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Tags: mushroom, bean, sweet_potato, sandwich

Building Dinner around Grilled Portobellos

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Making a (somewhat) nutritious meal using portobello mushrooms

As much as I love grilled portobello mushrooms, I have to admit that there isn't a whole lot going on nutritionally, aside from some niacin and minerals. Don't get me wrong, I'm crazy about niacin and minerals, but one mushroom has 2 or 3 grams of protein, and the recommended daily intake is somewhere between 50 and 90 grams depending on your weight and gender. To make a complete vegan meal featuring these juicy flavour bombs requires some nutritional gap-filling, which is not all that tough to do with a little advance planning.

If you've been vegetarian for any length of time, you've probably got a little subconscious protein calculator running all the time in your head. Two slices of whole wheat bread give you about 8 grams, which is a very good start. (Historical note: In ages past, the prevailing wisdom was that meeting the minimum protein requirements wasn't enough—you had to combine complementary protein-rich foods at the same meal to get the needed proportions of the building blocks of protein, known as essential amino acids. While essential amino acids are still important, the idea that you had to combine at the same meal has been replaced with the more relaxed notion of eating a variety of proteins throughout the day.)

You can find out more about the types of protein that vegans need in this fascinating vegan protein discussion from Vegan Health. In the article, the argument is that vegan diets are most likely to be deficient in the essential amino acid called lysine, of which you're supposed to get 38 mg / kg of healthy body weight per day. For a 200 lb person, that's about 3.5 grams per day. A half cup of firm tofu has about 0.5 grams, as does a half cup of black beans, or a cup of cooked quinoa. In contrast, two slices of whole wheat bread has only about 1/10th of a gram of lysine. So while the 8 g of protein in that bread looks reassuring, we need other protein sources to get enough lysine.

That's where protein-rich side dishes come in. By all means, eat the grilled mushroom sandwich, but think about combining it with other sources of protein, particularly those high in lysine. I love a Tex-Mex side dish with black beans, quinoa and corn. These three foods are all richer sources of lysine than the bread. A cup of cooked navy beans has about 15 g of protein and about 1 gram of lysine, which also puts us well on the way to meeting both requirements. So in this case, I decided on slowcooker baked beans to accompany the mushroom sandwich with dijon mustard and mixed greens. I threw in the grilled sweet potato slices for colour because I knew I would be needing the grill for the mushrooms anyway. I also really like the contrasting flavours of the slightly tangy mushrooms (that have been marinating in balsamic vinegar), the dijon mustard and the light sweetness of the beans and the sweet potato. The meal left me feeling pleasantly full, but not so stuffed that I felt the need to lie down in front of a TV for a couple of hours.

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Posted: Wednesday, October 14, 2015

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