7 Top Protein Sources for Vegetarians

By: Tami Fertig

beans_vegetarian_protein

Worried that you—or someone you love—won’t get enough protein without meat? Relax! According to a 2009 research review by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), vegans and vegetarians typically meet and even exceed their protein requirements: the average adult woman needs just 46 grams of protein a day; the average adult man needs 56 grams. By eating a variety of healthful veg foods, you can easily cover your protein bases. Not sure where to start? We asked nutritionist Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RDN, author of The Smart Girl’s Guide to Going Vegetarian, to help us choose a few of the most convenient and affordable protein-packed staples.

Tofu
Consider this soybean block a blank canvas: it’ll soak up the flavors of whatever you add to it. Use silken varieties for blending into smoothies and puddings; save firmer tofu for baking or stir-frying into chewy pieces and tossing into salads, sandwiches, veggie bowls, and noodle dishes. In addition to protein, tofu delivers a dose of bone-building calcium if it’s made with calcium sulfate, notes Warren. Check for it in the ingredients list on the label.
Tip: Short on time? Grab pre-seasoned baked tofu by brands such as Wildwood or Nasoya.
Protein: 10 grams per 4-oz. serving firm tofu

Stir-Fried Tofu

Beans
A helping of beans makes any dish more filling, thanks to an abundance 
of protein and fiber. “Being rich in both types of fiber—soluble and insoluble—beans also 
help lower cholesterol and promote healthy digestion,” says Warren, who suggests eating 
a variety, such as chickpeas, black beans, and heirloom beans, for the widest range of 
nutrients. Cook a big batch of dried beans for use throughout the week, or stock up on 
cans with BPA-free linings and no added salt.
Tip: Add a strip of kombu seaweed to beans as they cook to make them more easily digestible.
Protein: 7 grams per 1/2-cup serving cooked black beans

New Years Black-Eyed Peas and Greens

Greek Yogurt
Swap out regular yogurt for this thicker, strained variety, which has up to twice as much protein. Warren forgoes non-fat yogurt in favor of 2% or even whole, which will leave you feeling fuller and more satisfied. Go organic, when possible: recent research shows that organic milk contains more heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids than its conventional cousin. Look for plain Greek yogurt, and sweeten it yourself using fruit or a natural sweetener such as agave or honey.
Tip: Prefer savory to sweet? Add a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt to blended soups and sautéed greens.
Protein: 17 grams per 6-oz. serving 2% Greek yogurt

yogurt

Eggs
Starting your day with an egg can help curb cravings later in the day—just don’t skip the yolk. “It’s a great source of the nutrient choline, which is vital for cells to function properly,” says Warren. Egg yolks are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help maintain eye health. Note: the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 
consuming less than 300 milligrams cholesterol per day. 
One large egg clocks in at 186 milligrams.
Tip: Check the Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Egg Scorecard to see how different egg companies stack up.
Protein: 6 grams per large egg

Eggs

Lentils
These little legumes are packed with the about the same amount of hunger-quelling fiber as beans, but they require no soaking and cook up in just 20 to 30 minutes. What’s more, “they’re an excellent source of folate—even more so than beans—which is important for your nervous system and heart health,” says Warren. She suggests pairing iron-rich lentils with foods high in vitamin C, such as tomatoes and oranges, which help your body absorb the iron.
Tip: Not a fan of mushy lentils? Choose French or Puy lentils, which hold their shape when cooked.
Protein: 9 grams per 1/2-cup serving cooked lentils

 power-up

Nuts and Nut Butters
Just a handful of walnuts, almonds, cashews, or peanuts gives you a quick-and-easy protein boost. Nutty for nut butter? 
All types are good sources of monounsaturated fat, which can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, says Warren. She advises skipping low-fat varieties that remove much of this good fat, and opting for jars with just two ingredients: nuts and salt. Spread on toast, stir into stews, or whirl into morning smoothies.
Tip: Try sunflower seed butter if you’re allergic to nuts.
Protein: 7 grams per 2-Tbs. serving peanut butter

Cocoa-dusted Glazed Almonds

Tempeh
Don’t be intimidated by nutty, earthy tempeh. Like tofu, it’s made from soybeans, but with a twist: “The beans are fermented, producing bacteria that’s beneficial for your GI tract,” says Warren. “The fermentation process also breaks down the carbohydrates that some people have trouble digesting, making it an easier-to-tolerate option for people whose bellies don’t do tofu.” For a beginner-friendly ground meat alternative, crumble tempeh, pan-fry it, and stir into pasta sauces, taco fillings, and chili.
Tip: Liven up salads and sandwiches with tempeh bacon, 
a smoky treat that’s great for new vegetarians.
Protein: 21 grams per 4-oz. serving tempeh

Tempeh Bacon

Psst!
You don’t need to combine incomplete proteins such as beans and rice, 
which lack all nine essential amino acids, within one meal. If you eat 
a range of veg proteins throughout 
the day, you’ll most likely be in good 
shape. (When in doubt, you can load up on quinoa, one of the few plant-based complete proteins. It provides 4 grams of protein in a 1/2-cup serving.)

