Protein is essential to human health and if you are trying to gain muscle then it is absolutely imperative. Even with a vegetarian lifestyle there are still plenty of ways to get the adequate amount of protein your body needs. Here are some of our recommendations:
Beans, Lentils and Legumes
There are many great options in this group. Choose what you like most, black, lentil, kidney, garbanzo, pinto, chickpea, etc and add it to your salad, grain, or have it as a side dish. Vegetarian chili with a mix of all your favorite beans is a great way make a delicious meal out of it. You can also mash up some chickpeas and make hummus for a healthy snack. Most beans range from 10 grams up to 20 grams of protein in a cup. Beans are also high in iron, fiber, and Vitamin B. Just be careful if you are on a low-carb diet as they are high in carbohydrates.
There are endless possibilities in this category. Tofu contains 20 grams of protein in one cup. This is a perfect meat alternative. It is best to use extra firm tofu as it has been pressed the longest so contains the most protein and least amount of carbs. Also give soy milk (7 grams protein per cup) a try, you may be surprised with how much you like it. One of my favorites is edamame, which I buy frozen from Costco so I always have it on hand. One cup contains 28 grams of protein, equal to a 3-ounce steak! There are many other soy products you can experiment with, such as cheese, miso, yogurt, ice cream, and tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soybean that you may not have heard of. It has about 19 grams of protein and is also a great source for fiber, iron, potassium, B12 and calcium. Look for it next time your at your local market!
Nuts & Seeds
These are great for a small snack option. Nuts however are also high in fat so make sure you are watching your serving size. Almonds aka “The King of Nuts” have about 8 grams protein in ¼ cup. Sunflower seeds are filled with potassium, contain 6 grams of protein (in ¼ cup) and help reduce sodium in your body. Top your salad with them for a nutritious crunch!
Even meat lovers should give veggie patties a chance. Morningstar patties provide 10 grams of protein with only 100 calories and 3 grams of fat. Replace your beef for this healthy alternative next time you’re grilling out, just make sure it’s sandwiched on a whole-wheat bun! The patties are also great to add to your salad to get that extra protein that you need.
Add protein to your smoothies or even your yogurt for an extra punch. I buy whey protein in bulk to keep the cost down but it is something I can’t live without. My standard post-workout drink consists of milk, protein, peanut butter, a banana, a little cocoa powder and it’s fantastic! You can also add protein when baking muffins, cookies, etc. There are also many options for protein supplements so read the labels and choose what’s best for you and your dietary needs.
Quinoa has become a staple in my house. Whole grains in general are a great source of protein but quinoa, which is known as the “complete protein,” packs in about twice as much. Quinoa is also one of very few non-meat “complete” proteins, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids. One cup of cooked quinoa is packed with 8 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. The body absorbs grains slowly so grains provide us high quality energy to get us through our busy days.
These veggies don’t pack quite the protein punch that the options above to but you still get a decent amount of plant-based protein from them. Spinach, kale, collards, and other leafy greens have about 5 grams per cup. Always remember when choosing your leafy greens, the darker the more nutrients packed in. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, and asparagus contain about 6 grams per cup.
What is your favorite vegetarian source of protein?