Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hey Restaurants! Where's the (Vegetarian) Protein?

General recommendations are for healthy adults to eat around .8-1g of protein per kilogram of body fat (take your weight in pounds, divide by 2.2, multiply by .8). So someone who weighs 150 pounds would need around 55g protein throughout the day. Most any dietitian that you speak to would suggest that you spread that protein out throughout the day and make sure that each meal has some protein in order to help rebuild and repair your body, as well as to help you feel full after each meal. However, it doesn't have to be spread precisely equally throughout the day by any means. 

I was recently talking with a family member about the fact that when she makes a meatless choice at a restaurant these days it often does not include what you might think of as vegetarian protein, ie: tofu or beans. She was saying this might be a portabella mushroom sandwich with some cheese or an eggplant pasta dish. Is it OK to skip the meat if it also means skipping the protein at a meal? Let's take a look...

Clearly I love eggplant, but this isn't the best option if you're looking for protein

According to the USDA nutrient database (which thankfully is back up and running now that the government has resumed business!) here is the protein in some of these non-meat dishes that restaurants are selling as a complete meal...

Portobella Mushroom
1 cup grilled: 4g protein
Fresh Mozzarella
1oz (about 1/8 of a ball of fresh mozzarella): 6g protein
1 cup cooked : <1g protein
Cheddar Cheese
1 oz: 7g protein

If the dish comes with some sort of whole grain (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread) that would add some protein to the dish as well. Bottom line? If you want to avoid meat and you're faced with no veggie-protein options, something with mushrooms (and cheese if you're eating dairy) is the better choice than something with just eggplant.


  1. I always fall out of my chair with excitement when I see a restaurant is serving quinoa or tempeh!

    1. I agree! Hopefully more chefs will become excited by using these delicious veggie proteins and we will be seeing them more and more.