Saturday, August 22, 2009

Frugal Ways to Get More Protein

I always assume that protein = expensive, but that's not always the case. Our friends at The Greenest Dollar explain how to get your protein in a most frugal way...

If you’re like many people who have had to curtail their food budget because of the recession, then chances are you’re eating less meat.

As a vegetarian myself, I see this as a good thing!

If you’re trying to eat less meat to save money, or you’re eating less because of environmental concerns, then you might be feeling a bit over your head. I know I was when I first stopped eating meat. In fact, my first month as a vegetarian was a quiet disaster. But, that’s another post…

Now that I’ve been on the veggie train a few years I’ve learned a few tricks for sneaking more protein in my diet. And, I thought I’d write up a post to share them!

But first, let me lay out why eating less meat is such a great idea…

Advantages To Eating Less Meat

1. Curtailing Your Consumption of Meat Means You’re Not Supporting Animal Cruelty
I promise I will not get on my soapbox about this. I will simply say that factory farms are incredibly cruel places for animals, and their quality of life in these places is horrendous. This is the #1 reason why I stopped eating meat. I just couldn’t in good conscience support the industry once I learned what it was really like.

If you’d like to learn more about what life is like in factory farms, check out PETAs video “Meet Your Meat”.

The video is a very sobering look at where our meat really comes from. If you watch it, I promise you’ll never feel the same.

2. Eating Less Meat Saves Money
When you think about it, meat is probably the most expensive item you put in your shopping cart each week. After all, what’s going to cost more, tofu or steak? Lentils or chicken breasts? Black beans or shaved ham?

Meat’s definitely costly, so you can save big by cutting it out of your diet.

3. Eating Less Meat Helps the Environment
It’s amazing to me how bad large factory farms are for the environment.

Here are a few interesting stats from The Daily Green:

  • Two thirds of beef cows are raised using hormones and steroids. Their bodies can’t fully process all these chemicals, so every time they pee those same chemicals and pharmaceuticals get transferred to the local watershed.

  • It takes 600 gallons of water to raise and produce one hamburger patty.

  • It takes 2 lbs. of grain to produce 1/4 lb. of burger meat. We could feed many more people if we were raising fewer cows.

And, there are many more cool stats in this great article, so if you’d like to learn more on how our meat is negatively affecting the environment, give it a look!

Sneaky, Frugal Ways To Get Protein
If you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian full-time, or just becoming a “flexitarian” (someone who only eats meat occasionally), you might be wondering how you’re going to replace those hamburgers and chicken breasts in your diet.

Well, here are some of the sneaky ways I work protein into my diet. You can compare all of these foods, nutritionally, to a 3.5 ounce chicken breast, which has 30 grams of protein on average.

Cottage Cheese
Did you know that cottage cheese is loaded with protein? Well it is. 4 ounces of cottage cheese has a a whopping 14 grams of protein.

Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a great, healthy snack (in fact, I’ve got a bag of organic pumpkin seeds on my desk right now: yum!). They’re also very high in protein.

How high? Well, 1/4 cup has 9 grams of protein.

Not only are almonds a great protein source, but they’re also very high in fiber and a great source of Vitamin E.

And what’s the skinny on the protein? 1 cup of almonds has 20 grams of protein.

I eat a lot of tofu. Tofu is great because you can make it taste like anything!

One half cup of tofu has almost 20 grams of protein. Yowza!

It’s also cheap. We pay $2.50 for one 14 ounce block of organic firm tofu. Each block contains 40 grams of protein.

We’ll usually get 3-4 hefty servings from one block.

Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is, arguably, one of my most favorite foods. I’ll eat peanut butter on just about anything! It’s cheap, it’s tasty, and it’s good for you.

2 Tablespoons of peanut butter has 7 grams of protein.

Soy Milk
If you’re already buying organic milk, then soy milk is going to be in that same price range of $5-$6 per gallon. While soy milk isn’t exactly frugal (after all, regular milk is a few dollars cheaper) I think it’s well worth the price.

I buy Silk, and it has 7 grams of protein per cup.

Whole Grain Bread
Yep, whole grain bread rocks. The Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Oatmeal bread I buy has 4 grams of protein per slice.


Now because I have a serious problem with the chicken industry, I only buy eggs from local farmers. That way I know I’m getting eggs from happy chickens that are roaming free and aren’t getting injected with bad hormones.

Ok, I’m climbing off my soapbox. Again. Sorry.

Eggs are a great source of protein. One medium sized egg has 6 grams of protein.

My Daily Nibbles
So, you can see how eating a little here and a little there could easily get plenty of protein in your diet.

What do I eat? Well, most of this stuff to be honest. Here’s a sample of my daily nibbles:

1.5 cups Fiber One cereal
1 cup Soy Milk
Total Protein: 13 grams

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Total Protein: 15 grams

Handful of pumpkin seeds and a piece of fruit
Total Protein: 9 grams

Jumbo shells stuffed with cottage cheese and spinach and tomato sauce (Next time I make this I will take pictures and post the recipe for you all because it’s not only cheap and healthy, but it’s also delicious!)
Small Salad
Total Protein: 25 grams

Other Foods
I left out the glasses of wine and Oreo Cookies since those don’t have any protein to speak of.
Sample Daily Total: 62 grams

This is actually quite a bit of protein. WebMD suggests that adult women need, on average, 46 grams per day, and adult men need 56 grams.

Last Word…
Do you have any vegetarian tips you’d like to share with me and other readers? Do you have any amazing recipes you’d like to pass along?

If so, send them in! I’d love to add some more variety to my diet, and I’m sure other readers would too.

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