October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, which makes it a great time to think about incorporating more nonmeat options into your diet.
The Meatless Mondays trend means more and more people are looking for healthy vegetarian options for family meals at least once a week.
According to Vancouver dietitian Gloria Tsang, founder of nutrition network HealthCastle.com and author of Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss, protein is not unique to meat products, but those eliminating or reducing meat intake need to be careful.
"Protein builds and maintains muscles, organs, skin, and blood, assists in energy metabolism and cell processes, and helps maintain immune function," Tsang says. "It's also the element of any meal that makes you feel most full."
Here are HealthCastle. com's top picks for vegetarian sources of protein:
Dairy products, like yogurt or cottage cheese for breakfast or lunch and add a cheese plate or milk-based soup.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds make a simple snack or an excellent topping for lunch or dinner-time salads.
Soy, soy milk, and tofu: Munch on edamame as a snack and stir-fry tofu or marinate tofu "steaks" and sear them on the grill.
Beans and lentils: Lentils and beans make hearty soups or vegetarian chili. Hummus makes an all-purpose appetizer or sandwich spread.
Whole grains, especially quinoa: Many whole grains can be cooked and used in place of pasta or white rice.
Dark-green vegetables like asparagus, broccoli and kale also have small amounts of protein. Various sources of protein are at your fingertips - and hopefully your fork.