How to get protein when on a vegetarian or vegan diet –

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Vegan bowls with various vegetables and seeds

Getting a high levels protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet is more of a challenge (Picture: Getty Images)

Proteins are essential nutrients needed by the human body to stay healthy.

High levels of protein are typically found in white poultry meats, beef, seafood and dairy products – which means individuals on vegetarian and vegan diets have to look to alternative foods to get their daily protein quota.

This week marks National Vegetarian Week, so we’ve asked Nutritionist Jenna Hope to explain how those on a plant-based diet can ensure they are getting enough protein.

Jenna tells ‘Protein is crucial for muscle growth, development and repair, as well as the structural components of hair, nails, skin, tissues and transporting molecules around the body.’

In terms of how much we should be consuming, Jenna explains: ‘The recommendations are around 0.8-1g of protein per kg of body weight per day.



‘In other words a 70kg individual requires between 56-70g of protein per day.’

Dairy, meat and fish contain high levels of protein (a steak contains around 25g), which means it’s much easier for meat-eaters to fulfil their daily amount.

But Jenna stresses that while it’s tough for vegans and vegetarians, there are a number of plant-based foods which still offer this much-needed protein.

woman serving salad at a vegan birthday lunch party

Quinoa, tofu, beans and buckwheat are all great sources of protein (Picture: Getty Images)

She says: ‘Obtaining adequate levels of protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet can be slightly more challenging but it is possible. 

‘Foods such as quinoa, tofu and buckwheat are considered complete proteins – this means they contain all nine essential amino acids.

‘Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which we must consume through the diet.’

In terms of quantities, around 100g of quinoa is equal to about 4.4 grams of protein. Buckwheat is slightly more at 5g, but tofu is the best at around 8g.

Jenna adds that beans, pulses, nuts and seeds are also great vegan protein sources. 

According to, kidney beans and black beans contain around 13g-15g of protein for every cup cooked. But soybeans – also known as edamame – are by far the best bean for protein, coming in at 28.6 g of protein.



Pulses such as chickpeas and lentils contain between 14g-17g per cooked cup and mixed nuts offer around 20g of protein per 100g.

Jenna says: ‘Try adding peanut butter to porridge, beans and pulses to salads and nuts and seeds to your (plant-based or dairy) yoghurt to increase your protein consumption.’

Of course, those who are vegetarian – rather than vegan – can incorporate dairy products, too.

Jenna adds: ‘A vegetarian diet offers a wider range of protein rich foods including milk, cheese, eggs and yoghurt.

‘Recommendations are to consume 2-3 portions of dairy per day.’

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