How to Get Enough Protein When You're a Vegetarian

Beans and nuts are vegetarian sources of protein.

Beans and nuts are vegetarian sources of protein.

Protein is crucial to life. Without sufficient amounts of protein, your body wouldn't work properly, which might impact growth, development and overall health. Meat and fish are among the top food sources of protein, but they're far from your only options. If you eat a vegetarian diet, it's simple to replace meat with a variety of nutritious foods that will help you consume your recommended daily requirement.

Step 1

Eat at least six servings of grains each day. Make as many of your grain foods whole grains. Eat whole-wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice, because they almost always contain more protein than foods made with refined grains, such as white flour.

Step 2

Make beans and legumes a regular part of your healthy eating plan. A 1-cup serving of most types of beans and legumes contains between 16 and 18 grams of protein. Add beans or lentils to vegetable soup or combine cooked beans with chopped vegetables and a drizzle of olive oil for a protein-rich salad. Mash cooked beans or lentils with a small amount of canola oil and garlic powder and use the mixture as a tasty dip for whole-wheat pita bread or baked tortilla chips.

Step 3

Eat a handful of nuts or seeds each day. An ounce of pistachios or almonds deliver about 6 grams of protein each and an ounce of sunflower seeds contains 5.5 grams. Have an ounce of pumpkin seeds for about 9 grams of protein. Eat the nuts and seeds plain or sprinkle them over a fruit salad, carton of yogurt or pancake breakfast. Nuts and seeds add protein to homemade baked goods, too.

Step 4

Include dairy foods in your daily diet. Have a glass of milk with each meal for 8 grams of protein or a carton of yogurt for 11 grams. Even better, have a serving of Greek yogurt, which can contain up to 20 grams of protein. An ounce of most hard cheeses, such as cheddar or Colby, provides between 7 and 8 grams of protein. Sprinkle low-fat cheese, which contains just as much protein as traditional versions, over scrambled eggs, soup, stew and casseroles.

Step 5

Combine vegetarian protein foods to get plenty of essential amino acids. Vegetarian sources of protein are incomplete, which means they don't contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs. Combining vegetarian protein foods will ensure that you do get these necessary nutrients. Try oatmeal with skim milk and chopped nuts or a side of beans with a sprinkle of cheese.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images