The 8 Best Protein Sources for Vegetarians Apr 3, 2017 by Sarah (Day Styles)
If you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered how vegetarians get enough protein in their diets without some meat or fish for every meal. But if you want to try a vegetarian diet for health reasons, ethical reasons, or just because you want to make new and exciting meals, don’t worry about protein! There are actually many different things a vegetarian can eat that are full of protein. Here are some of the best protein sources for vegetarians.
Quinoa has around 8g of protein per cup, cooked. If you’ve ever had quinoa, you can appreciate the fluffiness of the grain (it looks very similar to couscous) and nutty taste. It’s a great protein-dense and nutritious replacement for carb-heavy rice and pasta. As well as being a great source of protein, quinoa is full of fiber, iron, magnesium and manganese. Need any more convincing? You can use quinoa to make things like bread and muffins too.
Soy can come to us in many different forms. In a firm tofu, you can get about 10g of protein per half cup. In tempeh or natto, you can get 15g of protein per half cup. If you’re choosing soy as an alternative to meat, be careful not to eat too much processed soy (like tofu). Opt for more natural options like edamame (soybeans in the pods) or tempeh. You can still eat firm tofu (with the most protein) in moderation, and it’s great in stir-fries and other dishes.
Rice and Beans
This is one of the simplest (and cheapest) ways to get protein as a vegetarian. Rice and beans combined create what is known as a complete protein. Beans are low in methionine and high in lysine (two amino acids), while rice is high in methionine and low in lysine. Complete proteins like this fill the same purpose eating meat. You can also substitute the beans for lentils or chickpeas, and you’ll still have the same result. This also counts as a pretty great post-workout meal (thanks to both protein and carbohydrates).
Ezekiel bread contains wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, and spelt. Although it was intended to be something made when bread supplies were low, it turned out to be something great and full of delicious nutrients. It’s usually made from sprouted grains, and because of the fermentation, it increases the bread’s nutrition levels and digestibility. In two slices, you can get yourself 8g of protein! That can turn any snack or sandwich into a richer and more effective meal.
Hummus and Whole Wheat Pita
The protein that’s found in a whole wheat pita is similar to the protein that you get in rice, except it’s deficient in one type of amino acid that’s provided by chickpeas instead! The great news is that you can have a great time experimenting with different types of hummus that include spices, garlic, red peppers, or more. You can even use different kinds of beans if you’re really adventurous (edamame hummus is AMAZING!) There’s 7g of protein in 1 whole wheat pita with 2 tablespoons of hummus.
Peanut Butter Sandwich
This is probably one of the easiest ways to get protein into your diet. Even though peanut butter can rack up the calories, if you put it on whole wheat bread it can count as a complete protein and a healthy snack in moderation. Opt for all-natural peanut butter (yes, the kind that has oil on top that you need to stir) and definitely use whole wheat bread. It’s easy=peasy and is a great snack for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians!
Chia seeds don't contain a ton of protein specifically, but they do contain all of the nine essential amino acids that can maximize the impact of other vegetarian proteins. Thanks to the amino acids, fiber, and fat in the seeds, they can actually help control your weight by making you feel fuller longer. You can simply add chia seeds to your morning yogurt, smoothie, or oatmeal. Or, if you drink almond milk, you can add chia seeds to a cup of milk and refrigerate overnight to make your own little protein-rich pudding! The chia seeds absorb some of the liquid and create a thick pudding that’s perfect with fresh fruit. There’s 2.5g of protein per tablespoon.
Hemp seeds have 3.3g of protein per tablespoon, even more than chia seeds! Hemp seeds are NOT marijuana; they are a related plant that’s edible and has ZERO intoxicating effects. Instead, it’s a nutritional badass that’s rich in fiber and omega-3s. Hemp seeds are not only a great source of protein, but they can help fight heart disease, obesity, and metabolic syndromes. They are a great topping on salads and easy to throw into your morning shake, cereal, or granola.
Don’t be afraid to skipping meat on Monday or any other day of the week with these easy vegetarian proteins.