Meat and I have a really interesting relationship. I went through a phase when I was younger where I didn’t eat a lot of red meat. I would eat meatballs, because I’m Italian and that’s illegal. But I wasn’t a big fan of burgers, or steak. My mom bought chicken and chicken burgers religiously for me. I think this phase came about because I didn’t like that you can see the fat, and how you can’t really chew through the gristle in steak and sausage. I have since moved past this weird phase and love a good meat and cheese plate.

When counting macros, you need to account for a lot of protein. I’m constantly at the grocery store and cooking; I prefer to buy meat fresh because I find that meat often gets freezer burnt when I don’t want to defrost it and I wait too long. I also change my mind way too often. And, of course, I can get bored pretty easily, so I’m always looking for a new way to keep the fat down on my protein source while still making it tasty and easy to pack to take between work and the gym.

I find it hard to believe that a non-meat dish can be a complete protein, but science is really trying to convince me of that so I gave it a shot. I had paired lentils with steak, thinking I’d grab some extra protein, but I was skeptical of eating it alone as my complete protein source, so I did some extra research.

Why Lentils Are a Complete Protein

Lentils on their own are not a complete protein, but becomes complete when paired with rice. Which is why rice and beans is such a vegetarian staple, you can substitute beans for lentils. I like the lentil option because you can keep them a bit crunchy for a good texture.

A complete protein refers to amino acids, there are 20 amino acids that can form a protein, but 9 amino acids our body cannot produce, which makes those 9 essential, since we cannot produce them on our own. While meat and eggs are complete proteins on their own, beans and nuts are not, but when paired with the right foods, our bodies can get enough of each essential amino acid. (See, I knew it couldn’t be equal to eggs and meat, but we’re opening the doors to a lot more food options!)

Vegetarians have been getting ample protein sources from the rice and beans combo because they are a great match. Since beans (again, I subbed lentils) are low in methionine and high in lysine, they’re complemented by rice that is low in lysine and high in methionine. When they come together, you have a cheap, easy meal providing a sufficient amount of protein equal to an egg or meat. Not to mention, I can eat it at my desk when I grab an afternoon workout, something I definitely don’t do if I’m eating tuna.

Cook white rice. Boil and simmer lentils. I added some sliced onion right into the water and lentils as they were cooking to add flavor. Mix together and reheat as you want to eat it, I keep the white rice as a smaller serving.

Do you ever get protein from non-meat sources? Try this and more meatless Monday recipes here. 

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