While most people think of meat, poultry and seafood as their primary protein foods, there are plenty of high-protein vegetarian foods. The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 56 grams a day for adult men and 46 grams a day for adult women, and a properly planned vegetarian diet that includes a variety of foods will ensure that you meet your daily needs.
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Include these five high-protein vegetarian foods to make sure you meet your daily protein needs:
BEANS & LENTILS
Beans and lentils are not only high in protein, but they are also an excellent source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. While meat and poultry contain saturated fat, beans and lentil boast the added benefit of being low-fat and cholesterol-free, making them a heart-healthy protein food. Beans and lentils are also budget-friendly and can be purchased dried or canned. Choose dried beans and lentils for the most economical option, or go with canned to eliminating cooking time. Be sure to rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium content by 40%.
- 1/2 cup cooked black beans = 7 grams protein
- 1/2 cup cooked lentils = 9 grams protein
- 1/2 cup frozen soybeans (edamame) = 8 grams protein
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NUTS & SEEDS
Nuts and seeds are high in protein and heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. Plus the combination of protein, fiber, and fat in nuts can result in a greater feeling of fullness, helping to control hunger and even helping with weight control.
- 1 ounce whole natural almonds = 6 grams protein
- 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter = 7 grams protein
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds = 3.5 grams protein
Soy products, including tofu and tempeh, are versatile protein-rich foods that can be incorporated into a variety of dishes. Experiment with the different textures of tofu – try firm tofu in stir-fries or soft tofu in smoothies or creamy soups. Soy products are also a good source of B vitamins and contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- 3 ounces firm tofu = 8 grams protein
- 4 ounces tempeh = 22 grams protein
- 1 cup plain soy milk = 8 grams protein
DAIRY & EGGS
In addition to being a source of vegetarian protein, dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cheese, are an important source of bone-building calcium. Dairy and eggs also contain Vitamin B12, which is required for the formation of red blood cells. (Vegans who do not consume dairy or eggs should consider a Vitamin B12 supplement.) Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy to limit the saturated fat in your diet.
- 1 cup skim milk = 8 grams protein
- 1 (6-ounce) carton plain nonfat yogurt = 7 grams protein
- 1 (6-ounce) carton plain nonfat Greek yogurt = 17 grams protein
- 1 ounce Cheddar cheese = 6 grams protein
- 1 large egg = 6 grams protein
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Although grains probably aren’t the first foods that come to mind when you think of protein, whole grains do contribute protein to the diet. Additionally, whole grains are an important source of fiber, B vitamins and iron. Purchase dry whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, wheat berries or farro, for a budget-friendly option.
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 4 grams protein
- 1/2 cup cooked whole-grain macaroni pasta = 4 grams protein
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice = 2.5 grams protein
- 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal = 3 grams protein
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When planning your vegetarian diet, focus on a variety of fresh foods, and watch out for meat substitutes like veggie burgers and veggie sausage, which are highly processed and high in sodium and added sugar.
Click to check out the eMeals Vegetarian meal plans.
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-Text by Jessica Cox, RD