Proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. All twenty of them are necessary for proper function, but only eleven of them occur naturally in the human body. In the nutrition world, these nine remaining amino acids are called essential amino acids, which must be consumed through food or beverage. While many foods contain some of the essential amino acids, most do not contain all of them. This is where protein combining to create a complete protein comes in.
It’s a simple concept—combine a food that has a few of the essential amino acids with another that has the remaining amino acids. While most of us are unfamiliar with which essential amino acids are in the various foods we eat, protein combination is a pretty common thing. The traditional Mexican dish of beans and rice or the Middle Eastern combination of hummus and pita are perfect examples of a complete protein dish made by combining two incomplete foods.
Other foods, like quinoa, buckwheat, and chia, naturally contain all nine essential amino acids. There are healthy and delicious ways to incorporate these grains and seeds into your baby’s diet independently as well! For a list of the nine essential amino acids with some food suggestions for both you and your family, visit this page.
Below are a couple of delicious plant based recipes that provide all of the necessary amino acids:
Black Bean and Brown Rice Dinner
*Recommended for babies 6+ months
- 1/4 cup uncooked brown rice
- Unsweetened apple juice
- 1 apple, cored and chopped
- 1/2 small, ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
- 1 tbsp cooked black beans
Cook the brown rice, but instead of cooking it in water, use the apple juice (the quantity you need will vary depending on the type of brown rice used - see the directions on the packaging). 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, uncover the rice, add the diced apple and re-cover. Mash the avocado. At the end of the cooking time, allow the mixture to cool briefly, then add the black beans and stir in the mashed avocado.
Creamy Quinoa and Bananas
- 1 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt or dairy-free alternative
- 1/2 banana, mashed
In medium saucepan, combine ingredients and simmer on low for approximately 10 minutes.
**This is to simply warm the ingredients, not cook them. Watch this closely so that the quinoa is not reduced to a pasty thickness.
Written by: Chloe Cerino