How do you get enough protein if you don’t eat meat?
Well, this was such a great question from one of my summer body challenge participants this morning that I felt I just had to give this some serious thought.
I’m here to reassure you that it’s not as hard as you might think to avoid meat and still get enough nutrition to support effective muscle growth and recovery.
There are many alternatives to meat that have similar amounts of protein so here’s a list of 37 vegan-friendly proteins that are as good as meat.
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But before we dive into the selection of meat-alternatives, how much protein should you consume on a daily basis?
Depending on your training goals and activity levels, you should aim to consume between 0.8-2.0g per kg of body weight.
Sedentary adults will be at the lower end of the scale with bodybuilders and elite athletes at the upper end of the scale.
If you are focused specifically on fat loss, you want to be consuming at least 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight.
With so many tasty vegetarian options, there is plenty of variety to choose from, enjoy!
36.5g of protein (per 100g raw)
Soybeans are a source of eight of the essential amino acids, making it one of the best sources of plant-based protein. Soy is higher in fat than other legumes, however it’s mainly good fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids). Substituting saturated fat sources with unsaturated fats may help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk for heart disease. Soybeans are also a good source of calcium (healthy bones + teeth), iron (prevents anemia) and magnesium (proper heart, muscle + immune function).
2 Hemp seeds
31.6g of protein (per 100g raw)
Hemp seeds have the perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in each serving which promotes brain health, while also helping fend off diabetes + heart diseases. As a rich source of magnesium (heart health), zinc (immune system support) and phosphorus (strong bones), hemp seeds are a nutritional power house. They might not be as easy to find as other options on this list; however, you can find them at most health food stores. Although hemp is a variety of cannabis plant, the only “high” you’ll get from this seed is a nutritional one. Hemp seeds do not have any adverse affects, they are completely safe and legal to consume.
3 Pumpkin Seeds
30.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Pumpkin seeds have high levels of magnesium, which helps lower blood pressure and prevents strokes, heart attacks + sudden cardiac arrest. They contain L-tryptophan, a compound that improves mood naturally as well as phytosterols which has been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, which plays a role skin health and strong immune system. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent food for improving your skin tone and for treating acne problems.
25.8g of protein (per 100g raw)
Peanuts can be considered to be a good part of a weight loss diet. They are a great source of manganese, which facilitates metabolic activity and helps the body to burn carbs. Eating peanuts also appears to be just as potent for preventing heart disease as eating other nuts. Since peanuts generally cost less than nuts like almonds and pistachios, people on lower incomes can reap the health benefits of nuts on a budget.
24.7g of protein (per 100g raw)
Seitan has more protein than many meatless options as well as quite a few meats. It’s an excellent source of vegetarian proteins, with almost no fat and no cholesterol. Seitan can be a great substitute for meat in any recipe because of it’s texture and consistency. An important note is that this food is usually made from wheat gluten, so it’s not for people who are gluten intolerant or wheat sensitive.
24.6g of protein (per 100g raw)
Lentils are a source vegetarian proteins that is cholesterol free, high in fiber, low in fat and low in sodium. Lentils have high amounts of thiamine which has an integral role in maintaining a healthy nervous system and folate which helps protect against developing heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Lentils are very versatile and can be used as a side dish, thrown into a vegetable mix, or even made into patties.
7 Kidney Beans
24.4g of protein (per 100g raw)
Kidney beans are an excellent source of folate which is important for good heart health and iron that is necessary to carry oxygen to tissue + muscle cells. These beans are a healthy choice since they are low in fat. They are excellent for individuals with diabetes or hypoglycemia since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too quickly after a meal.
8 Green Peas
23.8g of protein (per 100g raw)
Green peas are low in fat and sodium but high in fiber. They contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which keeps your eyes healthy. Both the fiber and lutein in peas improve heart health by lowering cholesterol and preventing the buildup of plaque along your artery walls. They also have vitamin C for a strong immune system. The vegetarian proteins and high fiber content in green peas helps with blood sugar regulation by slowing down how quickly sugars are digested.
9 Navy Beans
22.3g of protein (per 100g raw)
Navy beans are very low in saturated fat and sodium, and an excellent source of fiber. Although their name might make you believe they’re blue in color, they’re actually small white beans that are perfect for making baked beans. Navy beans are an excellent source of folate which keeps the heart healthy by lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke and also plays a critical role in protecting the brain from diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
10 Peanut Butter
22.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Peanut butter is high in magnesium which is excellent for bone building and muscle recovery. It’s also a good source of niacin which protects against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline. For breakfast, you can add peanut butter onto toast or bagels in the morning instead of butter or cream cheese. You can also use it as a great dip for fruits and vegetables.
