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18 Foods to add Protein to Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

Updated on September 1, 2016

So you have decided to look into healthier lifestyles and wonder what it means to be a vegetarian or vegan. Whatever your reasons for considering to opt out of animal product consumption. The need for proteins in your diet will not change. Adding additional protein to your diet can easily be done without consuming meat or animal products. You just need to know what foods will give you extra protein. Here are a few reasons people choose to become vegan or vegetarians:

  • Medical or health issues.
  • Morals and ethical concerns for the treatment of animals.
  • Religious affiliations.
  • Preferring a vegetable rich diet over meat consumption.
  • Dieting.

Whatever your reasons for making this lifestyle change, you are sure to find many ways to add protein to your new diet and lifestyle.

Many delicious treats can be made vegan and vegetarian friendly. Such as this vegan pizza.
Many delicious treats can be made vegan and vegetarian friendly. Such as this vegan pizza.

Vegan or Vegetarian

Being a vegetarian means a person that does not consume meat, or meat products. Sometimes they will also include other animal products as well (eggs, milk). Often times this decision is made out of religious or moral standing. Sometimes this decision is also based on medical and health concerns. Now that you know what vegetarianism is you are probably wondering how that differs from veganism.

Being veganmeans that you absolutely abstain from the use of ALL animal products. Focusing on diet, and a vegan will often non food items made from animals as well. It follows the philosophy that animals are not commodities and they should be treated with respect. Basically nothing animal related at all in your diet or on your body. No leather or fur coats, or any other clothing derived from animals.

Vegucated
Vegucated

Vegucated is a documentary that can open your eyes to many things you did not know about veganism, vegetarianism, and the animal farming industry. I learned some great eye opening things about the food industry I did not know when I watched it.

 

The Choice To Be Vegetarian or Vegan

You may have stumbled on to this hub for many reasons. Are you wondering why you would make the choice to stop being a carnivore? Or, you may just have a veggie loving friend and you wonder what they can eat.

If you are making the decision to go all veg, it can be a hard one. For those of that love bacon and other meats, you may find yourself missing those strips of bacon with your breakfast. Just keep in mind that if you find it really is not for you, that is totally okay. No one should be judging you on your eating habits anyway!

If you are not sure if you can commit to the lifestyle change, start out small. Make one meal a day a vegetarian meal. You can opt for just lunch and work your way up to breakfast as well. If you find that you do well with the switch then you should be able to easily fade out the meat in your dinner or supper as well.

There are many great snacks for the veggie lover too, you could start small and just try snacking on your veg to begin with. If you aim at weight loss with this lifestyle change, you could be disappointed. Although most people do see a drop in the waistline, it may be less than you expect.

If you are still not sure if you can do it. You may find the documentary Vegucated to be very enlightening, as it follows a few people that were not sure they could commit to the change. As well as opening our eyes to the truth behind 'big food' and factory farming. If you are an animal lover there are a few images that may bother you, when they visit a factory farm (just a heads up). You may want to check with Netflix to see if it is available for streaming. It is well worth watching, and very enlightening for anyone considering a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Importance of Protien in a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet

Are you wondering why you need a protein source if you are deciding on a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. It is the main building block of our bodies, that's why!

Proteins are used to make organs, hormones, muscles, tendons and even our skin! As well as being used by our bodies to make neurotransmitters, enzymes and tiny muscles that you may not even realize you use! It only makes sense why a protein packed meal is so desirable before a workout! A breakfast high in protein will set your energy level for the entire day too.

Do You Need Protein Rich Foods in a Vegetarian or Vegan Lifestyle

If you have decided you are ready to change not just your eating habits but the entire lifestyle of a carnivore, you still need proteins. They are an essential nutrient that our bodies need. Since you will be avoiding animal based proteins you will need to find other means of filling this nutritional need. There are many health issues that can occur if one does not eat enough protein.

The focus is on lean healthy proteins. There are many groups of proteins, and they all help in their own way. Amino acidsare an important group that comes from protein. There are a total of 22 amino acids. There are "essential amino acids" and "nonessential amino acids" these are both equally important in your body.

These acids strengthen the intestinal cells,stabilizes the immune system, helps you deal with stress, reduces anxiety and even helps deter depression. The amino acidsornithine and arginine and glutamine are essential for obtaining good night's sleep and eliminating fatigue. While Carnitine supports brain functions, stabilizes moods, and reduces stress. Amino acids are often linked with weight loss as well. Especially when used in conjunction with whey powder it can help build muscle.

Salads are a healthy wonderful way to eat without including meat products. There are many nuts that pair well with salads to add additional protein.
Salads are a healthy wonderful way to eat without including meat products. There are many nuts that pair well with salads to add additional protein.

18 Proteins for Vegans and Vegetarians

I want to point out that I am not a full on vegetarian or vegan. I like alternative proteins in my diet. While meat provides me with protein there are many other GREAT proteins available. I replace meat with alternative proteins very often. I just really love my bacon y'all! Sorry if you find that offensive as you are embarking on this journey. So just call me a 'PT VT' (part time vegetarian). What I am is very knowledgeable in alternative protein sources. Even though I am still a part time carnivore.

