This post is a part of our ongoing Ask the Dietitian series where the Munchery Dietitian, Kate Schlag, MPH, RD, answers your questions about health and nutrition. To participate, simply tag Munchery on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and post your question with the hashtag #AskKate.
Getting Vegetarian Protein Is Simple
“But where do you get your protein?”—the question vegetarians and vegans hear every time they tell someone of their eating habits. But as long as you’re eating a wide variety of foods, getting adequate amounts of protein is actually pretty easy.
There’s an old myth that vegetarians need to combine certain foods at each meal in order to get a complete protein. But as long as you’re eating different foods, each of which carries a slightly different amino acid profile, at each meal, you’re good to go: the amino acids from those foods are stored in an amino acid pool that can be drawn upon when necessary. That means that the amino acids you get from your morning oatmeal can combine with the amino acids you get from the lentils you ate at dinner, providing more than enough protein.
You probably already know that beans and lentils are packed with vegan protein (a cup of each contains around 15-18 grams of protein); here are some other plant-based protein sources:
Edamame, 1 cup, cooked—17 g protein
Tofu, raw, 4 oz—11 g protein
Green peas, ½ cup, cooked—14 g protein
Pumpkin seeds, 1 oz—8.5 g protein
Quinoa, 1 cup, cooked—8.1 g protein
Peanut butter, 2 tbsp—7.7 g protein
Almonds, 1 oz—5.9 g protein
Spinach, 1 cup, cooked—5 g protein
Broccoli, 1 cup, cooked—4 g protein
And of course, if you’re vegetarian and not vegan, you have many animal sources of protein to choose from:
Greek yogurt, 1 cup—23 g protein
Cottage cheese,1 cup—28 g protein
Cheese, 1 oz—4-11 g protein (Parmesan has the most, with 11 g per ounce)
Milk, 1 cup—8 g protein
Eggs, 1—7 g protein
The Takeaway on Taking in Protein
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, ensuring you consume enough protein may seem like a daunting task. However, replacing meat on the menu is simpler (and tastier) than you might have imagined. In the end, all it takes is a little culinary creativity.