If you’re veg-curious, but afraid to give up meat because you’re not sure you’ll get enough protein, fear not! Most vegetarians actually exceed their daily needs, because all plant foods – including fruits and vegetables – contain some protein.
A varied vegetarian diet also provides all the amino acids our bodies need. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. Our bodies produce 11 of them, so we must consume the other 9 through diet. Those nine are called “essential” amino acids and they are abundant in plant foods.
Main Sources of Vegetarian Protein
- Soy: Soy is a complete protein, which means it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids. Soy is typically eaten as tofu, tempeh, edamame or soy milk.
- Beans: Choose from a countless variety of beans, lentils and peas.
- Nuts: This also includes nut butters and nut milks. Examples include brazil nut butter, cashew butter, walnut butter, almond milk, hazel nut milk and coconut milk.
- Seeds: This also includes seed butters and seed milks. Examples include tahini (which is essentially sesame seed butter), pumpkin seed butter, sunflower butter and hemp seed milk.
- Grains: These can be eaten in their natural state (rice and quinoa, for example) or ground into flour for bread and pasta.
- Non-vegan animal protein: Dairy and eggs can be a source for both protein and vitamin B-12 for vegetarians.
- Fruits and vegetables: All fruits and vegetables contain some protein. However the highest source of green protein can be found in dark greens such as kale, collards, spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts.
How much protein do we need?
According to the USDA, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein is roughly 0.36g for every pound you weigh. (Or 0.8g per kg you weigh for those who don’t think in pounds.)
|RDA of protein|
|Children ages 1 – 3||13g|
|Children ages 4 – 8||19g|
|Children ages 9 – 13||34g|
|Girls ages 14 – 18||46g|
|Boys ages 14 – 18||52g|
|Women ages 19 – 70+||46g|
|Men ages 19 – 70+||56g|
Vegetarian Protein Charts
Beans (1-cup cooked)
Whole grains (1-cup cooked)
|Whole Grains||Protein (g.)|
|Rice – brown||5|
|Rice – wild||7|
Nuts and seeds (1-oz.)
|Nuts & Seeds||Protein (g.)|
Sample Meals for A Day (56g of Protein)
- 1 cup oatmeal – 7g
- 1 apple – 1g
Morning Snack (6g)
- Small handful of almonds & raisins (6g)
- 1/2 cup beans (7g)
- 1/2 cup quinoa (4g)
- 1 cup steamed broccoli (6g)
Afternoon Snack (8g)
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter (8g)
- 1/2 cup lentils (9g)
- 1/2 cup brown rice (3g)
- 1 cup sauteed kale (2g)
- Sprinkled with 1 tbsp sunflower seeds (3g)