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.
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 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
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.
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.