How to Get Enough Protein On a Plant-Based Diet
Yes, you can get enough of this super-nutrient from eating more of your favorite plant foods — and score some health benefits too. Here, three simple steps to add more plant-based protein to your plate.
A plant-based diet can boost your immunity, make your heart healthier, and help you live longer, research shows. And it can also provide you with all the protein you need.
“You just have to be a little more mindful in your planning,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., the author of The Flexitarian Diet and a Shape Brain Trust member. “The key is to eat a variety of foods to get the optimum amount of protein, plus the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body requires,” she says.
Follow these simple steps to hit your plant-based protein goals, whether you’re trying a Meatless Monday or are transitioning to a full-on vegan diet.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
“Active women need 0.55 to 0.91 gram of protein per pound of body weight a day, according to the American College of Sports Medicine,” says Blatner. Go for the higher amount if you’re doing intense training. “That will help you repair, build, and maintain muscle,” she says. With that in mind, it’s recommended that an adult woman who’s 150 pounds consume between 83 and 137 grams per day, for example. If you start to feel hungry between meals or irritable, jittery, or headachy, you may need to add more plant-based protein to your day. (Read more here: Exactly How Much Protein You Need Per Day)
Sources of Plant-Based Protein
These main groups will be your best bet when compiling protein-rich plant-based meals. (Also read up on these Easily-Digestible Sources of Plant-Based Protein if your gut is picky.)
Beans and Legumes: A 1/2 cup-serving of cooked black beans, chickpeas, or lentils has 7 to 9 grams of plant-based protein.
Nuts: A 1/4 cup-serving of peanuts, almonds, cashews, or pistachios contains 6 to 7 grams of plant-based protein; pecans and walnuts have 3 to 4 grams, respectively.
Seeds: You’ll get 7 to 9 grams of plant-based protein from 1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds, and 4 to 6 grams from 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds, chia seeds, or hemp seeds. (Hemp hearts will get the job done too.)
Whole Grains: A 1/2 cup-serving of cooked oatmeal or quinoa has 4 grams of plant-based protein; brown rice or soba noodles has 3. Sprouted whole-grain bread and wraps have 4 to 7 grams per serving.
Soy Products: You’ll score roughly 6 grams of plant-based protein from one slice of firm tofu and a whopping 17 grams from a 1/2-cup serving of tempeh. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Soy Foods)
Easy Meat-to-Plant Protein Swaps
Substitute meat, chicken, and fish with beans, nuts, and grains in your favorite dishes to add more plant-based protein to your plate. In general, use 1/4 cup beans or legumes for 1 oz. of meat, says Blatner. Here are some tasty plant-based protein ideas to get you started. (Keep reading: High-Protein Vegan Meal Ideas)
Lentil and Chopped Walnut Ragù: Combine cooked brown or green lentils and toasted, crushed walnuts with chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, onion, and basil to make a sauce for your favorite pasta.
Edamame Fried Brown Rice: Sauté shelled edamame (1/2 cup of it cooked contains 9 grams of plant-based protein) with brown rice, veggies, garlic, ginger, and coconut aminos. Top with some toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds. (Or swap your takeout with this cauliflower fried rice.)
Chickpea Tacos: Cook the chickpeas with chili powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano; add roasted carrots, beets, zucchini, or fennel; and top with cilantro, red or green salsa, and a dollop of cashew cream. (Related: Fresh Ways to Spice Up Taco Tuesday)