for children.
- Encourage them to eat homemade butter and ghee.
- Weight watchers and health-conscious can take slim milk and lassi instead of whole milk and curd.
- Including curd daily in food helps in improving intestine activity also.
Other protein rich vegetarian food in India:
- Palak: This green leafy vegetable is widely available in India. Include palak as kebab, gravy, dal, sandwich, palak roti, etc.
- Oats: Oats are another good protein rich vegetarian food that you can include in your diet. Take it as breakfast or mix with idlis, dosas, and rotis while making the dough and batter.
- Quinoa: This is another cereal that is trending as a good protein rich vegetarian food. Try various versions of cooking it to include in your diet.
- Pumpkin: A vegetable rich in protein, Pumpkin suits well in sweets, curries, gravies, and masalas, as well as in sambar.
- Tofu: Soy-based tofu is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. Makes a good replacement for traditional milk-made paneer for those who suffer from milk indigestion.
- Broccoli: Another vegetable that is an excellent source of protein.
- Coconut: Coconut is an excellent source of protein. Dried coconut contains more levels of protein too.
How to increase protein intake in a vegetarian diet?
Apart form including above sources of protein in your diet, follow these tips:
- Bananas and guavas are handy sources of protein while you run short of time or need instant nutrition.
- Chikkis, almonds, nuts, etc can be carried easily while traveling to make sure you get enough protein while on the go.
- Dals are best made soaked and pressure cooked to make them delicious and digestion-friendly.
- Milkshakes made with banana, honey, fig, chia seeds, dates, etc are good sources of protein for picky eaters and workout freaks.
- Lassi is an instant source of protein that you can safely consume twice a day. It aids smooth digestion besides helping in weight management.
- Consuming breakfast rich in protein will ensure that your weight is under control.
- Weight watchers should watch the number of peanuts, kajus, paneer, and rajma, as they are rich in calories.
- Instead, they can opt for light protein sources- dals, lassi, and sprouts.
- Always consume protein with enough good fat (ghee) and plenty of fiber (fruits and vegetables) and adequate amounts of carbohydrates (rice/rotis) along with plenty of water. Else you may face flatulence problems and digestion issues.