I’ve been vegan for nearly six months and I still get asked about my protein at least once a week. What do I eat for it and how do I know I’m getting enough?
I’ll get to that second question in another blog post, but you might be surprised to learn that you don’t need meat, fish, egg OR dairy to fulfill your body’s daily protein requirement. What you may also be surprised to learn is that there are a LOT of vegan protein sources besides just Tofu.
Natural Plant-Based Complete Proteins: contain all 9 essential amino acids the body needs for cell growth and repair.
- Quinoa is considered a superfood and has over 8 grams of protein per cup. Make quinoa tacos using just quinoa + taco seasoning – I like to serve them in a cabbage or lettuce cup.
- Organic Hemp Hearts contain 10 grams per 3 tablespoons. They’re also rich in fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. I like to put them on top of my avocado toast in the morning, add them to smoothies, or sprinkle on salads for a nice nutty flavor addition.
- Organic Chia Seeds are an interesting addition to smoothies, as toppings on cereal or as chia pudding and contain 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons.
- Ezekiel 4:9 and Flax Breads are made from sprouted grains, has 4 grams per slice (I usually eat two) and is another complete protein.
Natural Plant-Based Incomplete Proteins
- Lentils are a protein powerhouse at 9 grams of protein per half cup, plus they are super easy to make.
- Black beans have less starch than other beans and 8 grams of protein per half cup. They are also considered to have the most antioxidants of all beans and legumes.
- Black Eyed Peas also boast 8 grams per half cup.
- Edamame, or soy beans, are the basis of tofu and contain 8.5 grams of protein per half cup. You can enjoy it warm with sea salt or throw cold beans on a salad for a neat flavor addition.
- Green Peas contain 7.9 grams per cup (by the way, that’s the same as a cup of milk). I love eating them cold on a salad or warm seasoned with dill.
- Nuts and nut butter like almond butter contain 7 grams of protein per ounce and peanut butter contains 8 grams per 2 tablespoons. Almonds are also a good vegan source of calcium and magnesium.
- Amaranth is a pseudo-grain that looks like a smaller quinoa and packs 7 grams of protein per cooked cup. Try it on salads!
- Spirulina Powder is 65% protein and one teaspoon contains 4 grams. Plus, its packed with iron, B vitamins, chlorophyll, and trace minerals. Toss it in your smoothie for an alkalizing protein boost.
- Spinach contains 5 grams of protein per cup (or per 30 calories), and also contains iron, so be like Popeye and eat more spinach!
- Broccoli has more protein per calorie than beef at 4.5 grams per 30 calories. And unlike beef, it is linked to actually fighting cancer.
- Oatmeal is another protein-packed grain at 6 grams per cup that has calcium, magnesium and B vitamins.
- Tahini is made from sesame seeds and is a good alternative to nut butter for people with allergies, and can also be used in tons of easy salad dressings, like the dressing I made for this eggplant. A 2 tablespoon serving contains 8 grams of protein.
- Nutritional Yeast Flakes are a vegan pantry staple known for adding a cheesy taste to dishes, but are also is a surprising source of protein and vitamin B12. Sprinkling it on top of dishes may add up to 4 grams of protein per tablespoon.
Processed Vegan Proteins:
- Gardein brand produces a variety of plant-based meat alternatives including Seven Grain tenders, crabless cakes, fishless filets, orange chick’n, and more. Check out the fishless filets for tacos.
- Quorn has also recently launched a vegan line of meat alternatives made of fungi protein. These products are a great soy-free option and I like cooking the cutlets in a pan with various sauces and throwing them on a salad or grain bowl.
- Beyond Meat is yet another company making waves in the freezer section. Their Beyond Burger is a hot item for this summer’s grilling as it goes from a red (raw) state to browned on the outside when cooked and is eerily reminiscent of an actual burger, but somehow made of peas.
- Boca crumbles are great for spaghetti sauce or tacos and are a staple in my freezer at home for easy meals.
- Tempeh is another soy based protein that is a super dense alternative to tofu. It’s not my favorite, but give it a try for yourself.
- Seitan is a gluten-based Protein and Sweet Earth Foods makes a great vegan bacon substitute with it. My coworkers always think I have real bacon thanks to the delicious smells of their perfect seasoning.