Pack vegetarian protein using VT recipes that contain at least 18 grams of protein per serving:

Blueberry-Spinach Smoothie

Ultimate Vegan Chili

Sweet-and-Sour Baked Tofu Sandwiches

Lentil and Egg Bowl

Cornbread and Pinto Bean Shepherd’s Pie

Stir-Fried Tofu Bento Box with Sesame Soba Noodles and Ginger-Carrot Broccoli

Spicy Tempeh Hash

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    Look! We’re Up for a Nook Readers’ Choice Award
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (0)

    We’re pretty proud over here at VT headquarters: our September 2014 article “The Gleaners” was just nominated for a Nook Readers’ Choice Newsstand Award. Not sure what gleaning is? Read the story here to learn more about this food-waste-fighting movement—then vote for us! READ MORE

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    Tell VT: What Dish Impresses Non-Vegetarians?
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (16)

    What’s your go-to dish for impressing non-vegetarian dinner guests? (We’ve had lots of luck with the Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas, pictured above!) Share your comment below, and see what others have to say. Our favorite responses will be published in the next issue of Vegetarian Times. READ MORE

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    Happy Vegiversary to VT Reader Meghan Hardy!
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (1)

    Each month, we highlight a different reader’s “vegiversary”—the anniversary of when they went veg. Read this one, then share your own. READ MORE

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    Our Guide to Halloween Treats
    By: Matthew Kadey | Comments (1)

    Boo! Many store-bought sweets are neither vegan nor vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean Halloween has to be all spooks and no edible fun. Here are a few worthy treats to buy or to make. READ MORE

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    How to Pick, Prep, and Cook With Rutabaga
    By: Matthew Kadey | Comments (0)

    Curious about this cruciferous veggie? The mildly peppery rutabaga bears a family resemblance to the turnip, which has a sharper bite. Here’s how to pick, prep, and cook with it right now. READ MORE

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    Veg Celeb: Charles Halford
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Co-starring in the new NBC series Constantine, Charles Halford appeared recently in HBO’s Emmy-winning drama True Detective opposite fellow vegan Woody Harrelson. Also a detective show—though with an otherworldly bent—Constantine is inspired by the DC Comics series John Constantine: Hellblazer. The show debuts this Friday, just in time for Halloween. READ MORE

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    The Next Veg Hot Spots
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Move over, Portland and New York! According to Eric Brent, founder of HappyCow—our go-to guide for veg restaurants around the world—these four cities are the fast-growing veg-friendly destinations to put on your radar. READ MORE

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    5 Comforting Foods for New Vegetarians
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (6)

    Just ditched meat but still tempted by forbidden foods? Don’t give up: to help you out, we asked our food editor for a few healthful veg staples that make the most delicious substitutes. READ MORE

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    The Easiest-Ever Way to Roast Vegetables
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (6)

    Around this time of year, I love roasting veggies—it makes them so much sweeter, and I end up eating loads of them—but I hate cleaning up. The solution? Parchment paper! READ MORE

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    Recipe in a Bottle: Red Lentil Dal from the Holistic Holiday at Sea
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (0)

    Are you dreaming of making your next vacation a veg-cation? From March 14th through the 21st, the Holistic Holiday at Sea will set sail in the Caribbean, featuring cooking classes; lectures by health experts; and creative vegan, vegetarian, macrobiotic, and gluten-free cuisine. In the meantime, you can get a taste READ MORE

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    How to Have a Veg-Friendly Oktoberfest Feast
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Didn’t make it to the world’s first vegan Oktoberfest in Santa Monica last weekend? No worries. It’s easy to throw together your own German-inspired feast at home! READ MORE

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    Veg Celebs: Theodore Melfi and Kimberly Quinn
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Married couple Theodore Melfi and Kimberly Quinn both have producer credits in the much-buzzed-about film St. Vincent, opening in theaters October 17. Both also follow a plant-based diet. Here, the two answer questions about eating vegan, as well as about the film, which Melfi wrote and directed, and in which READ MORE

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    21 Easy Ways to Use All Your Apples
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (5)

    Got way too many Galas and Jonagolds and Honeycrisps? Here are a few easy ways to eat (and drink!) all your apples. READ MORE

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    Tell VT: What’s your No. 1 guilty-pleasure food?
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (31)

    What’s your No. 1 guilty-pleasure food? Share your comment below, and see what others have to say. Our favorite responses will be published in the next issue of Vegetarian Times. READ MORE

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    TV Talk: Years of Living Dangerously
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Not known as a bastion of treehuggers, the Pentagon earlier this year noted threats to national security from global climate change. Climate change has also been implicated in the recent ebola outbreak. So, the title Years of Living Dangerously isn’t all that much of an exaggeration for the nine-part Showtime READ MORE

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    Movie on a Mission: Cowspiracy
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (2)

    An inconvenient truth for environmental organizations, according to the documentary film Cowspiracy, is animal agriculture’s role in despoiling the planet. “It is their job to know these things and inform us,” says filmmaker Kip Anderson about the silence from “green” groups, such the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, in the face READ MORE

