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Food proteins for the vegetarian athlete

There are many reasons why an athlete may choose to follow a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet tends to be higher in carbohydrates, fibre, fruits, vegetables and antioxidants. As the same time, it tends to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is possible for athletes, or anyone for that matter, to meet their nutritional requirements from a vegetarian diet. However, there is an increase risk of iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D deficiency.  There is also an increased risk of insufficient protein intake due to the few sources of vegetable proteins that provide sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids.

When foods are limited in one or more essential amino acids, a variety of protein sources need to be eaten in one day to ensure the correct amino acid balance is achieved. As long as you eat a variety of foods this can easily be archived.

Good sources of non-meat protein includes:

 

  • Milk
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Mung beans

 

  • Black-eyed beans
  • Tofu
  • Soya protein
  • Quorn
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Seeds

 

Additional foods that provide a small amount of protein include; rice, bread, pasta, oats, quinoa and cereal.

Breakfast ideas:

  1. Oatmeal with nuts, soya milk and fresh fruit
  2. Wholemeal toast with almond butter and banana
  3. Scrambled eggs with spinach on wholemeal toast
  4. Homemade smoothies with oats, whey protein powder, banana, berries and water

Lunch ideas:

  1. Houmous with roasted vegetables in a wholemeal pita sandwich
  2. Lentil soup
  3. 3-bean chilli with quinoa
  4. Cottage cheese on oat cakes and a yoghurt

Dinner ideas:

  1. Vegetable curry with chickpeas served with rice and black-eyed beans
  2. Tofu stir-fry
  3. Quorn pieces in a tomato based sauce with roasted vegetables and lentils
  4. Quorn chill with kidney beans and served with rice

Snack ideas:

  1. Nut butter on oatcakes
  2. Houmous with raw vegetables
  3. Trail mix
  4. Low fat Greek yoghurt with nuts and fruit