How to get enough protein in a vegetarian diet

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For many people getting enough protein is one of the main concerns when trying to cut down on eating meat. Luckily, there are lots of vegetarian sources of protein to choose from. Below we list some of our favourite tips for adding protein to a vegetarian diet.

Why is protein important for a vegetarian diet?

Our bodies use protein to build muscle. If you’re a meat-eater, you’ll probably get plenty of protein without having to think about it because a lot of our protein comes from animal products. However, it’s worth paying a bit more attention to protein content if you’re making the switch to vegetarian. As a rule of thumb, on average, adults should try to eat 0.8g of protein for every kilo they weigh per day. So, if you weigh 80 kilos that means you should be aiming for around 64g of protein daily, outside of any special diets or training regimes.

How do vegetarians get protein?

There are lots of protein for vegetarians. By making a few conscious changes to what you eat, you can get the proteins you need by focusing on high protein vegetables and pulses as well as other sources such as nuts and dairy.

Which vegetarian foods are high in protein?

Here are 8 of our favourite high protein, vegetarian foods. As always, variety is essential to a well-balanced diet, so we recommend trying out a few of them!

1. Beans & pulses

Soybeans have the highest protein of all the beans with around 10g in every ½ cup. Other beans such as chickpeas, black beans and mung beans aren’t far behind and will also help top up your protein levels at 8g in a ½ cup.

If you stray away from beans into pulses, lentils contain 9g of protein per ½ cup. They also have the added benefit of tasting great hot or cold, so we recommend adding a handful to a salad for a delicious and healthy topping.

2. Nuts

Nuts also have a high protein content, with almonds topping the list at 12g of protein per ½ cup. If you’re looking for an easy guilt free snack, try dipping carrot sticks in peanut butter – at 7g of protein in every 2 tablespoons it can help you get up to your daily target.

3. Seeds

Seeds should be part of every vegetarian store cupboard, as they’re a very quick and versatile way to top-up the protein levels in a dish. Try adding a handful of hemp seeds to a noodle stir fry for an extra 4g of protein per tablespoon or sprinkle some chia seeds on top of your morning yoghurt (3g of protein per 1 tablespoon).

4. Tofu or Seitan

Due to their versatility tofu or seitan are often used to take the place of meat in vegetarian dishes. Tofu is made with soybean curds meaning it’s got the same protein levels as the original beans at around 10g per ½ cup. Seitan is made from wheat so those with gluten sensitivity should avoid it, however if you have no issues with gluten it’s a great protein source at a whopping 32g per ½ cup. 

5. Leafy green vegetables

Many dark-coloured, leafy greens and vegetables contain protein, which can add up when eaten several times throughout the week. For example, a stalk of broccoli contains about 4g of protein, while kale offers around 2g of protein per cup.

6. Eggs

Eggs are a great source of protein for vegetarians at 6g per large egg. Consider adding omelette slices as an additional topping for a stir-fry or adding a fried egg on the side of a bean stew.

7. Dairy

For those that eat dairy, milk-based products are a great protein source, with Greek yoghurt clocking in at 23g of protein per cup.

Cheese is also a good option. Cottage cheese provides the most protein at 14 g per 1/2 cup. Most other cheeses also contain fairly high levels of protein, for example, eating halloumi will give you around 6g of protein for every 3 generous slices.

8. Peas

Finally at 8 g of protein per cup, green peas are not to be forgotten! They’re also very easy to cook and serve with butter and mint for a healthy and simple side dish.



What about vegetarian protein supplements?

If you’re struggling to get the protein you need from your regular diet, you can also look for vegetarian protein supplements. Here are our top 3 choices.

  1. Nutritional yeast

Nutritional yeast is a form of yeast that’s commonly used in plant-based cheeses. As a flavouring it brings a mild, savoury and slightly nutty taste. It can be added as a topping on pasta dishes in place of parmesan or mix it with stock and add it to risotto or stews. It provides an extra 8g protein per 2 tablespoon serving.

  1. Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue or green algae rich in nutrients that’s often used as a supplement or added to green smoothies. It contains around 8 g of protein per 2 tablespoons. We recommend sprinkling some in your morning fruit juice for a protein and nutrient fix.

  1. Mycoprotein

Mycoprotein is made from fungus and is used in several meat substitutes, such as Quorn, due to its meat like texture and high protein content. Mycoprotein products contain around 13 g of protein per ½ cup serving on average.

How can vegetarians get 100g protein a day?

By adding just a few high protein veggies and pulses to your daily diet you can easily reach 100g of protein on a vegetarian diet. Here's an example menu with high protein recipes for if you were looking to get 100g of protein in a day from vegetarian meals:

  • Breakfast: Greek yoghurt, granola (29g)
  • Lunch: Quinoa & halloumi salad (28g)
  • Snack: Carrot sticks dipped in peanut butter (7g)
  • Dinner: Tofu curry served with biryani rice, peas & beans (41g)

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