Smart Protein Picks for Vegetarians

If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or veg-leaning flexitarian, finding quality protein sources is as easy as meat alternatives, beans and seeds.

Quick Noodle Salad with Tofu and Vegetables

Quick Noodle Salad with Tofu and Vegetables Recipe opens in a new tab

Protein is still considered the “it” nutrient for satiety, plus there are often many nutrients packaged with protein. Here’s how to make the best choices if you’re a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian.

According to the FDA, an average American needs about 50 grams of protein per day. Those are the grams you see on a Nutrition Facts Panel for foods. So, for example, two tablespoons peanut butter would provide about 7 grams towards that 50 grams daily protein goal. To help you keep track, we also provide the grams of protein per serving at the end of each of our recipes opens in a new tab. (The Dietary Guidelines for Americans opens in a new tab offer another way to account for protein intakes that is portion-based.). However you count your protein, vegetable-based sources can also be nutrient-dense, providing many other nutrients for the calories consumed. 

Mexican Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro-Almond Pesto

Mexican Red Lentil Soup with Cilantro-Almond Pesto Recipe opens in a new tab

For example, one-half cup of black beans contains 7 grams protein, 8 grams fiber (almost a third of your needs for a day), almost 20 percent of daily folate needs and more than 10 percent of daily iron allowances. Canned beans, which you can find in no-salt-added options, make it easy to rack up those protein grams to bolster salads or soups; make dips, refried beans or quickie mole; or toss with pasta. Other good protein-rich legumes to try include edamame, split peas, white beans, red beans and lentils. Lentils work wonders in salads, dips and soups, and they supply nearly 9 grams protein for one-half cup cooked. Furthermore, that portion of lentils come with nearly 8 grams fiber (almost one-third of your daily needs) and nearly 20 percent daily iron needs. 

Spicy Grilled Tempeh

Spicy Grilled Tempeh Recipe opens in a new tab

Soybeans and nuts are processed to make a world of protein options from tofu and tempeh to nut milks and vegan cheeses. These can be excellent protein resources and hearty additions to your repertoire. Three ounces of tempeh contain nearly 17 grams protein and 10 percent iron needs. The same three-ounce portion of tofu has seven grams protein and 10 percent daily calcium needs, plus a little of your day’s iron allowance. Both are great grilled, roasted, marinated or stir-fried.

Plain nuts and seeds are another quality protein choice. Be aware that nuts and seeds — because of their higher fat content — are also higher in calories. Nut and seed butters are ideal because they can be used in smoothies, on sandwiches, on crackers or bananas and apples. (Just make sure to choose no-salt-added butters to minimize sodium intakes.) And two tablespoons almond butter has more than six grams of filling protein, more than three grams fiber, about 10 percent of daily calcium needs, and small amounts of zinc and iron (two nutrients commonly found in meats). And many nuts provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fats as well as filling fiber.

Best Black Beans Ever

Best Black Beans Ever Recipe opens in a new tab

Your protein goal adds up quickly when you’re making smart choices at mealtime. And while the nutrition profiles of these quality plant-based protein choices are stellar, the best part is that they taste good, too. Here are our picks for delicious protein-packed options for veggie-lovers.

What is your favorite way to flavor protein-packed beans, tofu or tempeh? Tell us all about it!

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