If you’re worried about getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet, you may be in for a surprise. The truth is, most Americans get way too much protein, and vegetarians can easily get more than enough protein in their diet as well. Many people still believe that protein is only available from meat and animal sources and we will all fall over dead without animal protein! Here are the best sources of protein for vegetarians.
Beans are one of the most common protein-rich foods for vegetarians. All beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent vegetarian and vegan source of protein, so eat whichever one you like! Black beans, kidney beans, split pea soup and chickpea hummus—pick one and watch the protein grams add up. You can find beans in the grocery store or on the menu just about everywhere you may be.
Soy is a bean as well. It and its derivatives are a popular source of protein for vegetarians. Soy is such a flavor chameleon that you’ll never get bored! You may have tried tofu and soy milk before, but what about edamame, soy ice cream, soy yogurt, soy nuts or soy cheese? TVP and tempeh are also protein-rich soy foods. As an added bonus, many brands of tofu and soymilk are fortified with other nutrients that vegetarians and vegans need, such as calcium, iron and vitamin B12. You can add a bit of tofu to just about anything you cook, including stir-fries, pasta sauces, soups and salads.
Nuts, including peanuts, cashews, almonds and walnuts all contain protein, as do seeds such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Because most nuts and seeds are high in fat, you don’t want to make them your primary source of protein. But they’re great as a post-workout or occasional snack. Nut butters are delicious as well. Try soy nut butter or cashew nut butter for a little variety from peanut butter with about 8 grams of protein per serve (2 tablespoons).
Read the label of store-bought meat substitute products and veggie burgers and you’ll find they are quite high in protein! Most commercial meat substitutes are made from either soy protein, wheat protein (wheat gluten) or a combination of the two. Homemade seitan is quite high in protein as well.
Tempeh is similar to a very firm veggie burger, and, like tofu and seitan, it’s quite high in protein and can be prepared in a myriad of ways, making it perfect for vegetarians, vegans, or those just wishing to reduce meat consumption while exploring alternative protein sources.