Food & Fitness

Vegan Sources of Protein

Part of the reason why I’ve gained five pounds over the past few months (or six, or whatever… but who’s counting?) is because I’ve been “overdosing” on carbs and fats, and not having enough of a balance of protein throughout the day. I’m trying to reign in my eating habits and make sure that I have protein with every meal.

My ultimate protein source is eggs and egg whites, but some days I like to be totally free of animal products and to eat vegan. I tend to be vegan or vegetarian on weekdays and an omnivore on weekends, but lately I’ve been much more vegetarian on the weekdays without the vegan part. My body feels great when I take a few days of eating vegan, but sometimes it’s difficult to find really good sources of vegan protein. As I mentioned in my last post, when it comes to getting enough protein in our diets, sometimes it’s easier to just eat animal proteins instead. That being said, there are some really yummy sources of vegan proteins, too! These are some great ones that are easy to incorporate into your meals:

– Dark Red Kidney Beans, canned: 1 cup contains 210 calories, 1 gram fat, 36 grams carbohydrates (11 grams fibre), and 15 grams protein, plus 15% of your daily calcium intake and 25% of your daily iron intake.

– White (or Great Northern) Beans, dried: 1/3 cup (I’m not sure if that’s dry or cooked… I’m guessing it’s cooked) contains 200 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 36 grams carbohydrates (12 grams fibre), and 13 grams protein, plus 10% of your daily calcium intake and 25% of your daily iron intake.

– Lentils, dried: 1/4 cup (which I believe is cooked rather than dry) contains 170 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 28 grams carbohydrates (15 grams fibre), and 14 grams protein, plus 30% of your daily iron intake.

– Edamame: 1/2 cup (shelled) contains 90 calories, 2 grams fat, 9 grams carbohydrates (8 grams fibre), and 10 grams protein.

– Medium Firm Tofu: 1/5 package (85 grams) contains 4 grams fat, 0 grams carbohydrates, and 8 grams protein, plus 15% of your daily calcium intake.

– Wheat Germ: 3 tablespoons contain 50 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 7 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fibre), and 4 grams protein.

– Ground Flax Seed: 2 tablespoons contain 80 calories, 6 grams fat, 4 grams carbohydrates (4 grams fibre), and 4 grams protein. Flax seed is typically eaten for its healthy fats (it’s full of polyunsaturated, omega-6, omega-3, and monounsaturated fats), so it has the combined benefit of being a good source of both fats and proteins.

– All-Natural Peanut Butter: 1 tablespoon contains 90 calories, 7 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, and 4 grams protein. Again, peanut butter is usually eaten because of the healthy fats in it, but it can also be eaten as a protein source.

– NutriBiotic Chocolate Rice Protein Powder: 1 heaping tablespoon contains 57 calories*, 0.4 grams fat, 2.4 grams carbohydrates, and 12 grams protein. I’m not a huge advocate of protein powders, but I do like being able to add a tablespoon of protein powder to a bowl of oatmeal so that there’s some protein added to it. Even when the oatmeal is a mixture of spelt (which contains a higher amount of protein, for a grain), rye, barley, wheat, and whole grain rolled oats, we can still use an extra protein boost with all of those carbs!

*Who’s to say that my version of “a heaping tablespoon” is the same as someone else’s? Are they all going to be exactly 57 calories worth? It seems a silly, arbitrary number, to me!

Other good choices are quinoa, which is a complete protein and contains all of the essential amino acids (that means that it is the equivalent of a hunk of meat in terms of the quality/density of the protein content), and chickpeas. However, I don’t have packages with nutritional information for either of those in my cupboard, so I can’t give you the exact statistics. Any other bean you can think of has equal statistics to the above beans; red kidney beans, chickpeas, and white beans happen to be my typical choices. I also have a fantastic mix of 15 different kinds of beans/legumes that I got from the bulk food store, so I like to use that in everything that I can so as to get the nutritional benefits of a variety of different foods (but, again, I don’t have the exact nutritional statistics for this bean blend).

What are some of your favourite sources of protein, vegan or otherwise?


  1. fd

    quinoa is a favourite since I discovered this tasty tasty recipe:
    the recipe works well with a large portion of steamed green vegetables through it like green beans or broccoli.

    thanks for introducing the other stats on the above, i’m especially interested in increasing my iron intake at the moment so that is super useful for me.

    the very favourite ever though has to be a lightly grilled red steak. although a poached egg is lovely too. as are all sorts of seafood and fish. hmmm…maybe just loving the food these days 🙂

  2. Holly

    My favorite sources of protein are greek yogurt, cheese, almonds, tofu, beans (preferably black!) and nut butters. I’ve try to have at least one of those with every meal, and as a snack sometimes, too. This is so helpful in keeping me full, and (I think) prevents me from getting too snacky!