11 Black Beans
21.6g of protein (per 100g raw)
Black beans are great because they have a low fat content and allow you to feel fuller for longer. Their high fiber content helps to prevent constipation and improve digestion by keeping your body clear of toxic elements. Black beans are also high in soluble fiber, which fights heart disease by helping to balance unhealthy cholesterol levels.
12 Lima Beans
21.5g of protein (per 100g raw)
Lima beans contain small amounts of isoflavones, which studies have found to protect against breast cancer. They also contain plant sterols that help lower cholesterol levels in the body. Like most beans they are also a good source of fiber, minerals (such as iron, copper, manganese and molybdenum) and folate which is important for good heart health.
21.1g of protein (per 100g raw)
Almonds contain high amounts of vitamin B2 and manganese which helps the body to burn carbs. They also are a rich in phosphorus which is needed for the healthy bones and teeth. Almonds make for an excellent source of vitamin E which nourishes the skin and reduces signs of aging. You can add almonds to yogurt bowls, mix them in with vegetables, use them to add crunch to baked goods or just put some in your pocket and eat them on the go.
14 Sunflower Seeds
20.8g of protein (per 100g raw)
Sunflower seeds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E. This vitamin is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin against damage and reduces the signs of aging. They also contain a high amount copper which helps skin stay youthful and prevents gray hair. Sunflower seeds are extremely high in B vitamins (B1 + B6) which helps calm and maintain your nervous system. It’s super easy to get them into your diet by sprinkling the seeds on top of your sandwich, salad or pasta.
20.5g of protein (per 100g raw)
Chickpeas are vegetarian proteins that are high in fiber which keeps you feeling full longer, helping you stay slim and looking your best. They also contain potassium, calcium and magnesium, which is an excellent mix of minerals that strengthens bones. Chickpeas are very versatile, so you can toss them into salads, soups and stir fries, or try roasting them for snacking.
20.3g of protein (per 100g raw)
Tempeh has a higher amount of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins than tofu because it is made from whole soybeans that are fermented. It has a firm texture and a nutty mushroom-like taste. Because tempeh is fermented it contains probiotics which helps with indigestion and boosts your immune system. Tempeh contains a high amount of manganese and vitamin B3, which helps the body to burn carbs. It’s also a great source copper which prevents gray hairs and helps your skin to stay healthy.
20.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Pistachios are a rich source of fiber, protein and have good amounts of mono-unsaturated fatty acids making them an excellent snack that will help you control your weight by limiting your portions. Adding them into your diet helps to lower bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol, keeping your heart health. Pistachios are also a great source of B vitamins (B1 + B6) which helps calm and maintain your nervous system.
18.3g of protein (per 100g raw)
Flaxseeds are small brown golden colored seeds that are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are extremely high in fiber, but low in carbohydrates that allows you to feel full longer. This can help a lot in weight loss. Flaxseeds are also high in lignans which are an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of breast, ovarian and colon cancer.
18.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Cashews are packed with zinc and copper. These two minerals helps to fight gray hair and protects the skin against premature aging. Cashews also have plenty of magnesium which helps you to have better, longer and more relaxing sleep. Cashews are crunchy with a buttery texture, and have a sweet fruity aroma. They can be eaten alone as a snack but they can also be mixed into pasta, salads, soups and even desserts.
17.0g of protein (per 100g raw)
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds that has a creamy texture. For those who have problems with dairy products, tahini is a great alternate source of calcium and it is much easier for your body to digest than milk. This combined with the zinc content of tahini both help boosts bone density. As a source of copper it helps to prevent wrinkles and tahini also contains iron so it helps fight anemia.
21 Chia Seeds
16.5g of protein (per 100g raw)
Chia seeds are small in size but they pack a strong nutritional punch. Because of their high fiber content, these vegetarian proteins can help with weight loss. Chia seeds are also one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3, which helps reduce inflammation and pain in your joints. Omega-3s also helps improve your memory and reduce cholesterol levels.
22 Quorn (Mycoprotein)
15.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Mycoprotein is the common ingredient in all Quorn products which is a source of vegetarian proteins that is also a good source of fiber. Mycoprotein is low in fat and contains no trans fats or cholesterol. It has a meat-like texture due to having a structure that is similar to animal muscles. Studies suggest that mycoprotein satisfies your appetite longer, with fewer calories.
15.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Walnuts are said to have cancer-fighting properties, specifically reducing the risk of prostrate cancer and breast cancer. Walnuts also contain amino acids that have vascular benefits, as well as powerful antioxidants that are unique and only found in a few commonly eaten foods. This includes morin, tellimagrandin, and juglone which are all strong cancer inhibitors.
