Vegetarianism is on the rise in the west, and as a result, it has never been easier (or more acceptable) to be a vegetarian. No more awkward dinner parties, no more eating salad in restaurants because the menu is all meat, today you would struggle to find a restaurant that doesn't have at least 2 vegetarian options on the menu.
Even cooking at home has become easier, with vegetarian cookbooks being found in more and more households. Even non-vegetarians are starting to try more vegetarian meals, loving the inventiveness of the meals, and the healthy ingredients.
But in a society that is more aware of their health, it is becoming apparent that the vegetarian diet is not a particularly high-protein one. Many of the best protein sources are from meat and fish, so this article will provide you with a list of 20 foods high in protein for vegetarians.
If you are vegan or don't consume dairy, then you will still find a lot of healthy foods here that are more than suitable for your needs.
Calories and Macronutrients
Before we discuss the foods, we need to make sure that you understand what macronutrients are. There are 3 main ones:
Technically alcohol is also a macronutrient but we'll ignore that! We all realize the importance of protein to the diet (it helps build muscle, keep you feeling fuller for longer, can increase your metabolism, and help you recover from exercise). But it is important to understand that fat and carbohydrates (often vilified by diets) are equally crucial for a healthy diet.
Protein contains 4 calories per gram, as do carbohydrates, while fats contain 9 calories per gram. This is important, as some foods that are high in protein may also be high in fat which would clearly increase the calories!
If you are looking to increase your protein so that you can lose weight, then you need to keep an eye on the calories in food as well. If a meal has 30g of protein that's fantastic, but if it is over 1,000 calories then you won't be losing weight anytime soon.
Protein for Vegetarians
Here are twenty high protein foods
that are suitable for vegetarians, and would also be a healthy option for non-vegetarians too!
One of the highest protein nuts there are, peanuts contain 26 grams of protein per 100 grams. Of course you wouldn't want to eat 100 grams of peanuts as that would equal 567 calories! The problem with peanuts is that they are very high in fat (almost double the amount of fat compared to protein). But taken in small amounts, peanuts are a good snack option. They contain high amounts of Vitamin B3, Vitamin E, and can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Peanut Butter is another good source of protein, with 8 grams in two tablespoons. Again, peanut butter is very calorie dense (lots of calories for very little food) so use sparingly. Unless you're looking to increase size.
While not quite as high in protein as peanuts, Almonds still contain 21 grams of protein per 100 grams. They are also high in fat, and they should be eaten in moderation. But they contain high levels of Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. They are also high in fibre. Almond butter is very similar to peanut butter and is becoming increasingly popular. Almonds can be used in many vegetarian recipes
as a garnish, or used as a snack.
The last nut we will be looking at (although there are many more we could mention). Pistachios are again very high in protein (20 grams of protein per 100 grams), but also high in fat. Pistachios are a great source of Vitamin B-6, Iron, Magnesium, and also contain small amounts of Vitamins A and C. They are also slightly lower calorie than the other nuts mentioned.
are a great source of protein and have been a staple of bodybuilding diets for years. A 50-gram egg will contain 6 grams of protein while only costing you 78 calories. That means that you can get 2 eggs for 156 calories and a nice serving of 12 grams of protein. What's great about eggs is how versatile they can be, you can have them boiled, scrambled, fried, you can have them in an omelette with veg. You can also increase the protein content by adding egg whites, without the yolk they are much lower calorie (1 egg white would equal 17 calories) while still containing 3.6 grams of protein.
- Kidney Beans
100 grams of kidney beans contain 24 grams of protein, 0.8 grams of fat, and 60 grams of carbohydrates. Of those 60 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams come from fibre. Kidney beans contain high levels of Iron and Magnesium, and are a great addition to vegetarian chilli’s. Studies have also shown that obese men who consumed kidney beans (as part of a diet) lost more weight than men who followed a bean-less diet.
Out of 100 grams, kale contains 4.3 grams of protein. So not very much! But, that 100 grams would only cost you 49 calories. With foods like Kale, you shouldn't look at them as an amazing protein source. They are a low calorie food that also happens to contain some protein. Add some kale to a protein-rich meal and you will boost the protein content slightly. Kale is also an amazing source of Vitamins A and C (100 grams would provide 200% of the RDA for both of these vitamins).
Lentils are pulses, and are a staple of most vegetarian
and vegan diets. You can use lentils in soups, stews, or salads. lentils can even be made into porridge (add fruit and cinnamon to improve the taste). Lentils contain 9 grams of protein per 100 grams and are virtually fat-free. They also contain 8 grams of fibre and are a source of iron.
One of the main vegetables eaten by bodybuilders, you wouldn't eat broccoli for its protein content (almost 3 grams of protein per 100 grams). However, that is still relatively high for a vegetable and they have loads of other benefits. You would get 148% of your RDA of Vitamin C if you could manage to eat 100 grams of broccoli. It would also only cost you 34 calories!
