protein-vegetarian-diet-diabetes
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Expert-reviewed by Ashwini S.Kanade, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator with 17 years of experience.

Pump up your protein intake.

That’s usually the first bit of advice that comes for any diabetic.

After all, eating protein keeps a tab on hunger pangs thus causing weight loss. And obesity is one of the top reasons for diabetes.

Plus, proteins minimize the spike in blood sugar levels as they are complex molecules and need extra time – and calories – for digestion. Another manner in which proteins help you shed the extra weight.

But there is a small problem: you’re a vegetarian.

Yes, non-vegetarians are assured of the protein intake through eggs, chicken, fish and meat.

But, the good news is that:

If you know the food sources and how to split it right, you can easily grab your protein dose on a vegetarian meal plan.

Because the key is not how much protein you are consuming. It is the quality and quantity of amino acids – building blocks of protein – available in every bite you eat. 

Without further ado, let’s look at the top protein foods for vegetarians:

Dairy products:

There’s a strong reason why mom made you forcefully gulp the glass of milk every morning during childhood. Milk and milk products are the top vegetarian sources of protein.

Plus dairy products are loaded with the ideal calcium-phosphorus ratio to keep your bones strong.

Whether it’s curd, paneer, milk or an occasional cheese slice, you need to consume two portions of dairy products per day.

A serving of dairy is 175 ml milk, 150 ml curd, 40 grams paneer, or 30 grams cheese.

Dal, sprouts, and legumes:

Often called the vegetarian man’s meat, pulses and legumes must feature on every vegetarian’s daily menu.

Apart from proteins, they are an excellent source of B complex vitamins, fiber, and minerals.

Sprouts, with an extra vitamin C dose, should be eaten at least twice a week.

Eat two servings of pulses – or two 150 ml katoris – every day to soak in its nutritional goodness.

Nuts:

You’d be a nut if you skip these tiny nutrition powerhouses. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews and pistachio contain good amounts of protein, vitamin E, and zinc.

However, nuts are high on fats and calories. So it’s important to eat them in moderation.

Munch on a single serving of nuts which equals to 7-8 almonds, 5-6 walnut halves, 4-6 cashews or 10-15 peanuts daily.

Additionally, grab your nutty dose from a tablespoon of homemade peanut butter as well.

Seeds:

Like nuts, seeds especially sunflower, chia and pumpkin seeds are becoming popular for their health benefits, especially proteins.

A tablespoon of these seeds gives you 3-4 grams of good quality protein and the heart-healthy and brain-friendly Omega 3 fats.

Cereals:

Although pulses have been the poster boys of protein, cereals play a vital role in meeting your protein needs. After all, you eat cereals in bulk quantities.

On an average, you eat 5-7 servings of cereals per day with each portion offering 3 grams of protein. That’s an impressive 15-21 grams of protein from cereals!

A serving of cereal is a medium bowl of rice/pasta or one big chappati.

Quinoa, a South American grain, and amaranth, also known as rajgira, can be a valuable addition to your diet.

Additionally, bear in mind that you must pair the foods right to get wholesome protein. For example, cereals lack the essential amino acid lysine and pulses lack methionine. By pairing cereals with pulses – such as dal-rice, rajma-rice, chole-roti – you get a complete protein profile. The combination of dairy products with cereals such as paratha with curd, vegetable pulao and kadhi, or paneer sabzi with roti is other protein-packed meals.

Now that you know the protein sources, pairing and serving sizes, you may find it easy to grab you proteins.

However, eating the same food or combinations on a regular basis could become monotonous.

