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Four Excellent Plant-Based Protein Options to Get Your Daily Dose

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Four Excellent Plant-Based Protein Options to Get Your Daily Dose

Foods high in protein are generally synonymous with animal products, such as beef, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy. As more people turn to a plant-based lifestyle, it’s important to incorporate vegetarian foods high in protein. Why do we need protein? Protein contains the building blocks for muscles and cells, transports nutrients throughout the body and is a source of caloric energy. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 10-30 percent of daily calories come from protein. To get your daily dose, consider these plant-based proteins as healthy options.

Soy. The best vegetarian source of protein is soy. Soy is found in soymilk, edamame (soybeans), tofu, and tempeh (tofu combined with grains). Soymilk’s protein content is similar to cow’s milk with eight grams of protein per cup. Edamame is protein-rich and contains 22 grams per cup which is about the same amount of protein in a three ounce serving of lean meat. It’s a perfect protein-packed snack or salad topping. Tofu and tempeh are also great choices to cook with as they meld with the flavor of any herbs and seasonings you use in cooking. Prepared tofu and tempeh options are available in grocery stores to easily toss in soups and stir fry dishes.

Legumes. Beans, peas and lentils are classified as legumes with about seven grams of protein for every half cup serving. Not only are they a good source of protein, but they are also high in filling fiber, low in fat and budget-friendly. Other nutrient benefits include iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin B6 and folate. For a quick snack, you can prepare a quick bean soup for an easy meal or whip up a bean dip to pair with baked tortilla chips.

Nut and Nut Butters. Nuts and nut butters are nutrient-dense and contain a blend of protein and healthy fats. One ounce of nuts has an average of five to six grams of protein and two tablespoons of nut butter, such as peanut or almond, contains six to seven grams of protein. They are all calorie-dense so beware of portions! One ounce of nuts is about the size of your palm or a measured ¼ cup. A “healthy” portion of nut butter is two tablespoons or less.

Whole Grains. Whole grains get all the glory for being high in fiber, but did you know they also contain protein? One cup of cooked quinoa has eight grams of protein and two slices of 100% whole grain bread also contains 8 grams.  One cup of cooked whole-wheat pasta has 7.5 grams of protein and one cup of cooked amaranth has more than nine grams of protein. Note that with the exception of quinoa and amaranth, grains are not considered “complete proteins.”

What is a complete protein? Animal-based foods are “complete proteins” in that they contain all nine essential amino acids. The few plant foods that contain all of these amino acids are soy, quinoa, and amaranth. All other vegetarian protein foods need to be combined with other foods to fill in the gap of the missing amino acids. These paired foods are called “complimentary proteins.” Some examples include black beans and brown rice or whole wheat bread and peanut butter. You don’t necessarily need to consume them in the same meal, but try to include a variety of these complimentary protein foods throughout the course of the day.

Whether you are following a vegetarian lifestyle or just trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into your routine, there are plenty protein-packed vegetarian options for you to choose from to meet your nutrition needs.

To meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Cooper Clinic about your diet, visit or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Department.