  • A Greens Thanksgiving
    TELL VT: What’s your favorite veg Thanksgiving dish?
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (47)

    What’s your all-time favorite veg Thanksgiving dish? Share your comment below, and see what others have to say. Our favorite responses will be published in the next issue of Vegetarian Times. READ MORE

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    How to Build a Veggie Grain Bowl
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (3)

    It’s back-to-school season! Looking for meals you can toss together with your eyes closed? I hear you. Even though I don’t have any little mouths to feed at home, I love veggie grain bowls. No matter how tired I am, I can always manage to whip up some variation of READ MORE

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    Veg Celeb: Alexandra Paul
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Alexandra Paul may spend plenty of time behind the camera, producing eco-themed documentaries such as Jam Packed and The Cost of Cool, but the former Baywatch co-star’s acting career continues to purr along. In the fall, she stars in FireQuake for the SyFy channel: “I play a scientist who has READ MORE

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    Veg Celeb: Linda Perry
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Make or Break: The Linda Perry Project puts other talent reality shows to shame in that it truly is unscripted. Authenticity was one of the requirements for songwriter-producer Perry to sign onto the VH1 show. Debuting this summer, Make or Break follows the co-writer of such hits as “Get the READ MORE

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    Veg Celeb: Q & A with Patricia de Leon
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    Patricia de Leon’s career in front of the camera began with her work as an anchor and reporter in her native country, Panama. Then Hollywood beckoned. De Leon has appeared in films as well as on TV, including the Starz series Magic City. A vegetarian, she’s taken a real-life role READ MORE

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    Tell VT: What fruit or veggie did you hate as a kid—but love now?
    By: Vegetarian Times | Comments (93)

    What fruit or veggie did you hate as a kid—but love now? Share your comment below, and see what others have to say. Our favorite responses will be published in the next issue of Vegetarian Times. READ MORE

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    Parmesan Cheese: Veg or Not?
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (19)

    Readers often ask us why we use Parmesan in our recipes. Isn’t it off-limits to vegetarians? Actually, not always. Here are three handy tips for finding a veg-friendly variety (or cheesy substitute!) to sprinkle on all your eggplant Parmesan and Italian chickpea soup. READ MORE

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    Book Report: Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Mama
    By: Jolia Sidona Allen | Comments (1)

    When it comes to mindful eating and parenting, you know you are doing something right when your 1-year old toddler likes to pluck shiitake mushrooms and daikon out of his mama’s miso soup. “At one year his favorite was bok choy. He would grab it with his little hands,” says READ MORE

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    Vegan Brunch Ideas
    By: Jenné Claiborne | Comments (1)

    In my time as a vegan blogger, chef, and health coach, I have been asked dozens of times to share brunch recipes that would be appropriate for vegans and omnivores alike. When thinking of brunch, we often think of egg omelets, quiches, crêpes, sausages, and fruit. For a typical American READ MORE

  • Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    Veg out! A new study finds that eating vegetarian or vegan cuts your food carbon footprint by about half (compared with that of the average American meat eater). READ MORE

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    Movie on a Mission: Bringing It Home
    By: Amy Spitalnick | Comments (0)

    I like to buy products with homegrown raw materials when I can, and it’s nice when U.S. authorities help not hinder that from happening. I’m thinking hemp oil, hemp milk, hemp apparel, and (if I ever build my dream house) Hempcrete. Hemp raw materials have to be imported, because a READ MORE

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    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    A round-up of VT editors’ favorite newsworthy links: Bring on the broccoli! A new study suggests that broccoli may help rid your body of air pollutants. READ MORE

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    4 Ways to Sneak More Greens into Your Diet
    By: Jenné Claiborne | Comments (0)

    Let me guess, you know you should be eating more greens, but you don’t know how. I completely understand. I occasionally find myself eating grains, beans, and starchy vegetables for days straight because I just don’t feel like eating a salad or sautéed greens. READ MORE

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    4 Ways to Eat Healthier at the Office
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (1)

    2. Buy groceries for your office Get in the habit of stocking up on nutritious, ready-to-munch supplies meant just for your home away from home: apples, hummus, baby carrots, almond butter, unsalted nuts, edamame, and fresh berries (which, as it turns out, taste insanely delish at the office). READ MORE

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    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    A round-up of VT editors’ favorite newsworthy links: New research finds that resveratrol in red wine and dark chocolate may help improve memory. Previous studies have linked the compound to heart health and cancer prevention. READ MORE

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    What Do I Do With … Rhubarb?
    By: Jenné Claiborne | Comments (0)

    It’s rhubarb season! Many people love to eat rhubarb but are completely confused about how to prepare it themselves. I remember the first time I saw a dense display of those long pinkish stalks at the Copley Square farmers’ market in Boston. Rhubarb is indeed the stalk of a plant, READ MORE

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    Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web
    By: Tami Fertig | Comments (0)

    A round-up of VT editors’ favorite newsworthy links: Turns out, wrinkly dried plums are good for more than just staying regular. New research finds that eating prunes helps you lose weight (by making you feel full). READ MORE