  3. Emergefit

    I thought I was the only person still using wheat germ. I mix it into plain yogurt to give it texture, and get a protein 2-fer! Also big on the quinoa — always cook mine with some chicken broth to give it a bit of flavor and serve as a side on it’s own.

  4. Sagan Morrow

    fd- Thanks for the awesome recipe link! I adore steamed broccoli, too. Grilled (rare!) steak is de-lic-i-ous.

    Andrea- The soy milk powder I’ve been using lately is really handy for carring around in baggies with dry oats… once the water is added, it adds a nice protein/calcium kick to my steaming bowl.

    Holly- For some reason I’m not a huge black bean fan. I think I had too many of them when I was in Costa Rica (rice and beans with every meal, gah!). But I very much adore black bean BROWNIES, tehe.

    Emergefit- Wheat germ is great. The mother dear is a big reason why I still use it… she always adds hers to yogurt, too, so it reminds me that I should add some to my green shakes. Good idea to cook the quinoa with some broth; extra flavour is good stuff.

  5. Pubsgal

    Thanks for sharing this list! I eat a lot of nuts, which tend to be calorie-dense. It’s nice to have some other ideas. I found some dry-roasted wasabi edamame; they’re kind of dry (especially since I’m used to the nuts!) but they have tons of fiber and protein. I really need to try quinoa; I’ve been balking at the carb content, but it’s so full of other good nutrients, I know I ought to give it a fair shake. (And who knows? Maybe it bulks up well when cooked, like steel cut oats do, and I can always add some ground flax seed for extra bulk.)

  6. Dr. J

    These are all good protein sources. I will eat some TVP on occasion, but since it’s a processed soy product not too often. Protein is in so many foods that it really is not as hard as people think to get enough.

  7. Sagan Morrow

    Pubsgal- Quinoa does fluff up quite a lot when it’s cooked! I always have some in my cupboard but for some reason I rarely cook it, even though I KNOW how nutritious (and tasty!) it is. Neat idea to add the ground flax for added power.

    Dr. J- I don’t know that I’ve ever had TVP. I’ve seen it at stores but I shy away when I see the ingredient list. Still want to give it a try sometime though! And you’re right; protein is not NEARLY as difficult to get into our diets as people think. I think that most of us just have a problem with having a good balance of the macronutrients at each meal… we tend to eat just carbs or just protein rather than having a mix, and that’s what causes our blood sugars to go all over the place.

    Emily- I think that’s so important, to be OKAY with what our bodies want and need. Sometimes I still have a hard time reconciling myself with the fact that my body wants animal products regularly, but we have to honour our bodies needs.

  8. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    I do depend on animal products for most of my protein, but I also eat nuts and nut butter. And don’t forget that our beloved air-pop has 1g protein per cup! 🙂

    I think the counts you have for the white beans are for dried. My label says a cup, cooked, has 14 grams of protein, for a measly 209 calories.

  9. Sagan Morrow

    Cammy- I’ll take all the protein I can get from popcorn 😉

    Richard- Ha! You’re tricksy. Actually coffee DOES have some quality nutrients in it! No where near what the beans mentioned above contain, though 😀

  10. clare

    great post sagan! i just did a similar one. im not vegan or veg, but i appreciate that all sources of protein are important. soy protein is a good one for me. im not a huge “tofu” fan but i do LOVE it in pudding recipes! (, now foods makes a good soy protein powder. hmm what else…textured soy protein chunks or TVP that some mentioned above.

    but sagan im with on on the eggs/whites…this is a big staple for me!

  11. Sagan Morrow

    Clare- I’ll have to look into that! As long as tofu is used in the right recipes, it can be amazingly tasty.

    Miz- Hope it helps!

    Geosomin- I haven’t been able to find a good vanilla protein powder (I like the ingredients a fair amount, but the taste isn’t much to speak of), but I really adore the NutriBiotic brown rice chocolate protein powder. It’s about $40 per BIG container; I’ve had it since September! It lasts a long time. I like brown rice protein powders better than any other kind, because most people are less likely to have sensitivities to brown rice than to whey or soy etc. The other option is to get powdered peanut butter (PB2); I think it’s about 50 calories with 6 grams protein per 2 tbsp serving (with tiny amounts of fats and carbs, I believe). The only ingredients are peanuts, salt, and sugar, so it’s good stuff. And lastly, ground flax, hemp seeds, or wheat germ are all sort of granular and therefore can be used in place of some protein powders. Good luck!

  12. charlotte

    Seeing as I’m pretty much vegan (except for eggs) these days, I totally needed this post! I’ve been stuck in a quinoa rut. You just reminded me that I have a big bag of 15 bean mix in my cupboard right now! Thanks:))

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