So we’ve come up with some protein-packed dishes that are a delight for your taste buds:

1. Besan chilla stuffed with paneer and veggies: 

(The recipe is a courtesy of Saffron Trail)

What you’ll need:

For Cheela batter

  • 3/4 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 2 tbsps yogurt
  • 1 tbsp coriander finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Pinch turmeric powder
  • Pinch asafoetida powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water (plus 2 tbsps extra if you need it)
  • Oil to make chilas

    For Paneer Bhurji
  • 1/2 cup paneer crumbled
  • 2 tsps oil
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 tbsps bell peppers finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp coriander finely chopped

How to make:

  1. In a large bowl, add the besan, yogurt, coriander, salt, turmeric, asafoetida and add water gradually with constant whisking to make a smooth batter. It should be a smooth pouring consistency. Cover and keep aside for 15 minutes.
  2. In a pan, heat the oil. Add the minced green chilli, bell peppers and onions with a pinch of salt. Allow to cook on low-medium flame until onions have softened. Add the crumbled paneer, coriander and toss well.
  3. Allow this to cook on medium heat for a few seconds. Remove into a bowl. Keep aside.
  4. To make cheelas, heat a non stick tava or pan. Grease pan with kitchen paper.
  5. Using 1/4 cup batter per chila, pour it in the center and quickly making concentric circles spread it out into a circle, going as thin as possible. Drizzle 1/2 tsp oil around the chila. In 20-30 seconds, flip it over and cook other side similarly.
  6. You want to flip them as soon as they are lightly golden and cooked and NOT crisp, otherwise you cannot fold it over the filling without breaking/tearing.
  7. Place the ready chilas on a plate. Place the filling in one quarter of the chila and fold over in half twice, as shown in the photos.
  8. Serve with green chutney or as it is.

2. Moong dal chilla with curd

(The recipe is a courtesy of Tarla Dalal)

What you’ll need:

  • 3/4 cup green moong dal (split green gram) , soaked for 2 hours and drained
  • 1/2 tbsp roughly chopped green chillies
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tsp oil for greasing and cooking

To Be Mixed Into A Mixed Sprouts and Paneer Topping

  • 1/2 cup boiled and coarsely crushed mixed sprouts (matki , moong , chana , etc.)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped green chillies
  • 1/2 tsp chaat masala
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander (dhania)
  • Salt to taste

For Serving
Green chutney

How to make:

  1. Combine the green moong dal and green chillies with approx. 5 tbsp of water in a mixer and blend till smooth.
  2. Transfer the mixture into a deep bowl, add the salt and mix well. Keep aside.
  3. Heat a non-stick mini uttapa pan and grease it using ½ tsp of oil.
  4. Pour 1 tbsp of the batter in each uttapa mould and spread it lightly to make a 75 mm. (3″) diameter round.
  5. Top each of the 7 mini chilas with 2 tsp of the mixed sprouts and paneer topping and press it gently so the topping sticks well to the batter.
  6. Cook all the chilas, using 1 tsp of oil, till they turn golden brown in colour from both the sides.
  7. Repeat steps 4 to 6 to make 11 more mini chilas in 2 more batches using 1½ tsp of oil.
  8. Serve immediately with green chutney.

3. Sattu buttermilk

(The recipe is a courtesy of Healthy Samayal)

What you’ll need:

  • Sattu powder – 2 big tsp
  • Curd/Plain Yogurt – 3 tbsp
  • Chilled water – 2 cups
  • Ice cubes (optional) – 3 to 4
  • Black pepper powder – a pinch
  • Cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Kala Namak/Rock Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 to 2 tsp
  • Salt

For Garnish:
Finely chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves

How to make:

  1. In a big bowl, add Sattu powder and curd. Beat well. Add rest of the ingredients and beat well.
  2. Pour into large glasses. Garnish with chopped coriander and mint leaves.
  3. Have immediately.
    (PS: Sattu powder tends to settle at bottom of the glass if kept for some time. Hence, mix well).

4. Makhana (fox nuts) with your evening cup of tea or coffee

(The recipe is a courtesy of Veg Recipes Of India)

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups makhana (phool makhana or foxnuts or lotus seeds)
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (haldi)
  • ½ teaspoon red chilli powder (Lal mirch powder) or add as required
  • 1 teaspoon chaat masala or add as required
  • Rock salt as required
  • 2 to 3 teaspoon oil or ghee

How to make:

1. Heat oil in a pan or kadai.
2. Add the makhana and roast for a good 10-12 minutes on a low flame till they become crisp and crunchy. Keep on stirring in between.
3. Lastly add all the spice powders and salt, except chaat masala.
4. Switch off the fire as you don’t want the spice powders to get burnt.
5. Stir the whole mixture well.
6. Lastly sprinkle the chaat masala powder and again mix well.
7. Serve roasted makhana straightaway.
8. Or once they cool down, store roasted makhana in an air-tight container.

