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Whenever someone adopts a vegan or vegetarian diet, or just even reduce their intake of animal byproducts, the first question they are often faced with is “but where do you get your protein?”. Fact is, many of us aren’t even aware of how many incredible plant-based protein sources there are! If you’re looking to add more protein to your diet, in ways that are healthy, clean, and completely meat, dairy, and egg-free there are a plethora of options. Vegan or not, this is a list that you should certainly keep on hand when looking to get your daily intake of protein needs in a healthy way!
When you think of a plant-based source of protein, the last thing you’d expect is oats. Maybe that’s just me, but a grain as a protein sounds so counterintuitive.
You’ll be happy to know that oats actually are a very versatile grain and a great source of plant-based protein. You can grind it down into a flour, you can use it as a binding agent in cookies and other recipes, you can make a breakfast oatmeal with it, and you can even make milk with it (recipe HERE). Top with some fresh fruit and you have yourself a delicious meal!
26 grams of protein per cup
Black beans, white beans, kidney beans and more – they are the “magical fruit” that provides you a kick of protein and so much fiber and vitamins, too! Beans are a great natural source of protein, especially for those who practice a plant-based diet.
The great thing about beans is that they’re super versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Beans can be used as a meat replacer, in baked goods, soups, loaves of bread, and even mixed into a delicious bean salad. There are so many ways to enjoy them that using them as a protein source is a really great idea.
39-65 grams of protein per cup (variety depending)
Wait, a vegetable?? Really, that’s protein?? Yep, it sure is. Now, you’ll have to enjoy a healthy serving of it to get much, but for such a low-calorie food, it’s not a bad idea to start snacking on it throughout the day for a boost in your daily protein.
Broccoli is also high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, Vitamin b6, magnesium, iron, and calcium. So when you’re thinking of a good food to add to your lunches and dinners, don’t forget the broccoli! Sautéed, roasted, steamed, raw, blended into a soup – it’s got endless options. HERE are some great ideas to get more broccoli in your diet.
17 grams of protein per bunch
When it comes to plant-based sources of protein, nut butters might be my personal favorite. Grab a spoon and a jar of your favorite nut butter and you’re set. Now, everything in moderation of course – because while nut butters are a fantastic protein source, they’re also rich in fats and calories. Reduce those with a powdered variety.
Nut butters are commonly peanut butter, but many opt for the almond version or even cashew. Whichever you choose, know that it’s more than just delicious magic on a spoon…it’s protein! Try opting for a natural source to keep it clean and sugar-free.
8 grams of protein per 2 tbsp (variety dependant)
Spinach may initially sound like something childhood you would go running from, but nowadays you realize that there’s a reason your mother was always putting it on your plate – it’s kind of a superfood and is a great plant-based source of protein
Spinach is so versatile due to it’s mild flavor, too. Perfect as a salad base, on a sandwich, mixed into a smoothie (you can’t taste it!) or steamed/sautéed for a savory experience. With so many ways to enjoy it, it’s definitely worth the added bonus of protein. Try it in any of the recipe ideas we’ve found for you HERE.
8 grams of protein per 10oz package
Oh that weird and wonderful tofu. It’s that one thing that nobody knows what to do with, until you’ve tried it a few ways and it becomes an obsession and staple in your diet. If you haven’t already tried tofu, definitely be sure to add this to your diet for a boost of plant-based protein.
Tofu is a curd that is made from soybeans and pressed into blocks. Often used in Asian cuisine, it’s grown more wildly popular as a staple protein for many on a vegan or plant-based diet. There are so many ways to create with it (recipe ideas HERE).
20 grams of protein per cup
Quinoa hit the mainstream a few years back, and after an awkward phase of learning to pronounce it (it’s “keen-wa” btw), it’s now a bonafide staple on menus and in cupboards everywhere.
Often replacing pasta and rice, this seed (not a grain) has the superpower of also being a great source of protein. Since it’s versatile between hot and cold recipes, it’s no wonder that quinoa has made a name for itself as a health food over the years. It’s packed with nutritional benefits and an easy swap for other grains you may already be consuming regularly in your diet.
8 grams of protein per cup, cooked
Personally, I think lentils are a completely under-credited and overlooked food. It’s so versatile, mild, easy to cook and is so rich in vitamins like iron, which is important to make sure you’re getting enough of, especially if you’ve removed meat from your diet.
Lentils are often used in Indian cuisine (think Dahl) but it’s versatile in so many recipes and a great substitute for meat from foods like tacos and shepherds pie! Using lentils in your cooking is a great way to increase your cooking skills and test out a few new recipes that are packed with vitamins and nutritional benefits. For more great recipes using lentils go HERE.
18 grams of protein per cup
Flax seeds have a really subtle flavor to them, which makes them great for mixing into foods to get that extra fiber and protein without needing to sacrifice taste to get the benefits. They’re a powerhouse superfood that you barely taste when added to your favorite foods. What could be better?
Whether you use ground flax or whole, they are really easy to blend into smoothies, mix into bread dough, sprinkle on salads and so much more, even porridge (recipe HERE). Pick up a bag of flax seeds next time you’re at the store and you’ll be surprised with how often you reach for them.
31 grams of protein per cup, whole
If you follow a dairy-free diet, not to worry! There are several types and brands of dairy-free milk that can offer tons of nutritional benefit and protein. From soy, almond, coconut, cashew & even oat, there are amazing alternatives that shockingly even contain protein because of the plant-based foods they’re derived from. You may even end up preferring these types of dairy-free milk over traditional milk after drinking them for long enough.
