When making the switch to vegetarianism, one of the biggest things you lose is an easy source of protein. Protein is a super-important macromolecule for the building blocks of your body’s bones, muscles, tissues, skin, and blood. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a daily serving of 5½-oz. of protein for the average adult, though it may be more depending on personal health and exercise levels. Not enough protein leads to muscle loss, fatigue, and in some cases, anemia.
Lucky for vegetarians, there are several alternatives to meat out there that are equally delicious as a cheeseburger, and can provide just as much protein. Here is a list of 16 high-protein replacements for meat, ranked according to the amount of protein in each.
16. Eggs — 6g per 1 large egg
Eggs don’t just help you score tons of likes on Instagram for yolk porn. They’re also an awesome source for vegetarians to get additional protein. They can be enjoyed in a number of ways: on a breakfast sandwich, scrambled with veggies, poached on avocado toast, or boiled and added to salad.
15. Green peas — 7.5g protein per 1 cup serving
That’s right, this legume contains a whooping 7.9g of protein in just one cup, about the same as a glass of milk. Additionally, peas are low in calories and fat and are extremely versatile. Serve them on the side of another meat substitute for a hearty meal, or make this pea pesto to serve on linguine pasta.
14. Milk — 8g protein per 1 cup
Depending on the type of milk you choose from, it can be a great additional source of protein for vegetarians. Cow’s milk and soy milk contain an average of 8g of protein per one serving, while almond milk contains only about 2g. Milk can be added into any of your favorite smoothies, or enjoyed on its own with a meal.
13. Quinoa — 8.5g protein per 1 cup
Quinoa is everyone’s new favorite superfood, and for good reason. This seed (yes, quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain) contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs for proper functioning. Just one cup of the stuff contains about the same amount of protein as three slices of bacon. And as much as it might pain you to admit, quinoa is so much better for you than bacon.
12. Edamame — 11g protein per 1 cup
Edamame is every vegetarian’s favorite portable, high-protein snack. Its 11g of protein per one cup serving is equal to the amount in half of an average chicken breast. Whip up this edamame dip to serve with veggies or pita chips as a satisfying and meatless, protein-filled snack.
11. Beans — 16g protein per 1 cup
There are tons of different varieties of beans out there, including pinto, black, and kidney, just to name a few popular ones. Two cups of kidney beans contain about 26g of protein, which is about as much as a Big Mac from McDonald’s. Therefore, you’re better off making this black bean burger that’s so good, even your meat-loving friends will enjoy it.
10. Greek Yogurt — 17g protein per 1 cup
Greek yogurt is a great go-to for vegetarians as it contains more protein than regular yogurt. The average 8-oz. serving of greek yogurt contains 15-20 grams of protein, which is about as much in 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat. To make a satisfying breakfast or snack, make a greek yogurt parfait with granola, hemp seeds, peanut butter, and fruit.
9. Lentils — 18g protein per 1 cup
Lentils are meaty legumes that are extremely versatile, cheap, and easy to prepare. They also contain a large amount of iron and potassium, which are important minerals for your body. Lentils can be made into a variety of hearty meals for vegetarians as an alternative to meat options.
8. Tofu — 20g per 1 cup
Most people fear tofu. What exactly is it? Why does it have such a weird texture? Well, there’s really nothing to fear. Tofu is made by curdling fresh, hot soy milk with a coagulant, which sounds gross, but I promise doesn’t taste that bad. Although you might not enjoy tofu on its own, it can be made into many sweet and savory things, as it takes on the flavor of pretty much anything you add it to. Try this delicious vegetable stir fry for lunch or dinner, or make it into a chocolate pudding for dessert.
7. Whey Protein Powder — 21g protein in one scoop
Whey is the liquid part of milk that is separated during cheese production, which is then processed and made into whey protein powder. Studies have shown that whey is good for increasing muscle strength and losing body fat. For vegetarians, it acts as a great supplement in shakes and smoothies.
6. Buckwheat — 23g protein per 1 cup
Buckwheat is a popular energizing and nutritious alternative to rice used by many vegetarians and vegans because of its high protein content. Additionally, because it’s actually a fruit seed it can be enjoyed by people who are gluten intolerant as well. One cup of buckwheat contains 23g of protein, which is as much as a 4-oz. steak. Buckwheat flour can be used to make gluten-free breads, pancakes, and other baked goods.
5. Nuts and Nut Butters — 21g and 65g protein per 1 cup
Nuts and nut butters are staples in any vegetarian or vegan’s diet. They’re both easy to snack on and provide an abundance of good fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Use them into colorful smoothie bowls for breakfast, and always carry a bag of nuts around with you for a filling snack throughout the day.
4. Cottage Cheese — 26g protein per 1 cup
Cottage cheese not only contains a hefty amount of protein, it’s also cheap, high in calcium, and can be low in fat. Its 13g of protein per 1/2 cup serving is just as much as 2-oz. of ham. Cottage cheese can be subbed for ricotta or sour cream in certain recipes, or enjoyed on its own as a snack.
3. Tempeh — 31g protein per 1 cup
Tempeh is another soy product just like tofu, except it’s made by fermenting cooked soybeans and has a sweeter taste to it. It also contains more fiber and protein than tofu. The 15.5g of protein it contains is about as much as four slices of turkey breast. Incorporate tempeh into salads to make them substantial enough for a meal.
2. Hemp Seeds — 49g protein per 1 cup
I don’t know about you, but I was surprised to find out that 1 cup of seeds could contain so much protein. Hemp seeds are super good for you, as they contain all nine essential amino acids and six times more Omega-3 than tuna. You can easily add hemp seeds to homemade granola, and mix it in with greek yogurt and fruit for a healthy and ample breakfast or snack.
1. Seitan — 72g protein in 1 cup
This meat substitute is not as popular as others, but it’s extremely high in protein content, making it a great alternative for vegetarians. It’s derived from the protein portion of wheat, giving it the nicknames “wheat meat” and “wheat protein.” Seitan cooks almost like chicken, and can be made into a variety of yummy and hearty meals.