“But…where do you get your protein?”
This question seems to be the omnivore’s dilemma and the bane of the vegetarian’s existence. I have heard this question countless times, but my answers never quite satisfy the asker. Meat is such a prevalent source of protein that other protein sources appear foreign. It’s important to note that meat is a rich protein source, but it is not the only source. Protein is an essential nutrient that promotes cell growth and repair. All life needs protein to survive and grow, so all food sources will contain a certain amount of protein.
There are dozens of vegetarian and vegan sources that are comparable to meat, and experimenting with vegetarian and vegan proteins at least once a week can be extremely beneficial. Plant-based proteins are often nutrient dense, so you gain a greater amount of nutrients for fewer calories and saturated fat. Explore the list below and enjoy a meatless, high-protein meal:
Meat alternatives are plant-based and offer a wide variety of textures and tastes in meatless dishes. Check out the descriptions below, and discover which meat alternative is right for your recipes.
10 grams per ½ cup
Tofu is a versatile vegan protein because it comes in many varieties and takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. Smooth silken tofu is commonly used to add vegan protein to smoothies and desserts. Most restaurant tofu dishes use extra-firm tofu.. It takes some cooking trial and error, but tofu is a great alternative in stir-fry’s, scrambles and soups.
3 Tasty Tofu Recipes:
15 grams per ½ cup
Another soy protein, tempeh is firmer than tofu and has a slightly nutty taste. It is easier to cook with and is popularly used as burger and chicken substitutes.
3 Terrific Tempeh Recipes:
13 grams per ½ cup
Quorn is produced as both a cooking ingredient and a range of ready meals. It is a highly processed form of mycoprotein, which is a derivative of the fungi family. It is a great soy-free alternative, however, it is not vegan because it often contains egg protein. Quorn can be delicious, but the products are processed and high in sodium. Enjoy in moderation!
Check out their products and recipes here.
8 grams per cup
This versatile grain is a health food celebrity right now. It’s packed with fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese, and it contains all nine essential amino acids. Use it as a rice substitute, add it to salads, make veggie burgers and more!
3 Quick Quinoa Recipes:
5 grams per cup cooked
5 grams per ½ cup raw
Don’t get this breakfast super-food confused with your typical instant variety. Rolled oats are rich in protein and their high fiber content improves digestion, metabolism, and cholesterol levels.
3 Outstanding Oat Recipes:
Beans & Legumes
Another well-known vegetarian delight, beans are a super source of protein. Diverse and delicious, most beans are low-calorie, low-cholesterol, high-fiber and nutrient dense. Create a complex protein source by designing recipes that combine them with a whole grain. Not all beans are created equal, so check out these varieties with the highest protein content:
12 grams per cup
32 grams per can
Probably the most well-known bean, these tiny black beans are packed with protein, fiber, folate, iron and magnesium. They also contain a wide range of antioxidants and flavonoids that may aid in cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Enjoy these versatile beans in burritos, burgers, soups and more!
3 Brilliant Black Bean Recipes:
15 grams per cup
25 grams per can
Cannellini is just another name for the white kidney bean. They offer fewer nutrients than the red variety, but are much lower in calories. Cannellini beans are a softer bean, so they pairs well in salads and dressings.
3 Crazy-Good Cannellini Bean Recipes:
16 grams per cup
28 grams per 16-ounce can
These simple and buttery beans are full of manganese and iron, which are important in energy production. They are also are a great way to add iron, fiber and protein to your diet.
3 Choice Chickpea Recipes:
17 grams per 1 cup
These boiled soybeans look like giant peas in a pod, but they are actually the perfect snack to add to your diet. Grab a handful of this low-calorie legume, and boost your fiber, protein, iron and magnesium consumption.
3 Enjoyable Edamame Recipes:
9 grams per ½ cup
Lentils are the cheapest and easiest way to get protein. A bag of lentils costs around one dollar, are super easy to cook, and will last you a very long time. Did I mention they have more protein than beef gram-for-gram, and contain three times more dietary fiber than bran? You should probably go out and buy some lentils right now.
3 Legendary Lentil Recipes:
8 grams per 2 tablespoons
This popular protein source is easy to incorporate protein and fiber into any diet. Combine the protein with some whole grain bread for a complete protein source, containing all your essential amino acids. Peanut butter is high in calories, fat and sugar, so look for a brand without added sugar, salt or oil.
3 Perfect Peanut Butter Recipes:
19 grams per ½ cup
Like peanut butter, peanuts are high in fat and added sodium and sugars. Luckily peanuts have a low glycemic index, which means they help control blood sugar levels. Enjoy unsalted and unsweetened peanuts in moderation.
3 Phenomenal Peanut Recipes:
Red Kidney beans
15 grams per cup
25 grams per can
Red kidney beans offer more vitamin E, folate, potassium, calcium and iron than white kidney beans. They are higher in calories, but their thick skin makes them perfect for vegetarian chili and stew recipes.
3 Remarkable Red Kidney Bean Recipes:
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds may seem unhealthy because of their high fat and calorie content, but they are actually packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Their high fat content is composed of healthy fats that lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Grab a handful of these crunchy snacks and up your protein and nutrient intake!
6 grams per ounce (22 almonds)
This nutty super-food is popular for more than its high protein content. Almonds are packed with calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. Not to mention, their high dietary fiber content promotes digestive health and keeps you feeling fuller longer.
3 Awesome Almond Recipes:
6 grams per ounce (2 tablespoons)
These tasty seeds are not only a great source of protein, they also contain a good amount of vitamin E, magnesium and selenium, which all help protect cells against damage. They are also high in omega-6 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in brain function and growth. Enjoy unsalted and unflavored seeds as a snack or on salads.
3 Simple Sunflower Seed Recipes:
Who knew vegetables could have so much protein? Increase your protein and nutrient intake by including these high-protein vegetables into your daily meals.
4 grams per cup cooked
Who knew broccoli had so much protein? This cruciferous vegetable is also a good source of vitamin C, calcium and dietary fiber. Enjoy this tasty veggie in a variety of ways while also promoting bone, digestive and heart health.
3 Brilliant Broccoli Recipes:
5 g per cup
It’s no wonder Popeye got such super strength after eating a can of spinach! Increase your protein, iron, vitamins A, and vitamin K intakes by sneaking this leafy green into daily recipes.
3 Super Spinach Recipes:
If you are not vegan, there are a ton of other meatless animal-sourced proteins. Keep your products cruelty-free by buying pasture-raised eggs and dairy.
6 grams per egg
If you’re not vegan, eggs are an egg-cellent complete protein source. One egg a day will up your B vitamin and omega-3 fatty acid intakes without raising your cholesterol. B vitamins are essential to your metabolism, memory, and brain function. Unless you have high cholesterol, don’t skip out on the nutrient-dense yolk!
3 Excellent Egg Recipes:
26 grams per cup
18 grams per container
Greek tops other yogurt varieties because it contains double the amount of protein with less sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates. Avoid flavored and sweetened varieties by adding your own toppings and sweeteners, and cut out fat by opting for low or no-fat options. Enjoy in baking because it doesn’t curdle when heated.
3 Great Greek Yogurt Recipes:
Find these vegetarian proteins and more on our campus by clicking here.
Have more vegetarian protein ideas? Let us know in the comments!