24 Wild Rice
14.7g of protein (per 100g raw)
Wild rice has almost twice as much protein, four times the amount of fiber and about 25% less carbs as white long-grain rice. They are a great source of manganese, which facilitates metabolic activity and helps the body to burn carbs. Wild rice is also a good source of magnesium (heart health), phosphorus (strong bones) and zinc (immune system support).
25 Sun-Dried Tomatoes
14.1g of protein (per 100g raw)
Sun-dried tomatoes have a more intense taste than fresh tomatoes and help add a bit of a zing to any dish. They are high in fiber and potassium so they reduce the risk of developing heart problems. Sun-dried tomatoes are high in iron which helps prevent the tiredness and muscle weakness due to anemia. They are also a great source of vitamin C which supports the immune system and neutralizes free radicals in the body.
14.1g of protein (per 100g raw)
Quinoa has a nutty flavor and a texture that has a slight crunch. It is a great source of manganese + B vitamins, which facilitates metabolic activity and helps the body to burn carbs. Quinoa is a great way to get fiber in your diet as it has 50% more than brown rice and is easier to digest. It is also rich in phosphorus which is needed for the healthy bones and teeth.
27 Whole-Wheat Pasta
13.9g of protein (per 100g raw)
Whole-wheat pasta is a good source of vegetarian proteins, complex carbohydrates + fiber which helps keep you full and looking slim. Fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol levels and lowers your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It is an excellent source of selenium which helps to keep your thyroid healthy, helps fight cancer and boost your immune system to stop infections.
28 Pine Nuts
13.7g of protein (per 100g raw)
Pine nuts contain pinolenic acid, which may help with weight loss. Pinolenic acid triggers the release of a hormone, which is known to suppress appetite. Pine nuts are also a good source of magnesium, which helps boost energy. They even contain many antioxidants and nutrients that are considered to be anti-aging, and contributes to heart and vision health.
13.7g of protein (per 100g raw)
Oatmeal is made from oats, which are a whole-grain cereal. They are an excellent good source of fiber. Oats can lower cholesterol levels, and have also been said to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of type two diabetes and obesity. They are also a good source of magnesium (heart health), phosphorus (strong bones) and thiamine (healthy nervous system).
30 Whole Grain Bread
13.4g of protein (per 100g raw)
Whole grain bread contains the wheat germ which contains many nutrients. Whole wheat is much higher in fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and chromium than white bread. Eating at least three servings of whole grains per day is associated with lower risk of death from cancers, heart disease, and stroke.
12.8g of protein (per 100g raw)
Couscous is considered a pasta made of small granules of flour, and is common in North African cuisine. It’s a good source of fiber which helps prevent constipation and improve digestion by keeping your body clear of toxic elements. Couscous is extremely versatile and can be used in many dishes such as sautéed vegetables, soups, and even at breakfast as a cereal.
12.7g of protein (per 100g raw)
Hard tofu is a staple in Thai and Chinese cuisine. It’s is a great source of calcium which is important for healthy bones and teeth. Tofu also contains iron so it helps fight anemia. Depending on how it is cooked, it can have very different textures. Tofu is an extremely versatile ingredient that can be added to salads, blended into smoothies, thrown it to soups, or grilled as a meat substitute for stir fries.
12.6g of protein (per 100g raw)
Buckwheat is a gluten-free, nutrient-packed seed that is high in fiber + antioxidants that help fight cancer and heart disease. Buckwheat can lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, which also encourages a healthy heart. Buckwheat is a good source of vegetarian proteins and magnesium. These both help support the body’s muscle growth and recovery.
12.3g of protein (per 100g raw)
Bulgur is a type of whole wheat that is common in Middle Easter cuisine. It’s a great substitute for white rice because it has more fiber and protein. Bulgur is a good source of niacin which protects against Alzheimer’s and age-related cognitive decline. It also has plenty of magnesium which helps you to have better, longer and more relaxing sleep.
12.0g of protein (per 100g raw)
When popcorn is air-popped it stays light, fluffy and healthy. It’s a good source of dietary fiber, keeping you feeling full longer, which helps with weight loss. Popcorn also contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants that have been linked to reductions in heart disease and certain cancers, particularly breast and prostate cancers.
11.2g of protein (per 100g raw)
Edamame are green soybeans that taste like a mix between lima beans and green peas. They are a good source of vegetarian proteins + fiber that is low in calories making them a great option for snacks, soups and salads. Edamame is rich in folate which helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and protects the brain from dementia.
11.0g of protein (per 100g raw)
Millet is gluten-free grain that has plenty of fiber, vegetarian proteins and nutrients. It’s often found in birdseed mixture, but don’t let that give you the wrong impression of millet! It contains serotonin, which maintains your mood balance. The magnesium in millet can reduce migraines and the chance of heart attacks. Magnesium can also help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.