Protein Sources for Vegans

One main concern about a plant based diet is getting adequate protein. This comes a bit easier for me since I am a Registered Dietitian and I live, work, eat, sleep, breath and think food and nutrition all the time. My rule of thumb is to eat a plant based protein source with every meal. While I love my greens and organic carrots, I boost up my protein intake with these other protein sources:

Delicious kale and fresh tomatoes are the base of my lunches and a source of protein is always added.

Delicious kale and fresh tomatoes are the base of my lunches and a source of protein is always added.

Nut butters

– Choose natural peanut butter. Be sure to look at the grams of sugar on the nutrition facts panel! We don’t want to see sugar as the second ingredient in the list. There are plenty of natural peanut butters made without added sugars as well. Also, look at the ingredient list to see if the nut butter is made with added oil or just ground up peanuts or ground up almonds. Give almond butter and cashew butter a try! These nut butters are made with ground almonds or ground cashews (sometimes the word “butter” makes things a bit confusing).

Natural peanut butter and plain rice cakes! My favorite combo!

Natural peanut butter and plain rice cakes! My favorite combo!

Tofu

– Always buy organic tofu! You can find tofu in the refrigerator section of produce area (at least that is how it goes for Publix). Check out these tofu tips for all of those entering an unfamiliar territory. What I love about tofu is that it is very versatile. For a plant based protein source it is also low in carbohydrates.

Guide for tofu prep in the link above!

Guide for tofu prep in the link above!

Beans

– Not only do beans pack protein but they contain a great source of fiber. I use hummus daily on my kale salad as a “dressing” of sorts. Use a variety of beans throughout the week to obtain all the essential amino acids. Beans are a great addition to soups and chili as well as in vegan quesadillas and as a salad topper.

Butternut squash soup with white cannellini beans!

Butternut squash soup with white cannellini beans!

Protein powders/bars

– There are more and more convenience type products that are catering to the vegan sector. Not only are common brands like Larabar and the Kind bar vegan, there are many others in your local natural foods store. A couple of my new favorites are the GoodonYa bar and NuGo bar. I also will blend a smoothie a few times a week using a plant based protein powder. My current protein powder of choice is Sun Warrior. The bars typically have anywhere from 5 to 15 grams of protein, while the protein powders typically have around 20 grams.

So many bars to choose from! Most vegan bars state "vegan" under the ingredient list.

So many bars to choose from! Most vegan bars state “vegan” under the ingredient list.

Quinoa

– I love this nutty whole grain! Quinoa contains all the essential amino acids (that our bodies can’t produce) making this a winner in the vegan world. I use this similarly to beans and throw it into soups and chili as well as adding a couple tablespoons to my kale salad. Never cooked quinoa before? Instructions here!

Quinoa my favorite!

Quinoa my favorite!

Soy milk

– Let my love affair with soy lattes be known! This has been my greatest obsession and reasoning for stopping and grabbing a soy latte these days… protein! Heck, as I write this post, I am sitting with Wes drinking a vanilla bean soy latte :)

Soy latte... mmmmmm ("West" for Wes)

Soy latte… mmmmmm (“West” for Wes)

So not only are these necessary protein sources for plant based eating, they can also be incorporated in a carnivorous lifestyle as well. Wes himself has been eating a couple vegetarian meals per week (like my veggie quinoa chili) and luckily is a bean lover and enjoys these meals just as much!

Check out this 1400 calorie vegan meal plan packed with protein!

Check out this 1400 calorie vegan meal plan packed with protein!

This is day 53 of my vegan and gluten free adventure! While recently I can’t say I have been 100% (a couple coconut shrimp in the Florida Keys) but I am really enjoying my diet still. Wes keeps asking me if I will be a vegan forever… and I just don’t see the end in sight at this point!

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