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Alternatives to Soy: Proteins for Vegetarians

Updated on October 30, 2012

You're a vegetarian (or maybe even a vegan) and you're concerned about getting enough protein in your diet. Perhaps you've been using soy products for years to get the protein you need, but you're looking for some alternatives to soy because the soy supplement is getting old. Maybe there's a health reason that you can't eat soy anymore, such as an allergy, and you want to stick to your vegan principles without further compromising your health by not getting enough protein. Whatever the reason, you're looking for non-soy proteins that are vegetarian-friendly.

Here are some options that you have for getting the protein, sticking to your vegetarian diet and not having to eat soy:

  • Wheat grains. Wheat grains are very high in protein and serve as the best non-soy alternative for vegetarians. Vegetarian breads made without dairy will work for vegans as well.
  • Pastas. Pastas are another terrific option. Choose non-bleached pasta for the most healthful option. Add protein-rich vegetables to your pasta for additional benefits and better flavor.
  • Cereals. Certain cereals are rich in protein and offer a great way to get a good start on the day. Since you can't drink soy milk with them, consider rice milk or another milk alternative. Protein-rich cereals can also be combined with nuts and dried fruits to make trail mix snacks that are high in protein, giving you a protein boost throughout the day.
  • Protein-rich vegetables. If you choose your vegetables wisely and prepare them healthfully (eating them raw or steamed lightly), they can be a terrific source of protein. The vegetables you'll want to stock up on for protein purposes include leeks, parsley, chives, and red and green peppers.
  • Seaweed. Technically a vegetable, seaweed deserves a category of its own because it is such a popular non-soy choice for proteins. It is added to vegan shakes to boost proteins or can be consumed on its own.
  • Seeds. Seeds of all kinds are rich in protein. They can be eaten alone as snacks, combined into trail mix, added as a topping to salads and used as an ingredient in entrees. Sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are the most popular high-protein seeds.
  • Walnuts, almonds and cashews. Nuts aren't as high in protein as seeds but they're another good choice to add to your daily diet to get the protein you need. These ones are highest in protein compared to others.
  • Apricots and peaches. Fruit is not generally a great source of protein. But since you probably have some fruit in your regular diet, choose apricots and peaches since they're among the highest in protein content for their food category.
  • Health food supplements. There are many special products which are on the market that harness the protein power of some of these other categories. For example, spirulina is a popular health food choice amongst people who like the idea of getting their protein from vegetables or seaweed but who want it conveniently packaged.

Another option is to check out the non-soy vegetarian-friendly protein powders and supplements which are on the market. However, since there are so many natural options available to you, there's no real need to look into this alternative.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    7 years ago

    No! I've been a vegan for two years and I have tons of energy. Here are some tips:1. Make sure you don't eat too many carbs if you're fnleieg hungry. Opt for vegetables or fruits or nuts or something more filling. Or else you'll find yourself fnleieg hungry.2. Know what vegetables are really good for you in terms of vitamins. For example, kale has tons of calcium, so you don't even need milk. You could also get soy milk with calcium. Things like that are super easy to find using google.3. Get your protein! I don't know if you cook your own meals but if you do, using recipes with tofu is a good choice. If you don't want to do that or don't like the taste of tofu, get some nuts like almonds and snack on them (but not too much!).-Those are my biggest tips but send me a message if you have any other questions! Good luck =)

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    What you are talking about is a life style chgane not a diet. Diets are temporary and do not last. Also neither a vegan or vegetarian diets has more weight loss benefits than the other. Weight loss has to do with metabolism, diet, and exercise. Basically you just need to watch how many calories you are taking in daily. Vegetarians and vegans are definitely not always skinny. Although their limited diets consist of foods that are lower in calories they also deprive the body of important nutrients if care is not taken. I suggest becoming a pescatarian (i.e. essentially a vegetarian that eats fish and seafood). Regardless you do not need to become a vegan ect to lose weight. Eat lean meat, plenty of fruits and vegtables, whole grain wheat breads, and drink plenty of water. Just limit your consumption. One should never eat until he/she feels "full". Also people who eat throughout the day tend to weigh less. Eat small meals ( lunch example: sandwich(bread,meat, maybe cheese/ a yogurt/ and an apple) and eat a small snack in between to prevent hunger (carrots, celery, or a banana). Most people overeat because of prolonged hunger. And finally make sure you get at least 30min. of exercise daily.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    I tend to be a bit more veggie oriented during summer, thanks for all the great tips!

