A person’s protein might be hard to maintain on a vegetarian or vegan diet without using any meat or dairy products. While the most protein rich foods are from meat and animal products, there are still quite a few vegetables that can help a person on any sort of diet help maintain a healthy protein intake. Here are a few of the most protein-rich vegetables out there that you can easily incorporate into your diet.
Tofu is essential to anyone who wants to maintain a plant-based diet. Originating from soybeans, 3.5 ounces of tofu offers 8 grams of protein with only 70 calories and 4 grams of fat. Although tofu does not have much taste, it easily absorbs flavor from the sauces and ingredients that you cook it with. Tofu is fairly easy to cook, whether you choose to bake, scramble, fry or sauté it. You can pair tofu with salads, bowls, or enjoy it with a simple sauce or seasoning. One of my favorite ways to prepare tofu is by baking it, flavoring it with teriyaki sauce and adding it to a veggie stir fry.
An often overlooked source of protein, lentils are an excellent meat alternative and are made up of over 25% protein. Just one cup of lentils holds 17.9 grams of protein and 15.6 grams of fiber within just 230 calories. Lentils are very easy to prepare, with the simplest method being to boil them. Lentils are also a very absorbent food and will take in the flavors you prepare it with. You can enjoy your lentils with a salad, soup, or even in a veggie burger.
These legumes are one of the more versatile foods of this list. In just one cup, black beans offer 15.2 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber in just 227 calories. There are many ways you can include black beans in your diet, whether you’re having them in a veggie burger, in a plant-based pasta, in your burrito bowl or even on their own as a side dish. My favorite way to enjoy black beans is by adding them into my vegetarian chili.
One of the more popular plant-based protein options, chickpeas are extremely tasty and can be enjoyed in a number of different ways. One cup of chickpeas offers 14.5 grams of protein and 12.5 grams of fiber in only 269 calories. Chickpeas are commonly found in mediterranean foods, such as falafel and hummus. Chickpeas can also be found in pasta form or can be added into any sauce or soups. I incorporate chickpeas into my diet by simply adding them to my salads or by snacking on some pita chips and red pepper flavored hummus.
Nuts make an excellent snack, but are also packed with nutrients and a bit of protein. One ounce of mixed nuts contains 5 grams of protein in just 173 calories. Nuts are a wonderful and tasty snack, but can also be incorporated into salads and smoothies. Additionally, you can get your nut intake through several nut butters, such as peanut butter, almond butter and cashew butter. These spreads can easily be added to toast or smoothies to help add a sweet, nutty flavor while adding some additional protein.
Another popular meat replacement, tempeh is a great source of protein for anyone on a plant-based diet. Tempeh is a soy-based food that offers 15 grams of protein in just 162 calories. Tempeh can be used to mimic many textures and flavors of meats, such as bacon, chicken or beef. Additionally, you can add it on top of a salad or mix it into a stir fry.
While chia seeds are known to be an incredible source of fiber, they are also packed with a bit of protein as well. In one ounce of chia seeds, you get 4 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber in just 137 calories. Chia seeds are easy to add to your smoothie or smoothie bowl, and can also be found in several types of granola. You can also make chia pudding by adding them to water and letting them soak until it creates a thick, pudding like consistency.
Soymilk is by far the best milk alternative in terms of upkeeping your protein intake. 8 fluid ounces of unsweetened soymilk contains 7 grams of protein in just 80 calories, providing almost as much protein as cow milk in nearly half the calories. Soymilk is extremely easy to incorporate into your diet, whether you choose to add it to your daily coffee or smoothie, or you enjoy it with a bowl of cereal.
While this whole-grain food consists of 71.6% water while cooked, it also packs a bit of protein. 3.5 ounces of cooked quinoa contains 4.4 grams of protein in just 120 calories. Quinoa can be a great side dish for any meal and can be paired with herbs, spices and citrus to bring a delicious flavor to any meal. Additionally, quinoa can be added into salads and can even be found in ancient grain granolas.
Like many of the legumes previously mentioned on this list, green peas are an excellent source of plant-based protein. One cup of peas contains 8.2 grams of protein and 8.8 grams of fiber in only 125 calories. Peas are extremely easy to incorporate into your diet, and can be purchased frozen from the grocery store. You can add peas into any stir fry or rice pilaf, or simply heat them up in the microwave for a quick and easy side dish. You can also add peas into soups and stews to add some additional protein to your meal.
Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or just interested in adding more vegetables and plant-based foods into your diet, these options are all extremely nutritious and help you pack a protein punch into your meals. They are all fairly easy to work into your daily snacks and meals, and will add a delicious twist to your typical diet.
Lara Hill is a senior Public Relations major at Emerson College from Groton, Massachusetts. She has contributed to several college publications, holding multiple editing positions and focusing mainly on sports journalism. When she is not in class or writing, she loves to sail, watch sports with her friends and family, sing with her sisters, and play with her dog, Cassie.