by Shauravi Malik and Meghana Narayan
You might have read the alarming headline that over 80% of the Indian population is protein deficient. This is according to a recent survey titled “Protein Consumption in Diet of Adult Indians: A General Consumer Survey (PRODIGY),” undertaken by the Indian Market Research Bureau, which indicates that 9 out of 10 people of the sample (1260 respondents) consumed inadequate amount of protein.
When we look around us, as families with young children, our concerns around eating the usual non-vegetarian sources of protein and non-organic dairy seem to be compounding each year. It is expensive and hard to find organic, antibiotic-free, hormone-free substitutes. As eager beaver label readers, we are often utterly perplexed. Is the chicken feed really organic? Some supermarket labels say no-added hormones - does that mean there are still lots of antibiotics given to the animals? We decided to take on the challenge of finding lasting veggie protein alternatives to increase our meat-free days. Challenge because we are utterly bored of dal as the main source of protein.
Here are a few staples that are now a daily fixture in our home, and our kids love them too!
1. Moong Dal Sticks:
Much like seekh kebabs these are great finger food for infants. The ones I made for my son were cooked on a saucepan in butter, and mine in the air fryer with no fat at all. Win win for all!
You can make them with any dals in your kitchen or with kala chana, paneer, chickpeas or even experiment with a mix of different dals. Moong dal and masoor dal are both high in protein.
Scroll to the bottom of this article for the recipe
2. Besan Ka Cheela (A La Adai Dosa):
Every culture has a variant of the pancake. Make yours with full of protein and add natural colour from healthy vegetables! We make green spinach ones with besan (chickpea flour) and red beetroot ones with ragi flour. Make batches of the flour and keep in an airtight container. Add fresh beetroot, spinach and yoghurt on the day and you are ready to go!
This is the best use of organic milk in our house. The Indians and the French have got this right and this is one tradition we should not lose. Please don’t buy sugary ones from the market. Home-made yoghurt comes alive with some roasted almonds, toasted seeds and fresh fruit.
4. Sprinkle Nuts and Seeds:
Keep them handy and sneak them into your kids’ food. Watch the calories here if you end up snacking on the ones meant for the little ones!
5. Hummus at Hand:
We make hummus at home and it keeps in the chill tray easily for 4-5 days. Hummus has chickpeas and tahini (made of sesame seeds), both of which are great sources of protein.
A sobering realisation for me was the fact that I thought I was meeting my required intake, until I did the math. We grow up thinking that a bit of meat or eggs and some dal during meals means we will be ok. Research says you need 1gm of protein per kilo of body weight. It’s fascinating to do a weekly diary and realize that you might be part of the 9 out of 10 people, just like I was.
Recipe - Moong Dal Sticks:
Image source: Manjula's Kitchen
1 Cup moong dal
Garlic (to taste)
Jeera (to taste)
Dhaniya powder (to taste)
Fresh dhaniya/coriander leaves (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)
1 Egg yolk
1 Tbsp butter
Breadcrumbs for coating
1. Cook 1 cup of moong dal, and drain all the water out.
2. Add some garlic, jeera, dhaniya powder, fresh dhaniya, salt and pepper, a spoon of butter and egg yolk.
3. Mix it all up with a hand blender, and then make rolls. They should feel a bit moist.
4. For breadcrumbs on the outside, I made two extra crispy toasts, and squished them into crumbs and coated the dal sticks with this. It was a soya and seed bread. I think the seediness of the bread really made it yum!
5. Shallow-fry the rolls in a frying pan with some butter or use an air-fryer for a healthier option.