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I always remember the scene from my Big Fat Greek Wedding: [upon learning Ian is a vegetarian] ‘what do you mean, he don't eat no meat?! ‘[The entire room stops, in shock. We hear plates break and there are gasps.] ...’That’s okay, that's okay. I make lamb’.
For the carnivores out there the concept of no meat is a tough one to chew on and many of you might have been told that Crossfit or other high intensity workouts might not be possible without it. At the very least, you’ll just about manage.
Of course this is not true at all: vegetarians and vegans can do extremely well. The challenge: getting enough protein. If you are counting macros especially you will find out that reaching your protein numbers is the hardest macro to hit. Impossible? Not at all – you just need a little extra planning – here are some high protein options to help you reach your goals:
1. Wildwood Super firm Tofu
One 20oz container has about 80g protein. If you can eat a 5oz portion that an easy 20g.
For those that do eat eggs, these are not only a great source of protein but also contain a huge array of vitamins and minerals. At 6g of protein per egg it is one of the cheapest good quality proteins out there. To limit the fat you can combine extra whites with maybe 1 or 2 whole eggs (the yolks are where most of the nutrients are but also where the fat and cholesterol stay).
2 whole eggs plus 2 whites will give you about 20g protein.
3. Veggie Chilli
Most versions of meatless chili will include at least 2-3 different types of beans, which is what really pushes the protein up as beans contain about 7g protein per half cup.
You can search on your favorite food websites for a recipe you like – this one from Cooking Light uses cannellini and kidney beans and will get you 15g of protein per serving.
Find the recipe at:
The great thing about these meals is that you can make large batches and freeze them!
4. Greek Yogurt
This type is much higher in protein than regular yogurt because it is strained to removed the whey resulting in a much thicker yogurt – it can be a little tart in flavor but you can always add a touch of honey and other spices like cinnamon or nutmeg or even a pumpkin spice blend to the plain variety to make it your own. Non-fat is also available which is great for those who don’t have much fat macros to spare!
1 cup of Greek yogurt will provide approximately 22g protein
5. Cottage Cheese
I personally like cottage cheese with salads but a lot of people will eat it with fruit and of course a search for cottage cheese recipes will give you a 101 different ways you use this stuff – at 15g protein per half cup you cant go wrong with this food.
6. Pea Protein
Depending on what type of vegetarian you are, there are many protein supplement choices on the market. Pea protein is a vegan option and 1 serving will give you anywhere from 25-30g protein depending on what you pick. Some people don’t like supplements but I think they can be an easy way to add some protein to your diet especially if you’re on the go and just don’t have the time or energy.
Vega is a vegan company that has many varieties of supplements on the market. You can check them out at myvega.com
You can find their products at your local grocery store, or online and there are many other brands available too. Try a few if you can in smaller quantities to find you like before you buy the giant tub! You know we’ve all done that..
7. High Protein Pasta
Yes wheat is ok and carbs are ok – don’t make them the center of your diet but a little pasta is not going to turn you into a pumpkin or some other well rounded object. Most of these types of pasta have protein sources from lentils or chickpeas or another type of bean. Barilla Plus Pasta can be found at most stores and contains about 17g protein per 3.5oz portion.
For non-wheat varieties try Explore Asian Fettuccine (made from edamame and mung beans). 20g protein per 1.75oz portion.
Whether you drink regular dairy milk or the non-dairy varieties, this is a great source of protein that many people forget about. 2 cups per day of most varieties will provide you a nice amount of this macro and it’s easy to get in.
2 cups provide:
Regular milk: 16g
Silk protein plant milk: 16g (fortified with pea protein)
(Almond milk and cashew milk not included due to lack of protein)
We could devote an entire blog to lentils as there are so many varieties and countless ways to cook these nutrient powerhouses. Foodnetwork.com actually has 225 ways for you: http://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/lentil.html
Any way you cook them 1 cup of most lentils will get you 18g protein. A decent amount in addition to countless other nutrients. If you’ve never cooked them before give them a try – they are not as complicated as you might think they are and they taste great.
10. Hemp Seeds
As far as vegan sources of protein go, hemp seeds are one of the best and complete proteins. They are seriously nutritious and a little bit goes a long way – just 3 tablespoons will give you 10g protein and can be easily thrown on top of your yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, shakes or salads. It’s so easy and you can buy a big bag and leave it in you fridge (keeps it fresh).
Tejal Parekh, MS, RDN, LDN Registered Dietitian Lean Machine Nutrition