Meet the Best Meatless Protein Sources

51SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
2/23/2013 6:00 AM   :  34 comments   :  35,881 Views

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you've probably been asked countless questions about how you get your protein. The truth is, it's not as hard as you might think to meet your protein needs when you're going meatless. However, some plant sources are higher in this important nutrient than others. Which veg-friendly food packs more protein: 4 ounces of tofu, 1 cup of cooked lentils, or 1 cup of cooked quinoa

The Winner: Lentils!
Just one cup of lentils packs a whopping 18 grams of protein! However, tofu and quinoa are still good sources, both clocking in at 9 grams per serving. If you're newly vegetarian or vegan, check out these meat-free protein sources for more ideas to satisfy your protein needs and your taste buds!

It's also important to note that both herbivores and omnivores often overestimate proper protein needs. The media is constantly pushing protein as the magic key for weight loss, especially in recent years. Although protein is important for satiety, muscle repair and other bodily processes, it's definitely not the only macronutrient that should be considered in a healthy diet—and getting more than what you need won't do any favors for your waistline or your health. Consume protein in moderation along with an appropriate level of carbohydrates and healthy fats, and you'll get all the nutrients you need to sustain health and long-term weight loss. Wondering how much protein you should eat per day, or how it fits into your macronutrient requirements? Find out with the chart below.

Nutrient Carbohydrates Fat Protein (Women) Protein (Men)
Healthy Range 45%-65% 20%-35% 10%-35% 10%-35%
1200 calories 135-195 g 27-47 g *60-105 g N/A
1500 calories 169-244 g 33-58 g *60-131 g *75-131 g
1800 calories 203-293 g 40-70 g *60-158 g *75-158 g
2100 calories 236-341 g 47-82 g *60-184 g *75-184 g

What's your favorite meatless way to get your protein?

 


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Comments

  • 34
    30-60 grams of protein per day is enough for me. I don't know why we think we need to have so much protein in our diets. It's not good for us and is an excuse to eat too many animals as a result. Of course I've been a vegetarian most of my adult life.

    cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basic
    s/protein.html - 10/31/2013   9:58:26 AM
  • 33
    Do the "roasted & salted eddamame beans" i see in the grocery stores suddenly have nearly as much protein as those nutrition facts label reads? - 2/28/2013   7:17:51 AM
  • 32
    LOVE lentils---and so do my grandkids. I'll be checking out recipes shortly! - 2/27/2013   8:51:07 AM
  • WONDERGIRL50
    31
    The difference between lentils and the other two protein sources, quinoa and tofu, is that lentils don't have complete protein. Certain essential amino acids are missing. The protein content of foods is misleading as it doesn't indicate the nutritional quality of the food. Quinoa and tofu may in fact be better nutritionally as they contain complete proteins. - 2/26/2013   11:52:47 PM
  • SEANNA7
    30
    A dietitian told me that protein from meat is more satisfying than protein from beans. My experience is telling me she may be right. I really don't like eating meat but I also really seem to need to feel satisfied. - 2/26/2013   1:48:54 PM
  • HAPPYDUCK1
    29
    I'm new and I am loving all the information,my new word which for the day is flexaterian (I think thats spelled right) which was in the comment section from one of the members.
    happyduck1 - 2/26/2013   9:46:41 AM
  • PHYL32
    28
    I LOVE LENTILS. ESPECIALLY RED ONES. I HAVE A GOOD RECIPE FOR RED LENTIL CASSEROLE AND YOU EAT A FAT FREE CHICKEN GRAVY ON IT. IS THERE A WAY TO PUT A RECIPE ON THIS SITE? I THINK EVERYONE WOULD LIKE IT. IF THER IS LET ME KNOW. THANK YOU. PHYL32 - 2/24/2013   5:03:51 PM
  • AKITTYMOMMA
    27
    Am planning on checking out some of the vegeterian meals available. Will just have to convince my husband that he doesn't need a 1/2# of hamburger to go with to get his protein! - 2/24/2013   4:52:58 PM
  • 26
    Ah, those magical lentils! Between that and kale, superfoods have met their match. - 2/24/2013   12:30:46 PM
  • 25
    I love lentils, My favorite recipes are sambar (lentil soup), rice khichdi (indian dish)- a one-pot meal with lentils, rice and veggies, crepes made with lentils. Yumm! - 2/24/2013   11:32:07 AM
  • 24
    Bring on the beans and veggies! Quinoa is still just OK for me, give me a piece of whole grain bread instead. - 2/24/2013   10:23:39 AM
  • JSYLVIA49
    23
    Regarding the issue of reducing gas in beans - there are several ideas easily found online. In addition to pre-soaking the beans, and changing the water once or twice, an idea suggested years ago by my naturopathic doctor is to add a 2-3"piece of kombu (sea vegetable that is available in all health food stores and some supermarkets). Several of the benefits of adding kombu include - making the beans more digestible and less gaseous, reducing the cooking the time and the need for salt, and adding iodine, a critical mineral that is lacking in many diets. - 2/24/2013   7:58:18 AM
  • 22
    It is GREAT to know that my protein needs remain constant regardless of calorie needs, I never knew that. - 2/24/2013   5:38:41 AM
  • BCARTER235
    21
    I love to read the comments! I like any kind of beans and nuts also. - 2/24/2013   5:26:42 AM
  • 20
    So - who's got a good soup/stew recipe using lentils, tofu and quinoa? Or should we brainstorm one and submit it ourselves? - 2/24/2013   4:09:41 AM
  • 19
    If you suffer from gas/wind when eating lentils/beans etc try asafoetida (also known as hing) powder when cooking them. You can buy it in Asian (primarily Indian) foodstores. It's what the Indians use as they use legumes in high amounts. It's also used for strict vegetarians as a replacement for onions/garlic. - 2/24/2013   1:05:09 AM
  • 18
    I am not vegetarian but I do have good memories of lentils and spaghetti. The thing I like about them is they cook faster than regular beans. - 2/23/2013   11:19:42 PM
  • 17
    My favorite meatless protein are legumes. I also like eating soy beans as well. Great information and thanks for sharing the chart! - 2/23/2013   8:43:43 PM
  • 16
    Thanks for laying out the percentages and grams. These are the numbers I go for, since they are what is recommended by health organizations. (The default amounts Sparks starts with are rather high.)

