It is no secret that people who do not eat meat must obtain their protein through other food sources. High-protein vegetarian snacks offer alternatives to getting enough protein without eating meat.
Protein is an important macronutrient that plays many vital roles in the body. While its heavily associated with animal products, protein can also be found in plant-based foods like legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and soy.
Vegetarians do not consume any meat — including beef, poultry and fish — though they do consume dairy and eggs. Vegans, on the other hand, do not consume any animal products. Therefore, both vegans and vegetarians rely on many plant-based sources for their protein. Even without meat, you can still sneak in some extra protein in your daily snacks.
Vegetarians and Protein
Due to the benefits of protein and high protein content in animal products, it is easy for non-vegetarians to consume more protein than necessary. Because of their meatless diets, many people worry that vegetarians and vegans do not consume enough protein. However, the recommended protein consumption is less than you probably would guess.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adult women need 46 grams of protein per day, and adult men need between 52 and 56 grams of protein per day. This varies per person based on age, sex, activity level and body weight. Calculate your estimated protein RDA based on your information.
Animal products tend to be some of the most protein-rich foods, so vegetarians may have an extra hurdle to prevent consuming too little protein. Consuming too much protein is also concerning.
To compensate for the lack of meat, the Dietary Guidelines recommends that vegetarians consume plenty of legumes, soy products, nuts and seeds. Some vegetables and grains are also vegetarian sources of protein.
Yogurt With Toppings
Yogurt parfaits are a classic breakfast or snack option. Vegetarians can consume dairy yogurt while vegans or people with lactose intolerance can opt for non-dairy yogurts. There are even yogurts made from almond, coconut, soy and cashew. For non-dairy options with the highest protein per serving, opt for almond or soy yogurts.
A serving of yogurt is typically between 5 and 6 ounces. According to the USDA, a 6-ounce container of plain dairy yogurt contains 5.9 grams of protein. Per the USDA, a similar sized container of plain almond milk yogurt contains 6 grams of protein.
Some high-protein snack recipes transform plain yogurt into a parfait or yogurt bowl. Adding nuts, seeds, granola, fruit or protein powder can add additional protein. There are many types of yogurt and toppings to choose from, so you will never run out of high-protein snack recipes made with yogurt.
Fruit and Nut Mix
Trail mix has been one of the classic high-protein vegetarian snacks for ages. Both fruit and nuts are full of vitamins and minerals, though nuts are higher in protein. A 1-ounce serving of mixed fruit and nuts contains approximately 4 grams of protein.
Since nuts have a high caloric density, the relationship between nut consumption and weight loss is vague. A May 2014 study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Science explored this relationship and found that consuming 50 grams of almonds per day leads to greater weight loss. This serving size provides 10.6 grams of protein.
Nuts are also allowed on low-carb diets. Mixed nuts with minimal dried fruit make for nutritious yet high-protein, low-carb vegan snacks.
Peanut Butter and Almond Butter
Nut butter is an excellent source of protein and fat for vegetarians and vegans. It is also lower in carbohydrates, so it can be used in high-protein, low-carb vegan snacks.
If your only relationship with peanut butter is in sandwiches, you will be delighted to know that there are many ways to eat nut butter. For snacks, try dipping celery and apple slices in peanut butter. You can also add almond butter to a quick high-protein smoothie.
Boiled or Dry Roasted Edamame
There is a reason why many Asian-style restaurants serve edamame as an appetizer — this type of soybean is packed with protein, and it is delicious. According to the USDA, a 100-calorie serving of boiled edamame packs 10.6 grams of protein.
High-protein vegetarian snacks made with edamame also have added health benefits. A March 2017 study published in Nutrients confirms the heart health benefits of soy protein. Specifically, protein from soybeans is associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers call for more studies to confirm the correlation between soy protein and CVD risk factors, such as hypertension and cholesterol.
High-protein, low-carb vegan snacks can also be made with edamame. To make edamame, boil the frozen beans until they are cooked and served with soy sauce. Alternatively, you get dry roasted edamame beans to replace salty processed snacks.
Read more: Soy Protein vs. Meat Protein
Hummus and Veggies
Dips are one of many comfort foods. If weight loss is your goal, chips and dip may seem off limits because they can be high in fat and calories. However, hummus is an alternative that is vegetarian, high in protein and a good source of healthy fats. It is made with a base of chickpeas or garbanzo beans and olive oil.
Fitting snacks into your weight loss diet can be tricky. The Mayo Clinic experts recommend sticking to snacks that contain 100 or fewer calories. According to the USDA, 2 tablespoons of hummus contain just 50 calories yet 2.4 grams of protein. Use raw veggies like bell pepper, carrots and cucumber as low-calorie vessels for the hummus.
Read more: Is Hummus Bad for Weight Loss?
High-Protein Snack Recipes
Regardless of your dietary preferences, many people enjoy and benefit from vegetarian snacks. Plant-based foods like fruit, veggies, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds tend to be lower in calories, so these snacks can also fit into weight loss plans.
For even more variety, try some of these high-protein vegetarian snacks:
Though there is a stigma around meatless diets and protein, many vegetarians and vegans are proof that a well-planned meatless diet can be just as high in protein. If meatless meals are not providing your daily protein requirements, add in some of these high-protein snacks. Plus, these vegetarian snacks can also be made vegan.
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 5. USDA Food Patterns: Healthy Vegetarian Eating Pattern”
- USDA FoodData Central: “Trail Mix”
- MyFoodData: “Nutrition Facts for Plain Yogurt”
- USDA Food Composition Database: “Kite Hill Artisan Almond Milk Yogurt, Plain”
- USDA FoodData Central: “Almond Butter”
- USDA FoodData Central: “Peanut Butter”
- Journal of Research in Medical Science: “The Effect of Almonds on Anthropometric Measurements and Lipid Profile in Overweight and Obese Females in a Weight Reduction Program: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial”
- MyFoodData: “Nutrition Facts for Almonds”
- MyFoodData: “Nutrition Facts for Hummus (Commercial)”
- Mayo Clinic: “Snacks: How They Fit Into Your Weight-Loss Plan”
- MyFoodData: “Nutrition Facts for Boiled Soybeans (Edamame)”
- Nutrients: “Beyond the Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Soy Protein: A Review of the Effects of Dietary Soy and Its Constituents on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease”
- USDA: Nutrient Data Laboratory