What do you do at 12.30am on a Sunday morning, when you can’t sleep? Me. I think of blogposts that I can write and then write said blogposts, even though I have numerous other blogposts that I have a.) Not finished or b.) Finished, but haven’t posted. All done while watching repeat episodes of Gogglebox. Although, my best recipe ideas are often created late at night on a hungry stomach, so hopefully this post will be just as successful on little sleep.
Over the months I have been receiving messages from people who follow me on Instagram and who have been toying with the idea of vegetarianism, but can’t quite get there without knowing the infamous question that we vegetarians or vegans get asked far too often – where do you get your protein from? I think it’s up there with – why did you become a vegetarian? Or – Why do you eat meat alternatives if you’re a vegetarian? While I love helping people, it is a little difficult to put all of the information into a DM message. So I thought I would write a blogpost about where us vegetarians and vegans get our protein from, so it’s all in one place for next time.
I have been a vegetarian for 10 years. I was 17 years old when I first made the decision and it was also over the Christmas period. Initially, my family and friends were worried when I first broke the news to them, because they thought it was another trait of my eating disorder and another phase (I go through many) But, it wasn’t a phase or anything to do with my eating disorder and ten years later I still don’t think they get it, as I still often get asked questions like – ‘Do you miss bacon? Burgers? Meat? – My answer is obviously, always, no. I don’t miss meat because it’s exactly that. Meat: cartlidge, blood, veins, muscle; I personally don’t see how people even enjoy eating that, but each to their own. I didn’t know as much about vegetarianism back then, as I do now and like many I just thought cutting out meat was all that needed to be done, but there is so much more to it than that and I now know that animal products are in everything from sweets; to baked goods, household cleaners and shampoo. Ingredients are even tested on animals and all because its a lot cheaper. Thankfully, I’m much more aware of it all now and while I’m not a vegan, I do incorporate vegan days into my diet and have cut back on dairy and eggs significantly over the last fortnight and surprisingly I haven’t missed them as much, as I thought I would. I won’t elaborate on why I made that decision, but I will say that it has been harder to get in enough protein while not consuming as many dairy and eggs products as I usually would.
It may come as a surprise to many, but protein is actually in all types of food. Everything: vegetables and fruits, to lentils and chickpeas. I think when people question a vegetarian’s protein count, they are really just asking – how can you be a vegetarian and still look like the hulk? Do you gain weight from all the carbs? – Because abs and quads are what people are most concerned about these days? Sigh. However, there have been and continue to be very successful vegan and vegetarian bodybuilders in the fitness industry to this day. Yes. It does take a lot more thought and preparation in order to be a vegan or vegetarian bodybuilder but it has been done with much success. Just check out this link here.
So where do we vegetarians get our protein from?
Unlike back in the day, there are many vegetarian and vegan protein sources widely available to us these days and some are tastier than others, with more being created every day. I eat the meat substitutes for protein and simply because I enjoy eating it, it adds more variety to my meals and helps fill me up. I’ve been eating Quorn from a young age, even before I turned vegetarian so it’s just something I’ve always turned to; like a meat eater turning to steak. From what I can remember of meat, the alternatives don’t taste or smell the same, they are just shaped similarly and for me, Quorn is the protein source I eat the most of: it’s a high quality product made from a fungus called ‘Mycoprotein’ that is high in fibre, contains all the essential amino acids that us adults need and some are even low in carbohydrates, as well as fat. I prefer Quorn because it does taste better than any other product I’ve tried and it also doesn’t contain any soy (I have a thyroid disorder and soy has been claimed to damage the thyroid) so I tend to eat soy products very, very sparingly. But, not only are Quorn vegetarian, they have lately released a few vegan products too. However, there are meat alternatives out there that do offer some 100% vegan alternatives (Linda McCartney) and because they are soy based they contain a lot more protein than Quorn. Supermarkets also offer their own brand of vegetarian meat alternatives too and again they are made with soy, so the protein count is higher than Quorn, but the fat count may also be too. I have also recently discovered a brand who have an all plantbased range – vegusto – and they sell plantbased products from sausages and burgers to cheese and chocolate and since I am cutting back on dairy, I do want to try their vegan cheeses to see how they compare.
This has been a huge part of my life since I was in the womb. Literally. My mother has always told me that she would always eat a cheese and tomato sandwich with a pint of milk, every day and I just so happen to love all of those things.
There are lots of different types of yoghurt: plain Greek and natural being the most popular. But there are also a few brands which offer more protein per 100g. Fage and Liberte are the two brands of yoghurt which I have found offer the best protein count and then there is Skye too which is a natural yoghurt. Just be careful when buying flavoured yoghurts because the fruits often contain gelatine and natural ingredients from animals:castoreum, rennet, etc,
- Dairy Free Yoghurt
Dairy free yoghurt, like milk, is fast becoming popular and there are a few which taste great too. Again soya yoghurt has the most protein and less fat per 100g, but there is also Coyo – an all-natural yoghurt made from coconut milk. I can’t find coyo around my area, but I do plan on trying to make my own coconut yoghurt possibly in the summer.
There are many cheeses on the market today which are filled with protein. However, not all cheese is considered vegetarian so you will need to check the label before purchasing, as non-vegetarian cheese is made with whey. Cottage cheese wins with the most protein in this category though. But, myprotein do offer a vegetarian high protein, low fat cheese for just £3.99 per 400g block.
