Tips from Janani

Vegetarian Protein Foods: A Different Approach to Nutrition

Hey everyone! Today I want to bring up a question that I get a lot when people find out I am vegetarian. “How do you get your nutrition? Aren’t you lacking in protein?” Or something along those lines. The question probably sounds silly to me because I grew up vegetarian so I never had an issue in finding alternative protein sources.

But as I thought on the question more and more I realized that it is a serious question that many people have a difficult time wrapping their heads around. Vegetarians and vegans: you guys definitely know what I am talking about!

So I want to address vegetarian protein foods as a different approach to nutrition.

How difficult is it, really?

Getting nutrition as a vegetarian is really quite simple. I know a lot of people have been taught that they should eat chicken and veggies and rice in order to get their protein, fiber, and carbs. So the idea of not eating chicken makes it seem like it is impossible for them to get their allocated amount of protein for the day.

However, protein is all around us! And spoiler alert: it is present in generous quantities in certain veggies! So there is no need to go stuffing your face full of tofu in an attempt to satisfy your daily protein checkbox. In fact, even I, as a vegetarian, can’t imaging eating tofu everyday.

Let’s jump into some of my favorite protein filled foods!

What NOT to do

Since I never worried about getting enough protein, nutrition wasn’t really an issue for me. That is, until I got to college and had to fend for myself and meal prep and study hard and get enough sleep and have a social life and not go crazy. It felt like some days simply having a few fruits was a struggle in of itself.

Third year, during some of the most difficult classes of my life, I would find myself leaving at 7 am from my apartment and coming back past 10 pm. The last thing on my mind at that time was meal prepping for the next day; I would just collapse and fall asleep.

So I had this not so brilliant idea to Google protein bars that I could eat on the go, since I had little time to spare. I would get the nutrition I was clearly lacking as well as not feel so famished all the time.

Seemed like a good idea at the time, and then I actually went and bought the protein bars. THEY WERE DISGUSTING. I couldn’t handle the chalky taste of what was definitely a poorly veiled whey protein chunk. Now, on the label it was high protein (like 20 grams) and high fiber.

What I learned

I forced myself to eat the protein bars every day during my 20 minute gap between classes for about two weeks out of sheer willpower. I thought that if I were able to do this, it would stave off any cravings and help me feel full and satisfied during the day.

Well that was a huge mistake. And a huge learning curve. I learned that you can’t be forcing your nutrition into your day. That’s no fun and it takes the joy out of eating! The best way to get your nutrition is organically! That’s not to say that you shouldn’t monitor your intake, but to learn of all your options before you opt for something that makes you dread eating it.

Do THIS instead!

Research, research, research! Luckily for you, I did the research for you, so keep on reading! If you’re looking for vegan and vegetarian sources of protein, look no further.

These lists will help you mix it up and keep track of your nutrition in a more relaxed way.

My favorite vegetarian proteins

  1. Buttermilk/Greek yogurt – I am obsessed with plain Greek yogurt and buttermilk. It is such an easy and delicious way to get probiotics and protein. Just be sure you don’t get flavored yogurt as there is a CRAZY amount of sugar in those things. Here are some of my favorites:
    1. Open Nature – 17 grams protein in 1 cup
    2. Chobani – 18 grams protein in 1 cup
    3. Greek Gods – 12 grams protein in 1 cup
    4. Fage – 17 grams protein in 1 cup
  2. CHEESE! I love cheese so much, I could marry it lol! Here are some of my favorite kinds of cheese, and some you will see on a future post on extra cheesy ooey gooey mac and cheese 😉
    1. Mozzarella – ~8 grams protein in 1 oz
    2. Gruyere – ~8.5 grams protein in 1oz
    3. Mild Cheddar – ~9 grams protein in 1 oz
    4. Gouda – ~7 grams protein in 1 oz
    5. Parmesan – ~10 grams protein in 1 oz
  3. Eggs – They’re quick and easy to cook and will keep you full forever. Also they are difficult to mess up, in case you’re in a hurry. I love having a 3 egg whites with 1 egg yolk either scrambled or as an omelet
    1. 3 egg whites and 1 egg yolk – 13 grams protein
  4. Milk – zero work, and doubles as breakfast when I wake up too late! 8 grams protein in 1 cup 1% milk

My favorite vegan proteins

Veggie Protein!

  1. Black beans – For soups and salads! 15 grams protein in 1 cup cooked
  2. Kidney beans – For vegan chili! 15 grams protein in 1 cup cooked
  3. Drumstick leaves – I love these just added as a garnish to any vegetable dish. A little goes a long way with ~10 grams protein in 100 grams!
  4. Edamame – Roast it for a great snack food! 17 grams protein in 1 cup
  5. Peas – Throw some in your stir fries and soups! ~8 grams protein in 1 cup

Vegan Sources

  1. Wheat Gluten/ Seitan – Great for imitating white meat (See my chicken nugget recipe!) 21 grams protein in 3 oz
  2. Tofu – For Asian dishes! 10 grams protein in half a cup
  3. Almonds – Quick snack! 6 grams protein in 1 oz
  4. Peanut Butter – 8 grams protein in 2 tablespoons


This list isn’t even exhaustive! No where close. These are just some of my personal favorite sources of protein! What do you guys think? What are some of your favorite dishes with these ingredients?






  1. There are some great options here for veggie proteins! Drumstick leaves sounds like an interesting one that I’ll have to try.

    1. Thanks Mike! Drumstick leaves are so versatile. They also go by the name Moringa leaves at Whole Foods I believe, in case you have a hard time finding them.

  2. Tofu, edamame, eggs and cheese has got to be my most favourite ingredients. Dad is a vegan full time so I get exposure to vegetarian food sometimes and my selection is usually anything made of these. There are many preparation for tofu in Chinese meals, some steam, some raw and some stir-fry. They are all good for the skin in my opinion.

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