Ask a Dietician #2

Ask a Dietician #2

Our Ask a Dietitian series continues and this week, we are exploring one aspect of the vegetarian diet. Protein. 

Before we begin, I would like to differentiate between vegetarian and vegan diets. There can be some confusion between the two, so let’s make sure we’re on the same page about a key differentiator. Both vegetarians and vegans do not eat animal meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.). Additionally, vegans do not eat any animal products (eggs, milk, cheese, butter, etc.), whereas vegetarians do include all or some animal products in their diet. To learn more about vegetarian and vegan myths, check out this handout from the Vegetarian Dietetic Practice Group (DPG).

This difference is important to keep in mind as we explore this week’s questions about the protein needs of vegetarians and food sources of protein. The Vegetarian DPG also discusses protein needs and sources:

The overall daily protein recommendation for vegetarians is the same as for every healthy person: 0.4 grams per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would multiply 150 x 0.4 = 60 grams of protein for your daily needs.

Popular vegetarian food choices as protein sources include animal products (eggs, milk, cottage cheese, etc.) and plant foods such as, legumes, soy foods, vegetables, grains, seeds, and nuts. The amount of protein per serving varies by food choice, but the chart in this handout provides a summary of common sources. 

As we recommend for all diets, variety in food choices is important to provide your body with an array of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Keep this in mind as a motivator to try new protein sources prepared in different ways. Because after all, variety is the spice of life, right?!


By Victoria Emmitt RD

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