Consider these 18 alternatives to meat based proteins if you are pursuing Vegetarianism or Veganism:

  • Beans
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seed
  • Soy
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Tempeh
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Kaniwa
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Nut butters
  • Seitan
  • Spirulina

Those are some great foods that will add some protein to any vegan or vegetarian diet. Using them in recipes will help to add protein to your dishes. Chia seeds have 11 grams of protein in just an ounce. I enjoy using chia seeds as a binding agent for baking instead of eggs. There are many available soy products on the market. Products like soy Milk, yogurt, edamame, soy nuts, even soy ice cream. Flax Seed is great for adding to recipes too and 1 cup has 31 grams of protein. Flax is a great source of added protein to any diet.



Deciding to be a Vegan or Vegatarian is a Lifestyle Change

If you are considering a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, and you find it overwhelming- do not get discouraged. There are plenty of fruits and veggies out there that will keep you from eating the same old thing over and over.

Lettuce wraps are a perfect example. Crunchy and crisp while filled with anything you choose. You can make a mango salsa and fill lettuce wraps for a little tropical treat! Or make a peanut sauce and fill them with grilled tofu drizzled in the sauce! The possibilities are only limited by your own imagination!

Again I am not a full on vegetarian or vegan. Although I do eat many meat free meals and dishes at home.

Vegetable Choices

You can go willy nilly and buy whatever vegetables you like. Although if you would like to learn about what GMO means as opposed to organic vegetables you can read about it here.

Consider growing your own veggies. Think about it, what you buy in the market during winter are all out of season products, likely ripened by the use of gasses. By growimg your own you can preserve them at their peak of ripness and enjoy them at their most nutrition rich state all winter. Without buying the really tasteless crops available at big box stores and grocery retailers.

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    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 2 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      I am not a vegetarian but my granddaughter is. I do worry if she is getting enough protein. She does eat fish though. I am going to try to get her to read this hub, it might help her understand the importance of protein. Thank you for sharing this information.

      Blessings to you.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Hoover 2 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Protein is essential Rachel! I hope that she is eating alternative proteins at least! Hopefully if she reads the hub she will find some choices she may not have known about! Thank you for reading and commenting! Have a blessded day!

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 2 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Cynthia, I sent your hub to my daughter, who is Aunt Ess, on the hubpages. It's her daughter I want to read this. If she doesn't I know my daughter will.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Hoover 2 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Thank you Rachel for sharing it with them!

    • Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

      Matthew A Easterbrook 2 years ago from Oregon

      Cynthia I will have to admit that i am also a PTVT..LOL..yes I stumble in the morning with my bacon or sausage and eggs. I grew up as a true country boy at heart. I do make an effort to eat healthy and that does include a lot of fresh vegetables, fruit, and nuts from my local Farmer's Market.

      Great hub overall.

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Hoover 2 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      I do eat mostly vegan during growing season- I walk right outside and pick what we will be eating for lunch! I love it! Yet, bacon is just one of those not so good for you but oh, so tasty things. Hard to give it up! I know some people are against using animals as food, but I too being a country girl, was raised with animals for meat!

    • Matt Easterbrook5 profile image

      Matthew A Easterbrook 2 years ago from Oregon

      Cynthia old felicious habits like bacon are hatd to break..lol

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, Cynthia. I've been trying to find TVP for two months and had no luck in my grocery stores. I might have to buy it online, if one final store that haven't it. I never had chia or flax seeds before. But I would love to try tempeh, tofu and seitan someday. Are they any good? Voted up for useful!

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Hoover 2 years ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Thank you Kristen for the votes! Tofu is awesome - think of it like a sponge if you cook it with garlic and veggies it will take on flavor notes from them. Or anything else you cook it with. I like chopping it up into small blocks or chunks and sauteing it with some fresh garlic, rosemary, thyme and then adding in some asparagus - yummy! I can not find the tempeh or the seitan in my area :( so I can't give a good answer on what they taste like. I do know from what I have read that Tempeh seems more popular than tofu with many vegetarians these days - I think it depends on what you can find at the market in your own area. There is only a very small 4 foot section of vegan and vegetarian products at the market I go to.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks for the tips Cynthia on tofu. I would give it a try.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Thanks for the tips Cynthia on tofu. I would give it a try.

    • Chuck Bluestein profile image

      Chuck Bluestein 4 months ago from Morristown, AZ, USA

      Where does the fear of not getting enough protein come from? It is like the fear of swallowing your tongue? Neither exists. The latter comes from old CPR teachers and the former comes from the meat industry. There is no fear of getting enough carbs or fat. The fear of not getting enough calcium comes from the dairy industry.

      The only people who have a protein deficiency are starving to death. Here is a simple question. Name one fruit or vegetable that does not have all essential amino acids. God or nature has not created one, ever. There is a perfect balance of amino acids. One group has 100 or over as a complete protein. Sirloin steak is 94 so it is incomplete. Kiwi fruit is 105 so it is a complete protein. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fru...

    • Cynthia Hoover profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Hoover 4 months ago from Newton, West Virginia

      Chuck, thanks for the comment. While I can understand your position. I also know of many health conditions that can cause the need for added protein. My mother has an autoimmune disease and it is imperative to add additional protein to her diet, while staying away from a more standard 'carnivorous' diet due to food restrictions and allergies. Kiwi for example is a fruit that my mother cannot eat. So while I can completely understand your point there are many exceptions to what you stated. Needing additional protein is very common for many people, and especially those with autoimmune diseases and disorders. My mother also has bone loss, and added calcium to her diet is imperative. While I do have my disagreements with Big Dairy and many other agricultural industries (as evident in some of my other hubs) I also understand first hand what many deficiencies can do to a person.

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