In my experience, this is by far one of the most common questions I get asked as a veggie; if you’re a vegetarian or vegan I’m sure you aren’t a stranger to this question.
The Reference Nutrition Intake in the UK advises that adults eat 0.75g of protein for each Kg they weigh. So, if you weigh 60Kg, you should eat around 45g of protein a day. A lot of people probably exceed this amount but equally if you don’t think about your diet much and eat a lot of junk food then you might not be getting the right amount.
I am no nutritionist, but here are some commonly known protein-rich vegetarian foods that I love and find pretty easy to incorporate into my diet:
Chickpeas are a great source of protein and a yummy addition to a lot of meals. I love making a creamy chickpea curry or to stir-fry them with some chilli pieces, onion and spinach for a more spicy dish. If you love your salads you could try adding them to one to get a bit more body and flavour. When I was a kid, my Mum used to make this great simple but delicious Sri Lankan dish with chickpeas, melted butter, grated coconut and some black pepper.
Protein content: 7.7g per 100g drained chickpeas
As well as being a great source of Iron and other minerals, lentils are an excellent source of protein and extremely versatile. Green lentils are a great addition to salads and stir-fries, whereas red lentils make a nice soup for winter months or a great dhal (lentil curry) – I have a delicious Sri Lankan recipe for dhal courtesy of my Mum and Dad which I will share with you in a later blog post!
Protein content: 6.1g per 100g green lentils, 7.6g per 100g cooked red split lentils
3. Substitute ‘meats’ – e.g. Soya, Quorn products
Whilst some people believe that eating any kind of processed food is bad for you, I think there is no harm and indeed a lot of nutritional benefits to adding a little of these to your diet; there is also the whole deforestation issue with soya – but did you know that the bulk of soya grown (and hence responsible for the bulk of soya crop related deforestation) is actually used for cattle feed in the dairy and meat industries? ( I will talk about this in another blog post. Nowadays there are a lot of substitute meat products on the market – sausages, ‘facon’ rashers, soya mince, meatballs, sandwich slices etc. Alongside fresh vegetables, these make a great addition to your diet. Why not make a ‘Full English’ with some meat-free sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns and some facon rashers? Oh and of course, don’t forget the ketchup! Or make a veggie chilli or spaghetti and ‘meatballs’?
Protein content: ‘Granosa’ Soya mince: 12.1g per 100g, ‘Linda McCartney’ Sausages: 17.9g per 100g
No veggie blog would be complete without a mention of quinoa (keen-wah), so here it is! Hailed as a super-food, not only is it rich in Iron, but is a great protein source which contains all 9 essential amino acids. It’s a great light alternative to rice or pasta and is great in salads – try it with some chickpeas, rocket, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, pepper, lemon juice and pomegranate – toss a few roasted pine nuts on top and voila! A nutritious and tasty salad.
Protein content: 13.1g per 100g quinoa
5. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are something I discovered about 4 years ago. I was doing a lot of running and training for races that year. I read about chia seeds being a really good energy source for runners, so started introducing them to my smoothies. I usually add 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds and mix with a cup of smoothie; sometimes I grind it up to a powder with a mortar and pestle (makes for a less ‘gritty’ smoothie). I have seen a few recipes for chia seed pudding but haven’t tried any of them (yet!). You can get chia seeds in any good health food shop or online.
6. Edamame beans
Ah edamame…whether or not you are a fan of sushi, you will probably have noticed that these have grown in popularity, and you can now get a bag of them in larger supermarkets in the freezer section. They are actually immature soya beans and come in green pods which you can pop open to get to the edible beans inside. Most popularly served boiled or steamed with salt and sometimes chilli – these make for a good high protein snack, but you can also add to salads and stir-fries.
Protein content: 11g per 100g
7. Protein Powder
It’s totally possible to get all the protein you need from a vegetarian or vegan diet without the need for supplements, but if you do think you need a bit of a protein-boost, you can always opt for some great raw protein using protein powders. You can get all sorts of plant or soy protein powders, with or without added flavours – perfect to add to smoothies!
Protein content: 50g per 100g
There are many more veggie protein-rich foods such as tofu, buckwheat, beans, seitan, hummus and peanut butter to name just a few.
What are your favourite veggie protein foods?
- Sainsbury’s chickpeas nutritional info.
- Sainsbury’s green lentils nutritional info.