Meet the Best Meatless Protein Sources

By , SparkPeople Blogger
If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you've probably been asked countless questions about how you get your protein. The truth is, it's not as hard as you might think to meet your protein needs when you're going meatless. However, some plant sources are higher in this important nutrient than others. Which veg-friendly food packs more protein: 4 ounces of tofu, 1 cup of cooked lentils, or 1 cup of cooked quinoa

The Winner: Lentils!
Just one cup of lentils packs a whopping 18 grams of protein! However, tofu and quinoa are still good sources, both clocking in at 9 grams per serving. If you're newly vegetarian or vegan, check out these meat-free protein sources for more ideas to satisfy your protein needs and your taste buds!

It's also important to note that both herbivores and omnivores often overestimate proper protein needs. The media is constantly pushing protein as the magic key for weight loss, especially in recent years. Although protein is important for satiety, muscle repair and other bodily processes, it's definitely not the only macronutrient that should be considered in a healthy diet—and getting more than what you need won't do any favors for your waistline or your health. Consume protein in moderation along with an appropriate level of carbohydrates and healthy fats, and you'll get all the nutrients you need to sustain health and long-term weight loss. Wondering how much protein you should eat per day, or how it fits into your macronutrient requirements? Find out with the chart below.

Nutrient Carbohydrates Fat Protein (Women) Protein (Men)
Healthy Range 45%-65% 20%-35% 10%-35% 10%-35%
1200 calories 135-195 g 27-47 g *60-105 g N/A
1500 calories 169-244 g 33-58 g *60-131 g *75-131 g
1800 calories 203-293 g 40-70 g *60-158 g *75-158 g
2100 calories 236-341 g 47-82 g *60-184 g *75-184 g

What's your favorite meatless way to get your protein?


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Thanks for the information Report
MARTHA324 5/9/2021
Will have to remember lentils as I plan vegetarian meals. Report
BELLAVITA3911 4/17/2021
Good info! Report
HIKERNJ 3/18/2021
Great advice on how to keep balance in your diet. Report
DEE107 9/22/2020
thanks Report
1CRAZYDOG 9/1/2020
Thanks for these tips! Report
Great article! Report
Great Report
Sometime veg (25 years) & current omnivore: lentils are great! Gentle, fast, easy to make, & very healthy! One of the *EARLIEST* foods humanity first farmed was a split-pea/lentil type of legume, I've read. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I like all the legumes & tofu plus eat meat, fish, eggs & use soy protein powder in smoothies. Get plenty of it. Report
Beans are a great source of protein. Report
I love different types of bean soups. Report
I always keep lentils in my kitchen. My mom gave me some of her lentil recipes that have been my go-tos when my budget's been tight. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Thanks. I need more protein in my diet. Report
Nice change of pace Report
Thank you! I'm not a big meat eater and have a hard time getting enough protein. Report
Love Quorn products for meatless protein. Report
I’ve been a vegetarian (pescatarian actually) for several years. I only introduced fish because I found I was in desperate need of increasing my protein. I love the way I feel and have adapted quite easily. Nice article, thank you for posting. Report
cooked lentils are great! Report
Beans are great! Report
We love lentil and beef stew . Report
I am a fan of tofu and use a pamphlet I was given years ago with a half dozen recipes. Always ready to try a new one, but live my stir fry with veg - endless variations. And Quick ! Report
I make an eggplant and lentil soup that everyone loves, lots of veggies too! Report
There is a lentil festival that rages every year up in Washington State. Did you know you can do lentil brownies, lentil ice-cream, and much more? hahaha
/legendary-lentil-cook-off/ Report
30-60 grams of protein per day is enough for me. I don't know why we think we need to have so much protein in our diets. It's not good for us and is an excuse to eat too many animals as a result. Of course I've been a vegetarian most of my adult life.
s/protein.html Report
Do the "roasted & salted eddamame beans" i see in the grocery stores suddenly have nearly as much protein as those nutrition facts label reads? Report
LOVE lentils---and so do my grandkids. I'll be checking out recipes shortly! Report
The difference between lentils and the other two protein sources, quinoa and tofu, is that lentils don't have complete protein. Certain essential amino acids are missing. The protein content of foods is misleading as it doesn't indicate the nutritional quality of the food. Quinoa and tofu may in fact be better nutritionally as they contain complete proteins. Report
A dietitian told me that protein from meat is more satisfying than protein from beans. My experience is telling me she may be right. I really don't like eating meat but I also really seem to need to feel satisfied. Report
I'm new and I am loving all the information,my new word which for the day is flexaterian (I think thats spelled right) which was in the comment section from one of the members.
happyduck1 Report
Am planning on checking out some of the vegeterian meals available. Will just have to convince my husband that he doesn't need a 1/2# of hamburger to go with to get his protein! Report
Ah, those magical lentils! Between that and kale, superfoods have met their match. Report
I love lentils, My favorite recipes are sambar (lentil soup), rice khichdi (indian dish)- a one-pot meal with lentils, rice and veggies, crepes made with lentils. Yumm! Report
Bring on the beans and veggies! Quinoa is still just OK for me, give me a piece of whole grain bread instead. Report
Regarding the issue of reducing gas in beans - there are several ideas easily found online. In addition to pre-soaking the beans, and changing the water once or twice, an idea suggested years ago by my naturopathic doctor is to add a 2-3"piece of kombu (sea vegetable that is available in all health food stores and some supermarkets). Several of the benefits of adding kombu include - making the beans more digestible and less gaseous, reducing the cooking the time and the need for salt, and adding iodine, a critical mineral that is lacking in many diets. Report
It is GREAT to know that my protein needs remain constant regardless of calorie needs, I never knew that. Report
I love to read the comments! I like any kind of beans and nuts also. Report
So - who's got a good soup/stew recipe using lentils, tofu and quinoa? Or should we brainstorm one and submit it ourselves? Report
If you suffer from gas/wind when eating lentils/beans etc try asafoetida (also known as hing) powder when cooking them. You can buy it in Asian (primarily Indian) foodstores. It's what the Indians use as they use legumes in high amounts. It's also used for strict vegetarians as a replacement for onions/garlic. Report
I am not vegetarian but I do have good memories of lentils and spaghetti. The thing I like about them is they cook faster than regular beans. Report
My favorite meatless protein are legumes. I also like eating soy beans as well. Great information and thanks for sharing the chart! Report
Thanks for laying out the percentages and grams. These are the numbers I go for, since they are what is recommended by health organizations. (The default amounts Sparks starts with are rather high.)

Quinoa is an awesome grain for protein, and so quick to cook! :) Report
I love lentils! Good article! Report
I LOVE lentils & all kinds of other legumes, & eat them most of the time instead of meat. But I have to say it's still kinda hard to make it to 60 grams/day of protein. I usually add half a cup of fat-free cottage cheese. To go with the beans/lentils I often choose quinoa instead of brown rice, because of the protein content--but I have to watch out there too because quinoa's caloric content is higher. I still think it's a challenge to get enough protein if you're mostly vegetarian--& even harder if you're vegan like my son. We have to be realistic! Report
About the bitter quinoa - I always rinse the seeds in a sieve under running water really well before cooking. Report