Vegetarian Sources Of Protein

Whether you have just recently given up meat, are a seasoned vegetarian, or want to give meatless Mondays a try, this post is for you! 

Many people think that meat is the only good source of protein and that people who adopt a vegetarian lifestyle are not getting the nutrition they need. There are in fact several other sources of protein that you can incorporate into your diet. Take a look at the list below and try something new this week!

  • Lentils and legumes: Low in fat and high in both soluble and insoluble fibre. They are very common in the South Asian diet (daal, sambhar, etc.). In addition, they can easily be added to chilis, soups, salads, dips, etc. Remember, if using canned lentils/legumes, choose a ‘no salt added’ variety or rinse well and before using them to reduce the sodium intake.
  • Tofu/soy: Cholesterol free and high in calcium, soy and tofu are an excellent source of complete protein. Tofu can be substituted for meat in almost any dish. Try a tofu scramble in the morning instead of scrambled eggs. Other soy products also include soy milk as well as edamame beans.
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP): TVP is a soy based meat substitute or meat analogue. This can be used anywhere you would use meat and is very cost effective. Many commercial vegetarian meats (veggie burgers, veggie hotdogs, etc) are made with TVP; dry TVP can be bought in bulk for home use.
  • Tempeh: Made from fermented soy beans, tempeh has a firm texture and can also be prepared in a variety of ways.
  • Nuts and seeds (and their butters): Along with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy unsaturated fats. However, we still have to be careful with our portions as having large servings can results in unwanted weight gain (1 serving=1/4c). They can add a punch of flavour and texture to salads or a bowl of oatmeal. Nut butters can also be used in place of margarine/butter when having toast. Note: choose a natural nut butter, with no icing sugar or oil added.
  • Cheese and dairy: Dairy protein sources are an excellent source of calcium. Choose lower fat varieties whenever possible. This means choosing skim, 1% or 2% milk and cheeses that are <20% milk fat (M.F.). Greek yogurt is also a great source of protein, with 2-3 times more protein than normal yogurt. Just make sure you purchase a low fat/ fat free variety, as traditional Greek yogurt is very high in fat.
  • Eggs: For those vegetarians who consume eggs, you already know that eggs are very versatile! Hard boiled eggs (made in advance and refrigerated) also make a great, quick snack. Remember, egg whites can be eaten daily; however, whole eggs should be limited to 1-2 per week.
  • Seitan: For some, this may be a new food, but it is rapidly gaining popularity. Seitan is a protein derived from wheat and has a very meaty texture. It can be treated and cooked just like meat and takes on the flavour of whatever sauce it is made in.
  • Some grains: Grains such as quinoa, bulgur and amaranth have higher protein content than other grains. They can be substituted for rice in several dishes and also be used in soups, stews and salads. Note: these grains cannot be substituted for protein, but will add to your daily total.
  • Some vegetables: Vegetables such as green peas, broccoli, spinach, kale, mushrooms, artichoke and asparagus contain a small amount of protein as well. Note: these vegetables cannot be substituted for protein, but will add to your daily total.