When opting for a vegetarian or vegan diet, many become concerned about getting enough protein. But there are actually plenty of delicious and healthy meatless protein sources out there. Let's explore!
Since protein is a vital component in building muscle, growing hair and connective tissue, supporting injury recovery, and much more, most of us want to be certain we're eating sufficient amounts.
But how much do we need? Possibly less than you think. According to Harvard Health Blog, the RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
To personalize that amount, you can use this handy online nutrient calculator from the USDA. Once you've determined how much you actually need, we can take a look at the best high protein foods for vegetarians and vegans.
(Also please note: there are no known advantages to consuming more than the RDA of protein—and over-consumption can actually lead to health issues as well.)
The Vegetarian Resource Group states that "plant-based proteins are remarkably efficient at synthesizing amino acids and promoting cell growth and repair."
A sample menu here (scroll down a bit once opening) shows how easy it can be to get protein into your meals from sources you may not realize are protein-rich.
Not only do the expected sources provide protein (like peas, soy, beans, quinoa, hemp seeds, chia, spirulina and nuts) but also bagels, broccoli, brown rice and oatmeal can add plenty to your diet as well. And while some still argue the need for a "complete" protein (i.e. rice + beans = complete), others consider that realm to be mostly a myth at this point.
Top Protein Sources
Let's see what the experts recommend for the best sources of plant-based protein available today. Here are the best high protein foods for vegetarians.
Lentils can add 9 grams of protein per half cup, and they make a great hearty addition to any meal. In fact, it's simple to just swap lentils for the meat in many dishes.
If you need some ideas, go check out our complete guide to lentils.
Yup! Good old hemp makes another appearance on the blog - and this time as a superior protein provider.
This highly-digestible, high-fiber substance has a nutty flavor, and the seeds are tasty in salads, puddings, cereals and granola.
While some prefer to use the whole hemp seed, this hemp seed protein powder provides 14 grams of protein and 40% RDA of iron in a mere ¼ cup - amazing!
Check out these hemp seed recipes for creative ways to incorporate this superfood into your diet.
While some are leaning away from soy these days, many others still love their tofu and soy milk. And for good reason.
High protein and savory seitan provides 16 grams of protein in 3 ½ ounces - and only 120 calories. Made with vital wheat gluten, this vegetarian staple generally takes on whatever flavor you choose, and can be either homemade or store-purchased and used in many recipes including this Seitan, Kale, and Butternut Squash Stew and this vegan chicken pot pie.
Nuts and Nut Butters/Spreads
Nuts and nut butters (and nut milks!) are delicious, high-protein and great in sandwiches.
Peanut butter, or any similarly rich nut butters (like almond butter or cashew butter) can be eaten on your favorite toast , celery stalks or apple slices or even dropped into a smoothie for a tasty blend.
Although somewhat caloric, you'll get 5 or 6 grams of protein in every 160-calorie ounce.
Opt for the raw or dry-roasted versions when possible, with the absolute fewest ingredients included.
For more ideas, check out these articles: