The one question vegan and vegetarians get all the time is, “How do you get your protein if you don’t eat meat?” It’s my favorite question because I always laugh inside. What most people don’t realize is that all plant foods have protein. Some have more than others, but you can get protein from a salad. Would I recommend solely eating iceberg lettuce every day and calling that your daily dose of protein? No, but it’s got some. Of course, it’s nice to know which plant foods to bulk up on so you stay full and have the energy you need to get through the day. So I’ve compiled a list of my favorite plant-based protein sources so you can eat clean and feel great! Enjoy!
This is a soy based plant food made from curdling soy milk. It comes in a few varieties - soft, firm or extra-firm. I will admit, I was nervous to cook tofu at first. I had no idea what to do with it. But after a few failures, I finally got it right. Pressing your tofu is key. Tofu takes on the taste of anything you marinate it with. You can grill it, fry it, bake it or saute it. It’s amazing in stir fry! Most people are afraid of tofu because they have been told too much soy is not good for us. What is bad for us is processed soy - veggie burgers, vegan chicken nuggets, soy milk, etc. Tofu is processed but not to the extent all of the “fake meats” out there are. Tofu has been used in Asian cuisine for centuries with no negative side effects. In fact, authentic Asian cuisine is incredibly healthy. Tofu has been known to reduce breast cancer risk in some studies. Always use non-GMO and organic tofu if you can find it! Tofu is a great source of iron and has:
20 grams of protein per cup
Tempeh is another staple food in a vegetarian/vegan diet. It is made from culturing and fermenting soybeans. It is one food that I did not try for a few years after becoming vegan, mainly because I had no idea what to do with it. It would always turn out dry and bland when I made it. Here’s a trick: boil your tempeh in a pot of water for 10-20 minutes before marinating or cooking it. The result is a tender, delicious tempeh. You can marinate it in almost anything and is delicious in stir fries as well. My favorite ways to eat tempeh is marinated in BBQ sauce and baked or marinated with soy sauce and sesame oil and served over pasta for an Asian flair. Yum!!! It is another soy product that is not processed very much and has been proven to have health benefits. It can be found is most grocery stores and is widely available. Tempeh is a decent source of iron and calcium and has:
31 grams of protein per cup
This is a food you would never think to be loaded with protein, but it is! Broccoli has always been one of my favorite vegetables, and there are so many obvious ways to eat it. Lately, I have been buying a lot of frozen broccoli mainly for convenience. It’s so easy to grab and cook, and the shelf life is much longer than fresh broccoli. This green vegetable is an excellent source or iron, vitamin C, magnesium and has:
17 grams of protein per bunch
Oh, how I love spinach! I use it salads, stir fries, smoothies, and love to cook it and let it wilt down. I have always loved spinach and love it even more as an adult. It’s the one leafy green you can add to a smoothie and honestly not taste it at all. It’s my favorite way to get my greens in for that day! If you don’t like the taste of spinach, add it to your morning smoothie to reap the benefits of this amazing superfood! Spinach is packed full of iron, calcium, vitamin C, magnesium and has:
10 grams of protein per bunch
Beans and lentils (Legumes)
Beans and lentils are such a versatile food and an excellent source of protein. Some people have trouble digesting beans, and I recommend taking a digestive enzyme if you are someone who has issues. Beans can be used in so many different cuisines, and there are so many yummy dishes you can make using them. Try them in tacos or soups and stews. I love beans and eat them regularly. If you like beans and rice I highly recommend eating it regularly. When beans and rice are combined, they create a complete protein! Chickpeas are another one of my favorites. I love using chickpeas as a delicious substitute for tuna salad. Check out my loaded chickpea salad recipe!
Beans are a great source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and have:
41 grams of protein per cup
Hemp seeds hold a special place in my heart. I first tried hemp seeds while I was on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland. It was a complete accident. We went to a natural market, and they had these beautiful packages of hemp seeds for sale that were pretty cheap, so we took a chance. We first tried them on top of oatmeal with fruit and local honey. That was the exact moment I fell in love with these beauties. I fell in love all over again when we added them to smoothies. Holy creaminess! It changed my smoothies from good to amazing! It makes smoothies so rich and creamy you will never go without them again! I love making chocolate milkshakes with almond milk, bananas, dates, cacao powder, and hemp seeds. These little guys are another great source of iron as well as potassium, zinc, magnesium and has:
5.3 grams of protein per tablespoon
Chia seeds are another versatile plant-based food! It’s a great egg substitute for all of you vegans out there. Just blend one tablespoon of chia seeds and whisk together with three tablespoons of water. Let it sit for a few minutes, and you have a great chia egg you can use in most baked goods. My favorite way to use chia eggs is in cakes. They come out moist and do not change the flavor. My favorite way to use chia seeds, in general, is in chia pudding. Chia pudding is a great breakfast, snack or dessert. Check out my peanut butter and jelly chia pudding recipe here.
Calcium, iron, and magnesium are found in chia seeds, and they have:
4.7 grams of protein per ounce
Quinoa has gotten a lot of attention recently. As people become more health conscious, they are turning to foods with more nutritional value. Quinoa is a great substitute for rice in many dishes. One amazing thing about quinoa is it has all of the essential amino acids making it a complete protein on its own. That is great news for people living a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. It truly is a superfood and easy to make! You usually want to rinse your quinoa before cooking it. Quinoa naturally has a coating called saponin which will give it a bitter taste. Rinsing your quinoa removes the coating and solves the problem. There are tons of quinoa recipes on the internet. It’s delicious in cold salads or cooked in stews. I have made quinoa and added taco seasoning to be like a mock meat for tacos, and it is fabulous. Try it out! Quinoa is an awesome source of iron, magnesium, zinc and has:
8 grams of protein per cup
There are tons of delicious ways to get your protein on a plant-based diet. So eat up and laugh to yourself when people tell you there is no possible way you’re getting enough protein without eating meat!! :)