A lot of people are now leaning toward plant-based diets. And I agree that vegetarian way of eating can be a very healthy style of eating. But, when someone tries to minimize meat, they get concerned about protein intake.
How am I going to get extra protein without eating meat?
Well, first, we need to understand what being a vegetarian means. A vegetarian is someone who avoids all types of meat, whether it be hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, or even fish. Vegetarians are also sometimes classified by the type of food they are or aren’t willing to eat. For example, Lacto-ovo vegetarians will avoid animal flesh, yet they may eat eggs and most dairy products. A Vegan, on the other hand, will avoid all food that has any trace of animal origin (including dairy.)
You do not have to eat meat to meet your daily protein requirements. There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that replacing animal proteins with more plant-based proteins can benefit your health . Remember, you don’t have to be vegetarian to be healthy, but a vegetarian style of eating may be another healthy way of eating.
Here are 10 ways to get extra protein without eating meat:
These options are vegetarian foods that are high in protein and heart-healthy too.
Legumes are an inexpensive protein choice and are high in fiber and a source of iron. Beans, peas, and lentils are all types of legumes. Vegetables such as beans and other legumes are an important source of protein. They are a key food in healthy diets and have many benefits. A daily serving helps to lower your cholesterol level and counts toward your daily 5 servings per day. You can eat them directly or add them to sauces, soups, and salads.
|Legumes||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Baked Beans||1 cup||382||14|
|Chickpeas (Goya)||1 cup||240||12|
|Red Kidney Beans (without salt, cooked, boiled)||1 cup||225||15|
|Cooked Lentils||1 cup||323||16|
Unlike other legumes, soya beans are a complete protein, comparable in quality with animal protein, but are low in fat and contain fiber and iron. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees that 25 grams per day of soy protein may reduce the risk of heart disease. The Health benefits of soy products may be due to their high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and low saturated fat content.
|Soybean||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Soy Milk (unsweetened)||1 cup||80||7|
|Soybean, Edamame||1 cup||254||22|
Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a hearty, protein-rich seed considered by many to be a whole grain. A “whole grain” contains all of the original parts of the grain or seed, making it a healthier and more complete food than refined or processed grain. Quinoa is gluten-free, and the flour is a good substitute for wheat flour. Quinoa is rich in protein. It has almost twice the amount of protein found in oats, as well as a bit more fiber and iron. Quinoa is a complete protein. This means that it contains all nine essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) that your body needs but cannot make on its own.
|Quinoa||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Quinoa (cooked)||1 cup||222||8|
Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet may be good for the heart. Nuts contain monounsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients. They provide a good amount of protein in a handful and are packed with fiber. One drawback to nuts is that some may be high in calories, so it’s important to limit portions. But choosing nuts instead of a less healthy snack may just help you stick to a heart-healthy diet. Stick to a handful per day.
|Nuts||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Peanuts (unsalted, dry roasted)||1 ounce||162||8|
Like nuts, seeds contain healthy unsaturated fats and protein. They can be easily added to salads and pasta, or you can eat them plain as a simple snack.
|Seeds||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Sunflower Seeds||1 ounce||165||5.5|
|Pumpkin Seeds||1 ounce||80||3|
Cereals and grains
All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates and some key vitamins and minerals, but whole grains — the healthiest kinds of grains — in particular, are an important part of a healthy diet. They also have protein. Wholegrain bread, rice, and pasta have more protein, fiber, and iron than white versions. Brown rice with beans, or bread with hummus or nut butter, can give you as much protein as a piece of meat.
|Cereals and grains||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Whole Wheat Bread||2 slices||158||8.3|
|Wholegrain Brown Rice||4 ounces||416||11.3|
|Rolled Oats||1 cup||340||12|
|Cheerios Oats & Honey||1 cup||168||5.6|
Like soya, Quorn is a complete protein. It is made from an edible fungus and has a meat-like texture. It is a source of protein that is high in fiber and low in saturated fat. It contains more fiber than an equivalent portion of baked beans, wholemeal bread, or brown rice. It is sold in a variety of ways. Monitor salt contents in each variety.
|Quorn||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Quorn Chik’n Nuggets||4 nuggets||190||9|
|Quorn Vegan Spicy Patties||1 patty||120||7|
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of protein and also contain calcium to keep our bones healthy. Choosing lower-fat or fat-free dairy options as these options will help reduce your saturated fat intake without compromising on protein or calcium. Here are some dairy options that have high protein.
|Dairy||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|0% Plain Greek Yogurt||8 ounce||130||22|
|Fat-Free Cottage Cheese||1/2 cup||80||13|
|1% Low fat Milk||1 cup||100||8|
Seitan is also known as wheat gluten, wheat protein, and wheat meat. It is made from gluten, which is the main protein in wheat. Seitan is made by washing the starch away from wheat flour, leaving strands of gluten. Seitan is a meat-free option often used to mimic the texture of animal-based meat. It has no taste, so that it can be a good addition to any meal.
|Seitan||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Chipotle Style Seitan||3 ounce||150||23|
|Seitan Strips||1/3 cup||90||22|
A meal replacement is designed as a substitute, an alternative for solid foods, such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Usually, comes in the form of nutrition bars and drinks, these meal replacements are created to be as nutritious as any regular meal, but without the added calories. Meal replacements were initially designed to save food preparation time for people always on the go, especially athletes.
Valley Forge Weight Management Center offers a variety of meal replacements in the form of protein shakes, bars, entrees, desserts, drinks, and snacks.
Egg-Free Protein Products from our online store.
|Meal Replacements||Portion Size||Calories||Grams of Protein|
|Protein Bars||1 bar||160||15|
|Protein Shakes||1 shake||100||15|
- Mullins AP, Arjmandi BH. Health Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition: Focus on Beans in Cardiometabolic Diseases. Nutrients. 2021; 13(2):519. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020519