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Tips for getting healthy protein in your diet

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(StatePoint) At a time when over a third of American adults are obese and childhood obesity rates are rising exponentially, more Americans are looking for meat alternatives in their dining choices.

In fact, close to 16 million Americans are vegetarian and about a third say they’re choosing vegan or vegetarian meals more often, according to a Harris Interactive study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group.

“Part of the reason this is going mainstream is that vegetarian diets are proven to be beneficial to one’s health,” says Brooke Alpert, a registered dietitian-nutritionist and founder of B Nutritious.

Vegetarians are at lower risk for developing heart disease, colorectal, ovarian and breast cancers, diabetes, obesity and hypertension, according to the American Dietetic Association.

“Even if you aren’t interested or ready to go vegan or vegetarian, seeking an alternative protein source for at least one meal a week can be beneficial,” says Alpert.

With that in mind, Alpert is offering tips for doing so without compromising protein intake or flavor.

BE A KEEN CONSUMER

Take advantage of the fact that many restaurants and food businesses are responding to the trend by offering new menu items specifically balanced to meet the nutritional needs of those who are seeking better protein options. One such company that’s helping vegetarians get the nutrients and protein they need is Smoothie King, which has recently rolled out a new line of vegan smoothies comprised of ingredients that pack a nutritional powerhouse, such as mango, kale, 100 percent cocoa and acai.

“When more and more customers began asking for vegan meal replacement options, we heeded the call,” says Wan Kim, Smoothie King CEO.

Additionally, Smoothie King has teamed with Sunwarrior, to incorporate their protein powder into this line of smoothies, a proprietary blend containing protein and a balanced amino acid profile. Protein is not only necessary for cells and tissues to function, it provides a thermogenic fat burning boost while also keeping you full longer and reducing cravings. More information can be found at www.SmoothieKing.com.

MAKE SMART SUBSTITUTIONS

It will be hard to commit to reducing meat from your diet if you don’t make substantive substitutions. Eating a salad? Opt for dark leafy greens, like kale and spinach. Top your salad with sources of plant-based protein like beans or tofu.

Whether you’re making a stir fry or a sandwich, mock meat substitutes can be a tasty and filling alternative. Portobello mushrooms are “meaty” and filling.

DON’T SKIMP ON FLAVOR

Rather than relying on meat and cheese for taste, up the garlic, spices and herbs for a boost of zest. The added benefit is that these ingredients are low-calorie, provide numerous health benefits and are entirely vegan.

Thanks to new trends in the marketplace, and age-old high-quality ingredients, going vegetarian and vegan all of the time or part of the time can be easier -- and tastier -- than you think.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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