Even if it seems minuscule in the grand scheme of your protein needs, it’s definitely worth mentioning since it’s something that’s easy to accumulate during an entire day.
2-4 grams per 8oz serving, variety dependant
More and more information is coming out about hemp seeds and their profound benefits in our diets. They are small and nutty and pack a lot of nutritional benefit for even a tablespoon serving size.
Commonly used sprinkled into your cereal or coconut yogurt, blended into your smoothies, or sprinkled on a delicious summer salad, hemp seeds are an up and comer, and with the added bonus of being a protein-rich food, we’re buying what the market is selling! It’s an easy addition to your diet and lifestyle that can add huge benefits, especially if you follow a plant-based diet.
11 grams of protein per 3 tbsps
So coming off of talking about nut butters, it’s not really all that surprising that nuts would also be on this list. But as a portable snack, it’s one that’s perfect to keep on hand when you need a little boost of protein. Keep a bag of nuts in your desk drawer or pantry at home for the perfect healthy snack you can grab and go.
Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios and more all bring in a good serving of protein. But they also bring in a good serving of fats and calories, too. So while they are a fantastic protein source, be sure you enjoy these in healthy moderation.
27 grams of protein per cup, mixed nuts (roasted)
Nature’s natural butter and a hero of the “good fat” world, avocado is another amazing plant-based protein source! Not that anyone needs more convincing to enjoy avocados, it certainly helps justify spending a good couple dollars on them!
Avocados are versatile from a spread, a dip, on avocado toast, used in recipes to replace fats (like butter) or enjoyed as-is with a spoon and some seasoning. Whichever you choose to enjoy it, feel good about eating avocados and their benefits to your diet. They’re a great source of protein and a healthy addition to any diet, whether plant-based or not!
4 grams of protein per average avocado
Split peas do not get enough credit. While we may have turned our noses up at the idea or taste of them as kids, they are certainly a worthwhile food in your diet.
Pea protein is beginning to show up more and more in vegan food and protein powders because many who adhere to a vegan diet also are careful to not enjoy too much soy. Pea protein is a great answer to that problem and makes for some really great soup, which is probably the most popular and delicious way to get more into your diet. It’s also a common ingredient in vegetarian and vegan Indian cuisine!
16 grams of protein per cup
Soybeans are another great source of protein that you can easily add to your diet. Soybeans are what popular protein foods like tofu and tempeh are made from, but they are actually really delicious all on their own too! Soybeans being so rich in protein actually make them an ideal snack food!
Wondering the best way to eat soybeans? Try roasting and salting them! They give you the same delicious taste of a salty snack with added health benefits and nutrition. A handful alone can be surprisingly filling and will also help you meet your daily protein requirements at the same time!
37 grams of protein per cup (dry roasted)
Tempeh is the more flavorful alternative to tofu. It’s got an entirely different texture and earthier, nuttier taste to it. It also marinades well and cooks like a dream. If you’ve yet to dive into the world of tempeh, try some of the recipes we’d love to suggest HERE.
Tempeh comes in a small loaf, but it’s actually packed soybeans that have been cooked and fermented before taking this loaf-like shape you see in the store. It’s so good, and such a great source of protein, comparable to a serving of chicken. Definitely pick this up next time you’re at the store.
31 grams of protein per cup
If you’re looking for a super direct form of protein to add to your diet, don’t be afraid of protein powder! Not all protein powders are created equal, and while the vast majority of them are created from whey protein (milk) you can absolutely find some amazing vegan proteins on the market today.
With a growing number of vegan athletes emerging, the industry is catching up and not only are more vegan protein powders becoming available but protein bars too. Many are build from pea protein or soy. If you’re needing a quick protein supplement, consider this a fantastic option.
With brands like Beyond Meat becoming hugely popular, meat substitutes are becoming a regular on menus these days. What’s exciting is that these meat alternatives don’t lack protein even though they’re meat-free. They also taste so close to traditional meat products that even meat-eaters may not notice a difference!
Often made from pea or soy proteins, each brand has varying nutritional labels, which is why it’s always important to read your labels and consider which have the best nutritional qualities for your diet. More and more restaurants and grocery stores are offering meat substitutes nowadays, making them more accessible than ever for those with a plant-based diet.
20 grams of protein per burger (in the example of Beyond Meat)
It doesn’t take much to do a lot when it comes to chia seeds. This amazing seed is known for curbing hunger and helping you feel fuller longer due to their ability to take on liquid and grow over double their size into gelatinous balls. This ability for chia seeds to turn gelatinous is also amazing because they can be used as a pudding base when combined with a dairy-free milk!
Chia seeds have a good serving of protein in even a tablespoon of them, making them ideal for adding to your smoothies, power bowls and salads for an extra boost.
4 grams of protein per tablespoon
Oh, the “nooch”. Vegans are obsessed with nutritional yeast, and for very good reason! Nutritional yeast tastes like cheese and is easy to cook with or sprinkle on your salads and meals for a parmesan cheese-like experience.
Nutritional yeast is also rich in B Vitamins, but also very high in protein considering it’s calories. Use it to make a cheese sauce or toss it onto popcorn for an out of this world experience, all the while meeting your protein goals for very few calories! For more ideas on what to make with nutritional yeast, read on for some ideas HERE.
9 grams of protein for 2 tablespoons