The protein choices for your salad depend upon which of the four types of vegetarian diets you follow. The vegan diet allows you to eat only plant-based protein. Lacto-vegetarians plan their meals by incorporating plant-based foods and some dairy products. If you follow the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, you can add protein from plants, eggs and dairy products, while semi-vegetarians can add protein from plants, dairy products, eggs, fish and chicken.
Daily Protein Intake for Vegetarians
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that vegetarians eat 5.5 ounces of protein daily when following a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. Incorporate a combination of beans, peas, soy, nuts and seeds into your meal plans. If your vegetarian diet allows eggs, dairy, seafood or chicken, your meals should include an assortment of these proteins. The American Diabetes Association recommends adding a variety of plant protein sources to your vegetarian diet for healthy muscle growth and a strong immune system.
Nutty for Nuts
Packed with protein, nuts are acceptable for any of the vegetarian diets. Adding 1/4 cup of almonds to your salad provides 8 grams of protein to your diet. Try mixing a variety of nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, pecans and pistachios. Pecans have the lowest amount of protein with 2.5 grams per 1/4 cup, while peanuts provide 9 grams per 1/4 cup. One-quarter cup of cashews adds 5 grams of protein to your salad. Other protein-rich nuts include walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts.
Seeds Aren't Just for the Birds
Seeds not only add protein to salads but also a burst of flavor. All vegetarian diets allow seeds as a source of protein. Pumpkin seeds and flax seeds provide the most protein with 8 grams per 1/4 cup. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds on top of your salad for about 2 grams of protein, and 1 ounce of sunflower seeds gives you about 6 grams of protein.
Plenty of Beans for Protein
Most beans offer you 7 to 10 grams of protein in a 1/2 cup serving. These beans include pinto, kidney, black, navy pea, lentils and lima beans. Soy beans are high in protein with 14 grams per 1/2 cup serving. Dry beans do take a while to prepare, so you can cook up a batch ahead of time and use them during the week for your salads. Canned beans are convenient, save time and still give you the daily protein you need.
Eggs and Cheese
If you follow a semi-vegetarian or lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, you can add hard-boiled eggs sliced or crumbled up to your salad. One whole egg provides 6.3 grams of protein. The egg white has 3.6 grams, and the yolk contains 2.7 grams. According to Harvard University School of Public Health, eating one egg per day is nutritious and does not raise the risk of heart disease in healthy people. Lacto-vegetarians also have the option of adding any type of cheese cubes or shredded cheese to their salad. One ounce of cheese can provide from 4 to 7 grams of protein, depending upon the type.