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Protein Substitutes in a Vegetarian Diet

by
author image Diane Lynn
Diane Lynn began writing in 1998 as a guest columnist for the "Tallahassee Democrat." After losing 158 pounds, she wrote her own weight-loss curriculum and now teaches classes on diet and fitness. Lynn also writes for The Oz Blog and her own blog, Fit to the Finish. She has a Bachelor of Science in finance from Florida State University.
Protein Substitutes in a Vegetarian Diet
Beans are a good substitute for meat-based proteins. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

Overview

If you are considering a vegetarian diet, you may be concerned about protein. Although meat products are an excellent and well-known source of protein, it is easy for a vegetarian to substitute meatless choices for red meat, poultry and seafood. Learn which foods to substitute in your diet to ensure you eat a balanced vegetarian diet, and are getting the recommended 50 to 65 grams of protein a day, depending on your age and sex.

Beans

Protein Substitutes in a Vegetarian Diet
Bean soups are a good soure of protein. Photo Credit Lilyana Vynogradova/iStock/Getty Images

Protein- and fiber-rich beans are a common food in a vegetarian diet. One cup of plain, baked vegetarian beans has just over 12 grams of protein, while 1 cup of black beans has 15 grams. Eating beans in place of animal protein foods makes it simple to meet your protein requirement for the day. Soak dried beans overnight and cook without oil to save calories. Put beans on your salad, in a spinach wrap or over brown rice. When making soups, puree half the beans and use as a thickener.

Soy

Protein Substitutes in a Vegetarian Diet
Soy burgers are a good meat subsitute. Photo Credit draganadutina/iStock/Getty Images

Soy products are made from soybeans, and unlike other protein substitutes, are a complete protein. A versatile food, you can find soy in tofu, soy butters, cereals, meatless patties and soy milk. The Soy Food Association of North American says that 1 cup of soy milk has about 6 grams of protein and a meatless soy burger about 13 grams. Look in the refrigerated section of your grocery store for tofu, and use it in place of meat on salads or in pasta sauces. One-half cup of tofu has 10 grams of protein.

Dairy and Eggs

Protein Substitutes in a Vegetarian Diet
If you eat dairy, cheese can increase your protein intake. Photo Credit Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images

Unless you are a vegan, dairy products help you increase your protein intake. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 1 ounce of cheddar cheese has 7 grams of protein, while 1 cup of fat-free cottage cheese has 25 grams. Milks, yogurt and cream cheese are other choices. Avoid processed cheeses. Keep the saturated fat low in your vegetarian diet by eating lower fat cheeses. Look for light, reduced-fat or fat-free varieties. Choose plain yogurt rather than sweetened, and add your own fruit. Eat a scrambled egg for breakfast and consume about 6 gram of protein.

Vegetables

Protein Substitutes in a Vegetarian Diet
Pasta with vegetanles provides a balanced meal. Photo Credit Olga Nayashkova/iStock/Getty Images

A vegetarian diet is rich in vegetables. According to the USDA, vegetables are good for your heart health, and may reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Vegetables contain some protein and can serve as a protein substitute in your diet. A cup of broccoli has 4 grams of protein, and 1 cup of cooked spinach or frozen mixed vegetables has 5 grams. Kale, a dark, leafy green, has 3 grams in 1 cup. When eating pasta, choose spinach egg noodles and get 8 grams of protein per cup. Incorporate a variety of vegetables into your diet to meet your protein and vitamin requirements.

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