Whether you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or simply want to eat less meat, getting enough protein is probably one of the main concerns for you. This nutrient helps grow and maintain muscle mass, speed up post-workout recovery, and keep your skin and hair strong and healthy.
The truth is, maintaining proper daily protein intake is not as hard as most people think.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), most adult women should eat approximately 46 grams of protein a day, while most adult men should eat between 56 and 70 grams. It means that you can easily get the right amount from plant-based protein sources. But of course, this number will also largely depend on your weight, age, and activity level.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to get more protein in a vegetarian or vegan diet and some tasty recipes you can prepare with plant-based protein products.
Top 6 Best Plant-Based Protein Sources
Here are some of the best vegan and vegetarian protein-rich sources you can include in your meatless diet to ensure your body gets what it needs.
All beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts are an excellent source of protein every vegan or vegetarian should try including in their diet plan. And the best thing is, they’re affordable and can be a base for many delicious dishes.
“Beans and legumes of every variety pack a ton of nutrients and calories into any meal, which is helpful when you are working on getting adequate protein on a plant-based diet and also to reduce your grocery budget.
The fiber content of beans will keep you full and satisfied long after a meal and is beneficial for feeding the gut's good bacteria, binding and flushing out toxins and waste from your body, and even reducing cholesterol and body weight.
Along with fiber, beans are rich in protein, a macronutrient that can often be found lacking in the diet of those seeking to save money at the grocery store. Beans are known for their protein content, but eating them along with rice is the best way to get in all 9 essential amino acids. There are twenty amino acids, nine of which are essential, meaning they must be obtained through the diet.”
Trista Best, Registered Dietitian at Balance One Supplements
If you’re looking for a protein powerhouse, here it is. Quinoa is full of whole grains and all the essential amino acids. Along with quinoa, you might also want to consider whole-grain bread, brown rice, and barley.
“The best vegan source of protein is quinoa. It contains all of the nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. 1 cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. It is a pseudocereal, which is used in replacement of cereal grains, but unlike other cereals, it provides high quality and quantity of protein.”
Hiba Batool, Qualified Nutritionist at Marham
Tofu and Soya
Let’s put it this way: you’ll never get bored with soy protein. It’s a very versatile ingredient that can add a kick to your favourite dish. For example, you can add tofu to a veggie stir-fry, salads, or simply cook and eat it on its own. Soya beans themselves can be eaten alone or turned into soy milk, miso or tempeh. Per 100g, soya beans contain around 15g of protein.
“I've been a vegetarian for most of my life and being an athlete as well, and I know the importance of getting enough protein to make sure you are fueled and recovered when living an active lifestyle.
My favorite vegetarian protein sources are tofu and tempeh. These are both staples in my diet that I use in a large number of different dishes and recipes. There is just so much you can cook up with both of them, alongside different ways to season and spice them, that I never seem to get sick of these two. They aren't the only two protein sources I use, but I would say they are the most prevalent as well as my favorite.”
Christine Wang, Founder of The Ski Girl
If you maintain high physical activity levels, you might require more protein in your daily diet. And if you’re vegan or vegetarian, it might be a bit challenging to get enough of it from plant-based foods. This is when protein powder comes in very handy. It’s easy to include in your morning smoothie, post-workout protein shake or simply any other dish or drink.
“Supplements can increase the ease and convenience of getting in enough protein, especially if you're short on time. A vegan protein supplement can also be a delicious way to make your meals and snacks higher in protein, for example, protein pancakes, smoothie bowls and overnight oats.”
Valentina Duong, Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist & Powerlifter, The Strength Dietitian
If you’re vegetarian, you might also consider Gelpro Advanced Marine Collagen that is sourced exclusively from wild caught-cod skin and contains about 95% of protein.
Nuts and Seeds
Apart from being a healthy and handy snack, different nuts and seeds are also a great protein source. Almonds, cashews, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are particularly rich in protein and widely used among the vegan and vegetarian communities.
For instance, 30 grams of almonds will provide you with six grams of protein, and two tablespoons of peanut butter - with 8 grams of protein. Chia seeds are also a complete source of protein that contains 2 g of protein per tablespoon.
However, you should remember that nuts and seeds are also high in fat, so avoid making them your primary source of protein. They work best as an occasional or post-workout snack.
“Adding hemp protein to your diet is a sustainable way to get your daily protein requirements from a vegan source. Hemp is a complete protein, containing edestin and all nine essential amino acids. This makes it unique among vegan protein sources.
One serving of hemp protein contains 22 grams of protein, 8 grams of dietary fibre, omega 3s and 6, and 72% of our daily iron intake. Hemp also contains many other essential vitamins and minerals, including potassium, copper, zinc, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. It is truly an amazing supplement for a vegan or vegetarian diet.”
Natalie Boland, Earthli
How to Maintain a Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Diet?
If you want to benefit from your plant-based lifestyle, here are a few useful tips to help you maintain a healthy vegan or vegetarian diet.
Tip #1: Prep
“Try prepping all or part of your meals/snacks in advance. For example, take an hour when you have a day off and chop veggies, cook some quinoa in lentils. This makes it a lot easier to throw meals together throughout the rest of the week. Don't be afraid to use canned beans and veggies; this can make for quick prep of nutrient-dense meals.”
Shena Jaramillo MS, RD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Peace and Nutrition
Tip #2: Keep Track
“Keep track of what you eat, so you get enough protein. Especially on a vegan diet, you should be getting close to 1g of protein for every gram of body weight that you weigh or want to weigh. Otherwise, your 'healthy choice' of being a vegan isn't as healthy as you thought! That would be 150g if you weigh, or your weight loss goal is 150lbs.”
Paul Claybrook, MS, MBA, CN, Certified Nutritionist at Super Duper Nutrition
Tip #3: Plan
“Planning is key. This means shopping for foods and planning meals to mix a variety of protein foods in your daily meals and snacks. A good variety of different foods and different food groups means you will also get lots of vitamins and minerals needed for health.”
Melissa Morris, Certified Nutritionist, QuickQuote
Tasty Vegan Recipes to Increase Daily Protein Intake
Here is an excellent recipe from Megan Swan, wellness and mindset coach, for a vegan Spanish Tortilla made from chickpea flour.
Vegan Spanish Tortilla
- 3 potatoes
- 2/3 onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1/3 cup of beer
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of sea salt
- Cut the potatoes in thin slices, and soak them in water for 5 minutes. Drain the water and season them with 1/2 the salt and paprika.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic.
- Heat the oil on medium until hot. Fry the potatoes, onions and garlic until the onions are transparent.
- In a blender or food processor combine the beer, chickpea flour, water and more salt. Combine until you have a homogenous mixture.
- Add this mix to the frying pan and cover. Wait for approximately 15 minutes on medium to low heat. Test the tortilla with a knife to ensure it is ready before removing from the pan.
- Serve and enjoy with your favourite salsa or a mixture of fresh tomatoes, olive oil and herbs.
And here’s another incredibly delicious and easy recipe from Beth Shaw, founder and CEO of YogaFit.
Spicy Hummus Wrap
- 1/3 cup hummus
- 2 large chard leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup alfalfa sprouts
- 1/2 cup shredded white cabbage
- 2 Persian cucumbers (chopped)
- 1/3 avocado (cubed
- 1 jalapeno (finely chopped)
- Divide hummus between the chard leaves and gently spread.
- Sprinkle cayenne pepper onto the hummus.
- Layer alfalfa sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, avocado, and jalapeno onto the leaves.
- Wrap and enjoy!