I was raised a vegetarian and as a very athletic kid, teenager, and now adult, protein has always been a major focus of my diet. I can still remember my mom enticing me to eat lentils by telling me that it has a lot of protein and that I needed it to be strong. (What do ya know, she was right!). Now, as an adult and dietitian who still follows a (mostly) vegetarian diet, it continues to be a question I’m asked all the time…”where do you get your protein?” The short answer is plants! And since I’m not vegan, dairy and eggs too.
As long as you aren’t the type of vegetarian who hates vegetables (yes, I’ve met a few…) and subsists only on crackers and wine, it’s likely that you’re getting all the protein that you need. Of course, it’s always good to know what plant-based foods will get you more protein than others. This way, you can plan to incorporate them into your day.
If you’re looking for a number to aim for, convert your weight in pounds to kilograms by dividing by 2.2. Then, take that number and multiply by 0.8. That’s the number of grams you need daily. If you left your math skills in grade school, use this handy calculator. Chances are, you’re probably getting enough protein, but if you suspect that you’re not, or are especially active, I suggest logging the foods you eat in a food-tracker (like MyFitnessPal) for a week. This will give you a good idea of how much you’re really consuming and whether you need to focus on higher protein options at snacks and/or meals. Personally, I do a check-in every other month, and more frequently when I’m training for a race or event.
Take a look at how much protein is in each of these vegetarian and vegan picks. You might be surprised!
- ½ cup tofu = about 22 grams
- 1 cup cooked lentils = 18 grams
- 1 cup edamame = 18 grams
- 6 ounces plain Greek yogurt = 17 grams
- 1 cup white beans = 17 grams
- ½ cup tempeh – about 17 grams
- 1 cup kidney beans = 15 grams
- 1 cup black beans = 15 grams
- 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans) = about 15 grams
- ½ cup cottage cheese = 14 grams
- ¼ cup pumpkin seeds = about 9 grams
- 1 cup cow’s milk = 8 grams
- 1 cup cooked quinoa = 8 grams
- 1 cup green peas = 8 grams
- ¼ cup peanuts = 7 grams
- ¼ cup almonds = about 7 grams
- 1 large egg = 6 grams
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds = about 6 grams
- ¼ cup pistachios = about 6 grams
- 1 ounce cheese = about 6 grams
- ¼ cup walnuts = 4 grams
- 1 tablespoon spirulina = 4 grams
- 1 cup cooked broccoli = about 4 grams
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds = 3 grams
- ¼ cup pecans = about 3 grams
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds = 2 grams
- 1/2 cup cooked asparagus = 2 grams
- 1/2 cup cooked Brussels sprouts = 2 grams
If you’re looking for new protein-packed snack ideas, give these options a shot: