Nutrition Articles

How to Meet Your Protein Needs without Meat

A Guide to Vegetarian Protein Sources

Eating a vegetarian diet can be very healthful and rewarding. However, most vegetarians—including soon-to-be vegetarians and their meat-eating loved ones—are concerned about getting adequate protein. Most people are accustomed to getting protein from meat, but what else contains protein? Aren't plant-based proteins "incomplete" or lower quality?

Fortunately, with a bit of extra attention, you won't have any trouble meeting your protein needs just because you give up meat. There are so many protein-packed vegetarian options! Did you know that most foods, including vegetables, have some of the essential muscle-building nutrient? Without looking closely, it is easy to miss some great sources. (Who knew a cup of broccoli had 3 grams!)

Nuts, seeds, soy products, cereal, eggs and dairy are all good meatless protein choices. These groups of food each contain different amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and different levels of protein quality. There is no need to consume certain foods in special combinations as nutritionists once thought! When your diet includes a variety of each of these types of foods, you can rest assured that you're consuming all the amino acids you need for muscle growth and cell repair. 

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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • ANGEL530917
    In order to print any thing, just press Control and then the key "p" for print. It works all the time.
    - 10/23/2015 2:25:04 PM
    LITTLEWIND53 -- In answer to your question (and it may have already been answered -- I didn't read all 119 comments), you can print articles using the blue MORE button. It has a print function. - 9/18/2015 7:37:09 PM
  • I used to be able to print articles I thought would be beneficial to my meal plan. This is such an article, But I CAN'T FIND A PRINT ICON

    I do have vision problems and may just be missing it. Could anyone help me please???? - 9/7/2015 5:34:06 PM
    I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't care for red meat, great article , I will use this info - 9/6/2015 6:01:41 AM
  • TREWESTERRE - I am a breast cancer survivor. My cancer was estrogen receptor positive, and my oncologist told me to avoid ALL soy foods, because the phytoestrogens in soy can feed that type of cancer. I'll listen to my doctor who is also a breast cancer researcher. - 9/5/2015 4:06:29 PM
  • Contrary to popular opinion, no, soy is not bad for cancer patients or people with thyroid conditions (the latter are generally advised to wait four hours after taking their medication before eating soy) and GMO foods have not been shown to be dangerous to anyone's health.

    You probably shouldn't overdo soy, but you shouldn't overdo anything you eat anyway. Eat a varied diet and don't worry about it so much.

    Also, for quick preparation low-sodium legumes, get some red lentils. They cook as quick as rice does. Actually, any dried legumes can be hydrated in a rice cooker. It's super convenient, though it can take some time depending on the legume you're preparing (e.g. chickpeas will take a few hours, but it's faster than soaking or boiling them on a stove). - 9/5/2015 4:26:44 AM
  • Since I've become vegan I am always looking for new sources of protein. I never realized buckwheat had so much protein. Thanks for a great article. - 8/26/2015 11:00:57 AM
  • Yes, I can definitely include these protein in my diet, and skip meat, chicken or fish on that meal. Thanks for the information. Will post this on my pinterest for reference. - 8/18/2015 4:25:17 AM
    It's a change of pace to eat these foods, but that's all, not any better or quicker for weight loss if you don't watch the portion size, as far as weight loss, don't be fooled. You will still lose weight, and GMO free or not, makes no difference in weight loss, either. - 7/18/2015 6:19:57 AM
  • Plant based protein in my opinion is the best source of protein! You'll be amazed how better you will feel and how fast your weight comes off! You feel leaner, have more energy and overall you feel so much better and you can eat a lot more too! :) - 6/24/2015 4:09:15 PM
  • Absolutely fantastic article - clear, informative, so thorough. Thank you for posting this. I will bookmark it so I can continue to refer to it. - 6/24/2015 11:34:12 AM
  • I love meatless meals, great proteins...but; for someone that is watching their fat grams (15 grams per day) and sodium ( no more than 1500 mg per day) nuts are so high in fat and even rinsing beans I know the sodium is higher than I need. I've made beans from dry lots but you have to use that " P" word ( plan) , can elude me at times. I eat a ton of egg whites and fish and chicken. I add rinsed black bean and chickpeas to venison/turkey meatloaf. I'd love some recipes with low...LOW fat and sodium...PLEASE! - 6/21/2015 9:39:28 PM
  • HENRY123G4
    This was very interesting and useful. I was shocked to see that almonds contain more fat than Cashews. I was always told to stay clear of Cashews. I'm not a fan of giving meat up completely, I love a grilled steak every Sunday evening, but I do want to give it up for the rest of the week. Thanks ! - 1/17/2015 10:08:39 AM
  • I know it's generally eaten as if it were a grain, but quinoa is technically a seed. - 1/10/2015 10:23:16 PM
    Really good information. I am going to have to work on this a bit, but may have to stick with keeping a small amount of meat in my diet. My challenge is that I try to limit grains insomuch as possible, and I avoid cheese, milk, etc. (I do like Greek yogurt!)

    I do like egg whites, and this tends to be my "go to" aside from periodic salmon and "Ostrim" sticks that I keep in my car for quick protein snacks after workouts.

    I have some work to do here...

    Thanks for sharing. - 12/29/2014 8:57:53 PM

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