Some people claim that vegans and vegetarians cannot consume enough protein per day to gain muscle or even support a healthy body. I beg to differ! Having been a vegetarian for twenty-one years, I know just how easy it is to get enough protein into your daily diet. It comes down to making smart choices about what you choose to put on your plate! If you’re new to being a vegan or vegetarian or are considering going vegan or vegetarian, there are a variety of protein options out there for you! And they don’t have to be boring!
Quinoa contains eight grams of protein per cup. It is considered a “complete protein” because it contains all nine essential amino acids. The body uses these amino acids for growth and repair. Our bodies cannot create these amino acids on their own, so they must be consumed in our daily diet. Quinoa is very versatile and can be used in a variety of hot, cold, sweet and savory dishes!
Nuts and Nut Butters
Depending on the nut or nut butter you choose, the protein grams will vary. Almonds and pistachios, for example, contain five to six grams of protein per ounce. Keep in mind that although nuts and nut butter can be a great source of protein and healthy fats, they do tend to run high in calories, so moderation is important. When searching for a nut butter (or even nuts) look for a brand that contains as few ingredients as possible. Natural nut butters typically have oil resting on top and the only ingredients should read “peanuts” or “almonds” and maybe salt. Avoid brands with hydrogenated oils or added sweeteners.
Just one cup of cooked lentils contains eighteen grams of protein. Lentils are considered a legume and are incredibly versatile. You can use them as a side dish or cook them in a soup. There are a wide variety of recipes online for lentils, so don’t be afraid to surf the web for one you or your family might enjoy!
Tofu and Tempeh
Both tofu and tempeh are high in protein and can make a great addition to a vegan diet. Tempeh contains about fifteen grams of protein per serving, while tofu contains about twenty grams. Tofu comes in a variety of textures, which makes it incredibly versatile in vegetarian and vegan cooking. Some people avoid both tofu and tempeh, as they are more processed than other natural protein sources. But that doesn’t take away the powerful protein punch these two pack!
There are a wide variety of beans available: pinto beans, black beans, white beans, kidney beans (the list goes on). The great thing about beans is that they can be bought canned, which makes them relatively cheap and easy to make. Two cups of kidney beans contains close to twenty-six grams of protein! Black, white and pinto beans rival this with big numbers of their own.
There are a variety of Vegan/Vegetarian protein powders on the market today. There are pea proteins, brown rice proteins, hemp proteins and vegetable proteins available. If you’re concerned that protein powder will make you pack on the pounds, don’t. It takes an excess of calories in general to gain weight… no one single food can do that so long as it’s eaten in moderation! Protein powder is great for building and maintaining lean muscle, providing satiety over long periods of time and keeping hair, skin and nails healthy! Most vegan protein powders contain anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five grams of protein per scoop!
Some might be surprised to hear that a cup of boiled peas contains nine grams of protein. A cup of cooked spinach has seven grams! Believe it or not, vegetables can be a great source of protein, even for individuals who do not follow a vegan diet! Fill your plate with leafy green veggies and rest assured, you will be getting a protein boost in your daily diet!
Some people find they simply don’t want to eat as much as is required to get their daily dose of protein… luckily, there are liquid alternatives! These can be great additions to a vegan diet, so long as you watch out for tricky labeling! Before picking up that tempting vanilla soy milk, turn it around and check the label! Many flavored varieties of non-dairy milk contain high sugar content. More often than not, it’s best to stick to the plain flavors. Soy milk contains about four to eight grams of protein per ounce, whereas hemp, rice and almond milk contain as little as one gram per cup.
A Side Note for Vegetarians
If you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, there are a variety of dairy products (ie. milk, greek yogurt, whey protein powder and cottage cheese) and egg products that can help boost your protein intake significantly! Since this post is for vegans, I won’t go into these particular protein sources. But if you are a vegetarian and are trying to put on muscle (and aren’t allergic to dairy), these are a wonderful addition to your diet!
So as you can see, there is no need to fret about not getting your protein intake for the day. It’s completely doable so long as you include these foods at each of your meals to boost your protein total for the day!