Protein-Rich Foods for Vegetarians & Vegans

If you are on a fitness journey and are making changes to your nutrition, the most common tip you must have heard is to pay special attention to your protein intake. And for good reason!

Think of protein as the building blocks of the body - it strengthens your muscles and hair, makes your skin supple and bright, and keeps you full and energised throughout the day. It is also the most satiating macronutrient. Meaning you can eat a meal rich in protein with moderate amounts of carbohydrates and fat, and it will keep you fuller for longer while being lower in calories than the average meal. It’s a win-win!

Even though vegetarian and vegan protein sources are not considered as ‘complete’ - since most of them do not have all the 9 essential amino acids - learning to combine different ingredients is vital in ensuring that you have a well-balanced diet. 

What you choose to eat decides the essence of the entirety of your day. Nutrition has a direct impact on the quality of your life and your most precious well being. The Importance of Good Nutrition

Below are some of the best vegetarian and vegan sources of protein:


1) Dairy 

Good for: Vegetarians

Milk, curd, cheese and paneer are excellent sources of protein since they are animal food derivatives. Apart from being rich sources of protein, they also have valuable calcium and are sometimes fortified with Vitamin D. However, they are high in fat so limit your consumption and pair dairy products with fruits and veggies for a rounded meal.


Meal ideas:

Breakfast - oatmeal with low-fat milk or yoghurt

Lunch - chaas fortified with flax seed powder

Dinner - paneer and vegetable stir fry. Avoid other carb sources like rice or chapati with this meal to make it low-calorie while being rich in healthy protein, fat and nutritious veggies

Snack - 1 cube of cheese with fruits like apple and pear


2) Lentils 

Good for: vegetarians and vegans

A staple of the Indian diet, dals (lentils) are protein powerhouses while being versatile, filling and delicious! Make classic lentils like chanal dal, moong dal, masoor dal and toor dal a part of your daily diet. Apart from being rich in protein, they are also high in fibre, and so, very filling. Eat your dals with a teaspoon of ghee, a small portion of rice and a simple vegetable salad on the side, and you've got yourself the perfect meal!


Meal ideas:

Breakfast - moong dal dosa with tomato & onion chutney

Lunch - spinach chana dal with rice and vegetable raita

Dinner - toor dal & rice khichdi with kachumber salad 

Snack - yellow moong dal dhokla with mint chutney


3) Beans

Good for: vegetarians and vegans

Beans like chole, rajma and Kala chana are your best friends if you're on a diet plan to lose weight but want to eat satisfying and nutritious meals. Not only are they easy to cook and delicious, but they have also been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes/PCOS and are high in gut-healthy fibre. Soak beans for at least 8 hours before cooking, and pair them with curd and some rice or chapati to make digestion easier, and to avoid feeling bloated.


Meal ideas:

Breakfast - besan (chickpea flour) chilla with mint chutney

Lunch - chole salad with boiled chole, onion, tomato, capsicum and coriander, with a drizzle of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pair with some curd

Dinner - rajma masala with chapati and chaas

Snack - Kala chana chaat with onion, tomato, coriander, salt and lemon juice

Quinoa Food- Super Autumn Salad - Nutridock Health Kitchen
Nutridock Health Kitchen offers the best quinoa dish Super Autumn Salad

4) Quinoa

Good for: vegetarians and vegans

Quinoa is one of the rare vegan sources that is a complete protein, that is, it has all the 9 essential amino acids! With its nutty taste and chewy texture, it is the perfect replacement for rice in recipes like pulao, khichadi and even upma. What's more, it's gluten-free! Quinoa is also very rich in fibre, even more than some grains, and so makes the perfect ingredient for a meal high in nutrition as well as flavour.


Meal ideas:

Breakfast - quinoa upma

Lunch - vegetable pulao (with quinoa instead of rice) and raita

Dinner - curd quinoa with pickle and roasted papad

Snack - vegetable and quinoa patties with mint & chilli chutney


5) Green Peas

Good for: vegetarians and vegans

Green peas are an underrated source of vegan protein and are also rich in fibre and antioxidants. Making them a regular part of your diet can help in reducing your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Technically a part of the legume family, green peas are rich in Vitamins A, K and C. Some people complain of bloating after eating a large serving, so it's important to pair them with a moderate amount of carbs like rice or chapati and some fat like ghee, to make it easier for your body to digest it. 


Meal ideas:

Breakfast - green peas upma

Lunch - peas paratha with curd

Dinner - peas pulao with vegetable raita

Snack - green peas kebab with mint chutney


6) Seeds

Good for: vegetarians and vegans

Seeds like pumpkin, chia, sunflower, flax and sesame are great sources of protein and add an interesting layer of flavour and texture to food. Apart from protein, most of them also have healthy fats (flax seeds supplements are the best replacement for Omega-3 fish oil capsules!). This also means that they are best had in small quantities, as an added layer of flavour to food.


Meal ideas:

Breakfast - pumpkin seeds added to oatmeal

Lunch - toasted and powdered flax seeds added to chaas

Dinner - sesame seeds sprinkled over a vegetable stir fry

Snack - chia seeds added to a fruit smoothie


7) Protein Supplements

If you are on a vegetarian or vegan diet plan and do strenuous exercises or have certain fitness goals, a protein supplement may be a good option. While all the foods listed above are great sources of protein, you would need to eat large quantities to get the same amount of protein that you would get from eggs, fish or meat. 

While a protein supplement is in no way necessary for a regular person following a healthy diet, you may consider this as an option if you have specific fitness goals, or are deficient in protein.

It is also a misconception that having a protein supplement every day could affect the health of your kidneys. If you stick to the recommended daily amount, follow a balanced diet every day and keep yourself hydrated, it can be an amazing addition to your diet.


Vegetarian source - whey protein. Whey is simply the liquid part that separates from milk during cheese production. Whey protein powders can be had just with water as a shake or can be used to bulk up your oatmeal or smoothie.


Vegan source - pea protein and soy protein are the most common types of vegan protein supplements. Like whey, it can be had as a shake with water but some people may experience uncomfortable bloating when had on its own. Add a scoop to oatmeal or a fruit smoothie, to make it easier for your body to digest it.


As you can see, it is a misconception that vegetarians and vegans lack protein in their diets. In fact, you are spoiled for choice! Try out new recipes, get creative and eat your protein through delicious meals.


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