  • jainismus profile image

    Mahaveer Sanglikar 

    9 years ago from Pune, India

    Thank you for writing this Hub. It will surely help to vegetarians and to be vegetarians!

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Thanks for this article. I've never considered fruits as a source of protein before, but it all counts when you're a vegetarian!

    BTW: seitan is a superb non-soy protein source (although not for the gluten-intolerant). Anyone who'd like to learn more about this meat substitute can find info at When you reach the page, scroll down a bit to find the seitan...

  • profile image

    dr dennis 

    9 years ago

    What's the best sources of omega 3 oils for vegans is my email

  • profile image

    The Best Whey Protein 

    10 years ago

    Great article. Nuts are among one of my favorites for soy alternatives. Greats info and i never thought of seaweed. Thank you.

  • loves2cook profile image


    10 years ago from Portland, OR

    This is a great list of protein-rich foods for people who don't, or can't, consume soy. I agree that the complete protein quinoa is a good source, although its taste and texture may not be as pleasant for some. Quinoa pastas are great in that case.

    Thanks for the hub!

  • Cheryl J. profile image

    Cheryl J. 

    10 years ago from Houston, TX

    Great and helpful information. Thanks for the insight and the different supplements on soy products. Thanks for the health tips.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Quinoa, can add anything to it from soy sauce to reggiano to grilled veggies, and major protein.

  • chechetka profile image


    10 years ago from London, UK

    Really good information, thanks for sharing! I am a vegetarian only for about 3 months, but I am really concerned about keeping my diet balanced. Being vegetarian does not automatically mean being healthy and I know it is crucial to keep all the vitamins and minerals coming:) I found a good way of keeping informed by subscribing to a vegetarian ezine, it's fairly cheap, here is the site

    Keep it up Kathryn!

  • fucsia profile image


    10 years ago

    I am vegan and do not eat soy: I do not like it! But it is true: the proteins are in many foods. The difference is that in soya there are all the essential amino acids, instead in other foods there are not all. So it is important to have a varied diet.

    Thanks for your good advice!


  • lindaadams37 profile image


    10 years ago

    Love this! Keep it up!

  • profile image

    Protein After Workout 

    10 years ago

    Great article! You've been busy at Hubpages you've got over 800?! WOW. Anyway, one supplement I love is protein especially after your workouts when your muscles need it most!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Great article!

    I had been always wondering which sources of protein would be the right one. I am a vegetarian newbie so i still new to this lifestyle

    The great thing is that i found another excellent webiste for helping new vegetarians with the transition to the vegetarian lifestyle called Vegetarian Newbie that helps to answer these questions about protein, soy , soy products.

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    Why can't you use original Silk soy milk with cereal? I do, what's the problem?

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    I recently found this website

    There are some great tips on here for happy soy free living and, although brand new, has already updated food product suggestions, restaurant suggestions and more!

    Check it out at the above link!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    The list did not include the pulse family (minus soy). Dried and cooked or canned peas and beans are low cost, high in fiber, low fat, and highly nutritious. Someone mentioned lentils, which are excellent, but there are many others besides. If the diet includes whole grains, the protein usability from pulses increase.

  • kartbahnfan profile image


    10 years ago from Dusiburg, Germany

    I've bookmarked it for further reference!

  • profile image


    10 years ago

    very helpful!

  • profile image

    Vegetarian Protein 

    11 years ago

    I have just turned vegetarian and have been quite worried about what other sources of food I could get my protein from. you have opened my eyes to an array of vegetables, nuts and seeds. Thanks

  • jamiesweeney profile image


    11 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

    Thanks for pointing out the protein benefit of protein rich vegetables. I tend to forget that certain vegetables have protein in them. This is a very informative hub. Thanks!

  • VegetarianLikeMe profile image


    11 years ago

    Wow...this is a great article. Thanks for sharing. As a vegetarian I can always use some more suggestions for my diet. Thanks again

  • profile image

    Gastro WebWorks 

    11 years ago

    Nice hub, I have a few small things to add on top of what you mentioned here.

    First, lentils (in the bean family) are one of the most healthy foods in the world, and are high in protein.

    Second, my personal favorite seed to use is flax seed. It is high and protein and fiber. I grind them to use in smoothies, or sprinkle a teaspoon whole into oatmeal or yogurt for some added crunch. It used to be obscure, but you can find it at most grocery stores now, although sometimes just in ground/milled form.

    Thanks for sharing Kathryn!

  • highwaystar profile image


    13 years ago from Australia

    Thanks for sharing your excellent information, very well presented, keep up the great work.


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