5. Chana and tomato chaat

(The recipe is a courtesy of Sanjeev Kapor Recipes)

What you’ll need:

  • Dry green grams (hara chana) soaked overnight 1 1/2 cups
  • Onions chopped 2 medium
  • Tomatoes chopped 2 medium
  • Green chillies chopped 2-3
  • Fresh coriander leaves chopped 2 tablespoons
  • Black salt (kala namak) to taste
  • Roasted cumin powder 1 teaspoon
  • Chaat masala 1 teaspoon
  • Red chilli powder 1/2 teaspoon
  • Lemon juice 2 tablespoons

How to make:

1. Pressure cook soaked dry green chana in three cups of water for seven to eight whistles or till done. Transfer them into a kadai and simmer till all the water evaporates.
2. Take the hot chana in a bowl. Add onions, tomatoes, green chillies, coriander leaves, black salt, roasted cumin powder, chaat masala, red chilli powder and lemon juice and mix well. Serve immediately.

6. Sprouts Bhel

(The recipe is a courtesy of Sify Bawarchi)

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups – boiled, drained moong (cooked till soft, but not mushy) or 2 cups – slightly boiled, drained moong sprouts
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 slice raw mango, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 small potato, boiled, peeled & finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp – coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 Carrot grated
  • 1 tsp – Tamarind chutney
  • 1/2 tsp – green chutney or 1 small Green chilli finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp – cumin powder
  • 4-5 pinches dried Mint powder (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • 1/4 cup – fine sev (that used for bhel)
  • 1 tbsp – cornflakes, muesli, or other cereal

How to make:
1. Make sure sprouts or moong is boiled till soft, but not mushy.
2. Chill moong in refrigerator till required.
3. Mix all ingredients, except coriander, sev and cornflakes.
4. Stir to mix well and check for taste.
5. Just before serving, add in coriander, cornflakes and sev.
6. Serve while the cereal and sev are still crunchy.

7. Green moong dal idlis

(The recipe is a courtesy of Tarla Dalal)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup green moong dal (split green gram)
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 cup grated cabbage
  • 1/4 cup urad dal (split black lentils)
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger-green chilli paste
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped coriander (dhania)

For Serving
Sambhar

How to make:

1.Combine the green moong dal, urad dal and fenugreek seeds in a deep bowl and keep aside to soak in enough water for 2 hours. Drain well.
2. Blend the green moong dal, urad dal and fenugreek seeds in a mixer along with approx. 1 cup of water till smooth.
3. Transfer the mixture into a deep bowl, add the salt and mix well. Cover with a lid and keep aside to ferment for 4 hours.
4. Once fermented, add the ginger-green chilli paste and coriander and mix well.
5. Pour spoonfuls of the batter into greased idli moulds and steam in a steamer for 12 minutes.
6. Cool slightly and de-mould.
7. Repeat with the remaining batter to make more idlis.
8. Serve immediately with sambhar.

And before you jump on the high-protein bandwagon, remember:

  • You need to eat 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of your ideal body weight. 0.8 grams is recommended for people with a sedentary lifestyle or mild exercise. 1 gram protein per kg body weight is ideal for those who are into moderate workouts. Calculate your ideal body weight here – https://www.mdcalc.com/ideal-body-weight.
  • Proteins have a complex molecular structure and are tough to digest. Your body can digest around 13-16 grams of protein at a time. Most protein shakes contain 20-30 grams of protein in a scoop. So avoid the protein shakes. The sattu buttermilk is a much healthier alternative.

So here’s to a smart vegetarian protein eater!

Loved this article? Don't forget to share it!

Disclaimer: The information we share is verified by experts and scientifically validated. However, it is not a replacement for a doctor’s advice. Please always check with your doctor before trying anything suggested on this website.