    Quinoa is an awesome grain for protein, and so quick to cook! :) - 2/23/2013   5:44:59 PM
  • 15
    I love lentils! Good article! - 2/23/2013   5:26:25 PM
  • 14
    I LOVE lentils & all kinds of other legumes, & eat them most of the time instead of meat. But I have to say it's still kinda hard to make it to 60 grams/day of protein. I usually add half a cup of fat-free cottage cheese. To go with the beans/lentils I often choose quinoa instead of brown rice, because of the protein content--but I have to watch out there too because quinoa's caloric content is higher. I still think it's a challenge to get enough protein if you're mostly vegetarian--& even harder if you're vegan like my son. We have to be realistic! - 2/23/2013   3:40:42 PM
  • EWEFIRST
    13
    About the bitter quinoa - I always rinse the seeds in a sieve under running water really well before cooking. - 2/23/2013   2:37:52 PM
  • 12
    Very interesting! I haven't tried Lentils yet, but it will go on my grocery list. I love all sorts of beans in all forms-. But quinoa - it was very bitter. Any suggestions on the preparation? - 2/23/2013   1:50:26 PM
  • KARENPSY3
    11
    I love meatless protein sources but also have to accommodate my husband's need to limit protein intake (he has chronic kidney disease). I find pasta with meat-free sauce, lots of veggies, meets his needs (and mine if I add tofu and/or beans). - 2/23/2013   1:27:33 PM
  • 10
    Now can someone tell how to get enough iron? - 2/23/2013   12:53:08 PM
  • 9
    My problem with beans (including tofu) is gas... BUT a GREAT way to get protein is to use tofu in a smoothie... The interesting and wonderful thing about tofu is that it takes on the taste of whatever you add it to. So a chocolate banana smoothie with tofu becomes a GREAT protein source after you have added tofu and a little milk..... (of course the chocolate is cocoa or unsweetened chocolate and the banana is 1/2 banana and the sweetening should be stevia.... yum! - 2/23/2013   12:36:22 PM
  • NIKALE
    8
    Another good source is Job's tears/Chinese pearl barley. High in protein and aste great! - 2/23/2013   12:15:18 PM
  • 7
    I have recently came across lentils-had heard the name but didn't even know what they looked liked. Love them and now have more reason to try and get them into my diet. - 2/23/2013   11:30:58 AM
  • 6
    Thank you so much!!! - 2/23/2013   11:03:58 AM
  • 5
    I consider myself a flexitarian. Most days I eat vegetarian. I occasionally eat chicken or fish. I don't eat beef at all, mainly because it upsets my stomach. I use beans in place of meat for protein. Black beans, kidney, great northern, black eyed peas, just about any kind. - 2/23/2013   9:47:37 AM
  • 4
    I am not a vegan but I love tofu and lentils. I never tried quinoa. My friend just recently gave me a yummy lentil soup recipe. Maybe this weekend. - 2/23/2013   8:23:38 AM
  • 3
    I love black beans and chick peas, and I have recently bought and tried quinoa. I love it! Mixed with vegetables as a meal is great. I;m going to try it as a hot breakdast cereal with a little cinnamon...we'll see how it turns out! :) - 2/23/2013   7:57:34 AM
  • 2
    Very helpful for someone like me who can't eat nuts or fish. Thank you. - 2/23/2013   7:56:35 AM
  • 1
    I like black beans and white beans best ... Oh, and any kind of nuts. - 2/23/2013   7:34:41 AM

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