New vegetarians often worry if they’re getting enough protein. Most people associate protein with meat, dairy, and other animal products. Their knowledge of plant-based protein starts and ends with beans!
While beans are a good source of plant-based protein, it’s totally possible to get enough protein as a vegetarian without eating beans. But, first, let’s find out how much protein your body really needs.
How much protein do you need?
On average, the body needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. However, depending on your age, activity level, muscle mass, and fitness goals, you could get away with consuming 1.5 to 2 times that amount.
Only about 12 to 20 percent of your daily calories should come from protein. Your body doesn’t store protein, so there’s no point consuming more than you need; access calories = weight gain.
Protein- Rich Vegetarian Foods
Split Peas & Lentils
Split peas and lentils are GREAT sources of protein and easy to cook.
A cup of cooked lentils has 19 grams of protein, and split peas 17 grams. Better still, you can use them in many different meals, including soups and salads.
What’s the big deal about quinoa? Well, it’s another excellent source of plant-based protein. It contains all nine essential amino acids and is very high in the amino acid lysine, which is usually lacking in plants. One cup of cooked quinoa gives you nine grams of protein!
It’s also so easy to cook. Just add boiling water to a bowl with quinoa and wait until it’s cooked. Then add seasoning and enjoy your meal.
Tempeh is made from fermented soy. It’s high in protein and is cholesterol-free. A 3.5-ounce or 100 gram serving of tempeh gives you 20 grams of protein.
Tempeh can be steamed, sautéed, or baked. When cooked, it’s dry, firm, and chewy with a nutty flavor.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds and nuts are easily portable, protein-packed, and tasty. You have a wide range to choose from, including flax, chia, hemp, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts.
Just two tablespoons of Chia seeds contain 6 grams of protein. Similarly, pumpkin seeds contain 5.3 grams of protein per ounce.
On the other hand, almonds contain 6 grams of protein per ounce, while peanuts contain 7 grams of protein per ounce.
The only downside is that seeds and nuts are high in fat and calories, so monitor your intake if you’re trying to manage or lose weight.
Nutritional yeast is a great source of protein because, like quinoa, it contains all nine essential amino acids. Four tablespoons of nutritional yeast contain 8 grams of protein. It’s also high in B vitamins and trace minerals.
But its cheesy flavor is why it’s so popular. You can sprinkle it on food or stir it into soups, just like grated cheese.
Getting enough protein on a vegetarian diet is pretty easy. As long as you are open to eating more peas and lentils, and trying new foods like quinoa, tempeh, and nutritional yeast, you’ll be just fine. You don’t even have to eat beans if you don’t want to!
Photo by Nick Bratanek on Unsplash