Beef, chicken, fish and dairy products aren't the only sources of protein. Plenty of plant foods, including beans, nuts and grains, provide protein — just not as much as animal sources — so, as a vegetarian, you'll need to make smart food choices to get 200 grams of protein a day. But you may want to start by reconsidering how much protein you actually need.
Types of Vegetarians
Your options for getting 200 g of protein a day depend on what type of vegetarian diet you follow. According to the Vegetarian Society:
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"A vegetarian does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, insects, by-products of slaughter or any food made with processing aids created from these."
However, vegetarians may include eggs and/or dairy in their diets, in which case they're categorized as:
- Lacto-vegetarians, who include dairy products but not eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs but not dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who include eggs and dairy in their diets.
Once you've determined what kind of vegetarian diet you follow or would like to follow, you can identify the protein-rich foods within each food group that will help you plan your 200-g protein vegetarian diet.
Protein-Packed Plant Foods
All plant foods contain some protein. Even a cup of romaine lettuce has .5 g of protein. But that's not even 1 percent of 200 g, so you'll need some foods with a little more protein power, such as:
Plant-based protein powders are often more concentrated sources of protein. Using these in smoothies or to stir into oatmeal will help you get more protein than you could from whole foods alone. Some choices you have when choosing a plant-based protein powder include:
- Pea protein: 21 g per 28-g serving
- Hemp protein: 12 g per serving
- Pumpkin seed protein: 18 g per serving
- Brown rice protein: 22 g per serving
- Soy protein: 22 g per serving
Dairy and Eggs
If you eat dairy, eggs or both, your protein options are a lot more extensive. Eggs are said to be among the most bioavailable sources of protein in the human diet. According to a 2004 review in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, egg has a biological value of 100, second only to whey, with a value of 104. One large egg has 6 g of protein.
Milk, with 8 g of protein per cup, has a biological value of 94, making it another high-quality protein source. Other protein-rich milk products include:
- Cottage cheese: 15 g per 1/2 cup
- Yogurt: 10 g per cup
- Greek yogurt: 22.5 g per cup
Including eggs and dairy in your vegetarian diet also offers more protein powder options:
How Much Do You Need?
Now that you know which vegetarian foods are highest in protein, you can maximize your meals and snacks to meet your daily goals. However, something to consider is that you may not need as much protein as you think. The recommended daily intake for protein is 46 g for women and 56 g for men. While this is likely suitable for sedentary or moderately active people, people who exercise strenuously, who are into bodybuilding or who are athletes will need more — but not as much as people often think.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, athletes need 1.2 to 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. That's 92 to 154 g of protein per day for a 170-pound person. Chances are, unless you're a professional quarterback, you don't need 200 g of protein — and reducing your protein intake will make it much easier to get all the vegetarian protein you need.
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Lettuce, cos or romaine, raw
- USDA: Branded Food Products Database: Full Report (All Nutrients): Traditional Seitan, UPC: 016741311336
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Tofu, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride (nigari) a
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Chickpeas (garbanzo beans, bengal gram), mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Quinoa, cooked
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, without salt
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Seeds, hemp seed, hulled
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Nuts, almonds a b
- Healthline: The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians
- Journal of Sports Science and Medicine: Protein – Which is Best?
- USDA: National Nutrient Database: Egg, whole, raw, fresh
- Dairy Nutrition: Milk Products: Source of High-Quality Protein
- BulkSupplements.com: Casein Protein Powder
- Puritan's Pride: Totally Egg Dutch Chocolate
- National Academy of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Protein and the Athlete: How Much Do You Need?
- Vegetarian Society: What Is a Vegetarian?