- Vegan Cheese
Vegusto – Plant based cheese that is made with a bunch of natural ingredients – obviously. Vegusto offer so many different types of vegan cheese and from reading the reviews and what people are saying on social media, all the cheese are apparently very good alternatives
Vegans also make their own cheese with nuts and seeds.
Vegans and lactose intolerants aside, there are many other people who won’t drink dairy milk because of the fat count and they actually prefer to drink the dairy free milk instead. There is nothing wrong with that as vegan alternatives have protein too, but dairy milk has a lot more protein; around 7g per cup, but goats milk contains the most with nearly 9g per cup. Personally, I like to drink organic whole milk or coconut milk, both taste great and are nutritional.
Dairy Free Milk
Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Rice Milk, Hazelnut Milk and oat milk, all have protein too. But, soya and hemp milk win with the highest amount of protein.
Free range eggs are a great source of protein and can be scrambled, fried, made into omelettes, baked into a healthy cake or even drank raw (you probably shouldn’t do that these days though) they are also packed with healthy fats and are delicious. My favourite protein packed meal is a bunch of veggies, fried in a little butter with around 30g cheese chunked in, 2 Quorn sausages and topped with sunny side up fried eggs – perfect.
Wholemeal Grains – These are better for our health: more natural and unlike refined grains, they haven’t been bleached or processed.
- Cous Cous
- Brown Rice
- Brown Pasta
- Brown Rice Pasta
- Wholemeal Bread
- Wholemeal Pita Bread
- Wholemeal Tortillas
- Wholegrain Cereal
Those are just a few grain options that contain protein and there are also protein breads and rolls which are vegetarian too. Dr Zaks offer vegetarian bagels and bread, which are higher in protein than standard bread. Lidl also make their own protein rolls in house, but these do contain soy.
Fruit and Vegetables.
I think people are shocked when they hear that fruit and vegetables contain protein. Simply put, if you want more protein then you eat more veggies.
- Potatoes with skin
- Sweet Potato
Fruit does contain protein, but less than vegetables offer.
Legumes and Pulses
I have started to use these more over the last two weeks than I ever have before and I’ve
been adding them to salads, stir fries and mashing them into sandwiches too. Not only do legumes and pulses contain protein but they also have many essential amino acids also.
- Soy Beans – Naturally soy beans win with a higher protein count and they actually contain around 29g protein per cup.
- Chickpeas – 8.9g per 100g
- Baked Beans – Around 4.8g
- Haricott Beans ( baked beans without the sauce)
- Kidney Beans – Around 8.7g per cup
- Butter Beans
- Lentils – Around 9g per 100g
- Peanuts – 24.4g per 100g
For more protein sources from beans check here.
Again a soy based product, but it is quite high in protein and completely vegan. Tofu is also very versatile and can be fried, scrambled, baked and blended. I’ve never tried tofu before, but I hear it is bland and does need seasoning or marinating before using.
I love peanut butter and I don’t trust anybody who doesn’t. Peanut butter is such a great source of healthy fats, but also protein too. You can also buy high protein nut butters that are made with whey powder, which doesn’t necessarily make them vegetarian as whey is made with rennet which is the enzyme from a calf’s stomach lining. However, there are vegetarian and vegan options available too.
- Peanut and Co
- Hognuts Butters – Only some are suitable for vegans and vegetarians, you will have to check the ingredients.
- Dr Zaks
- Hi Pro Nutrition
I use these when I’m desperate, as they are quite pricy. Not all protein bars are vegetarian though as they do contain whey powder and some have gelatine also. Although, there are a few which are vegetarian, like R-Bars; these are made with all natural ingredients and coconut butter. But, for me there is no better satisfaction than making your own protein bars with vitafibre.
Like protein bars, not all protein powders are created equally, but there are many vegetarian and vegan options available.
- Sun Warrior
These all offer vegan and/or vegetarian options, some are nicer than others and some are vile. The pea protein based products are not my favourite and it does take a lot of work to disguise the flavour. Myprotein offer vegetarian and vegan options although, from what I can tell the powders are made with soy.
Nut flours are gluten free flours which are made with nuts. They are quite high in protein too and my favourite brand, Sukrin, actually make flours which are low in fat too.
Nuts & Seeds
Naturally these are high in protein, but they also come with a hefty fat count too and while the fat from nuts and seeds are considered a healthy source of Omega 3 and 6; they should be eaten in moderation. Especially if you are following a HCLF diet.
I didn’t realise how much protein one tablespoon of nutritional yeast has – 15g. Nutritional yeast is inactive and gluten free also, but if you buy it with added B12 this would be an excellent source of adding essential b12 to your diet.
For the meagre amount you receive, I find superfoods, super expensive. They are, however, another source of protein so I’ll add it in. Spirulina is actually the superfood which is most rich in protein.
So there you have it. How we vegetarians and vegans do protein. Granted this a just a brief run down and I’m sure I’ve missed many, so if you guys can see any I have missed then feel free to comment below.
Disclaimer: All information is my own, from the knowledge that I have acquired over the last ten years. This is not a post where people can come and comment on why veganism is better than vegetarianism and blast people for being anything other than a vegan, because I see that on so many other posts and it drives me mad. Any comments I see which fail to follow these guidelines, will be removed, as that is not what this post is about. This post is to help people who are looking to adapt to a vegetarian lifestyle who want knowledge on protein without the addition of meat and other bi-products which do not fall into the category of being dairy or eggs. I do have a document that I have been working on over the last six months so more information, in greater depth will be available when I finally get it finished.
For more recipes, reviews and ideas, follow me on Instagram – @TheHungryWelshGirl and see how I do vegetarian/vegan.