- Protein Powder
All vegetarians should seriously consider adding protein powder to their diets. So far, the highest protein content we have seen are peanuts (26 grams) but they came with 567 calories. Kidney beans were 24 grams but still cost 333 calories. Compare that to a protein shake which will contain 24 gram of protein per serving but only cost 100 calories. That means you could have 2 servings (increasing protein to 48 grams) while still only consuming 200 calories!
Protein powder is also very versatile, it can be used on its own or with milk (which increases calories, but also protein). It can be mixed with yogurt (particularly Greek Yogurt which we will cover later), it can be used in baking, and mixed into porridge. There are hundreds of flavors available, and even vegan friendly protein powders (made from help or peas) are now widely available.
- Chia Seeds
High in fibre, and with 4 grams of protein per 2tbsp Chia seeds are high in Omega-3, Iron and Magnesium. The only issue is that they are quite calorie-dense (same as with peanuts) so use sparingly. Those 2tbsp go a long way, and are more than enough to get the benefits. Try adding them to Greek yogurt and fruit.
An interesting choice this one, but milk contains 3.4 grams of protein per 100 grams. Non-fat milk contains just 34 calories! Whereas Whole milk (3.5% fat) is only 61 calories and tastes much nicer. So long as you're not lactose-intolerant then there are no real drawbacks to drinking milk, and plenty of benefits. An excellent source of Calcium and Vitamin D. Milk should be in everyone's diet as a cheap protein source that's low in calories.
- Greek Yogurt
There is no yogurt better than Greek Yogurt, other than perhaps the Icelandic Yogurt that is slowly becoming more popular. A 170 gram serving of non-fat Greek Yogurt will contain 17 grams of protein and only 100 calories. Greek yogurt can be mixed with protein powder (24 grams of protein) and Chia seeds (4 grams of protein) which will create a 45-gram protein snack at only 300 calories or so.
One thing to look out for is imitations, there is Greek Yogurt and Greek Style
Yogurt. Greek style
Yogurt is nowhere near as good; it isn't strained so the protein level is way down. Flavoured Greek Yogurt is not as healthy, and some brands contain Gallatin which makes them unsuitable for vegetarians. Basically, spend your money on good real
Greek Yogurt that actually comes from Greece!
There are 8 grams of protein in a serving of tofu (a bean curd) and only 76 calories. Popular in a lot of Thai and Chinese dishes Tofu has been used as a meat substitute by vegetarians for ages. Tofu is quite versatile mainly because it is very plain in taste. Tofu contains Iron, Magnesium, Vitamin B1, and Calcium and could possibly help lower cholesterol. Can be used in stir fries, curries, salads and soups, to name just a few dishes.
- White Mushrooms
While Portobello mushrooms are the more commonly option in most vegetarian meals
(due to their size and shape) they only contain 2 grams of protein per 100 grams. While the more common white mushroom actually contains 3 grams. Not much difference, but still worth the change. A very versatile option, mushrooms can be grilled, stir-fried, sautéed. They go really well with eggs and are great as an accompaniment to most main courses.
It is possible that Quinoa has been slightly over-estimated in terms of protein content by some vegetarians. 100 grams of Quinoa provides only 4 grams of protein. There are many benefits to Quinoa, though, and 4 grams of protein is not bad (especially when it contains all nine essential amino acids). Quinoa provides a good source of Manganese, Magnesium, and Phosphorus. You can use Quinoa in stews, stir fries, or as an alternative to rice or pasta.
A form of wheat, spelt is probably going to be the next big thing for Organic Foodies. This is the Quinoa of 2016 (you heard it here first). 100 grams of Spelt contains almost 15 grams of protein. It is very high in Manganese and is a big source of fibre. Spelt flour is the most common use for spelt and as such you will find it used in bread. But spelt can be used in soups, salads, or even risottos.
- Ezekiel Bread
With 4 grams of protein per 34-gram slice, Ezekiel bread is better than your average loaf. The bread also contains 4 grams of fibre, which is excellent news for anyone who wants to lose weight while still enjoying bread. Some companies are even making protein bread which can contain 15 grams of protein per slice! These breads can be expensive though, and aren't easily available.
There are between 13 and 15 grams of protein per hundred grams of buckwheat. This product is most famously made into buckwheat noodles. You can use these noodles (also known as Soba noodles) in stir fries. They are high in manganese, fibre, and iron too.
100 grams of Hummus contains 8 grams of protein and is only 166 calories. Made from chickpeas, lemon juice, and olive oil Hummus is one of those meals that everyone thinks is difficult to make but actually only takes 3 minutes! Hummus may help lower cholesterol and the risk of some cancers, Hummus also contains 6 grams of fiber.
You might have heard of Quorn
already; it is a meat substitute containing microprotein. You can have Quorn burgers, Quorn mince, and many other options. Quorn mince contains 14 grams of protein and can be used with kidney beans to make a vegetarian chili.