Protein staples for the vegetarian on a budget

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When I first told people I was vegetarian, the most asked question was “Why?” I am lucky that many people have not been too concerned about my diet, but this is most likely because I’m studying nutrition. Only one person has asked me where I get my protein from, but this is common concern faced by many new vegetarians. Protein is an important component of the body. Besides being the major structural component of muscle, protein is also used to produce hormones and red blood cells. It is extremely beneficial to consume an adequate amount of protein because there are nine amino acids (building blocks of protein) that we must consume through our diet because our bodies can’t synthesize them.

Here are some of my favorite protein sources as a vegetarian:

Dairy products

Cheese is the only reason why I’m not vegan and I probably eat it at least once day. One ¼ cup of shredded cheese contains about 7 grams of protein per serving. Another favorite snack of mine is Greek yogurt and one 6-ounce container has 18 grams of protein.

Beans

Beans are probably the staple food for most vegetarians and 1 cup of black beans is packed with 12 grams of protein. Beans are also a good source of fiber. I like to prepare this vegetarian chili during finals week and freeze it to eat later. 

Meat substitutes

While the idea of a meat substitute is a little weird to think after eating meat for 22 years, it’s actually quite tasty. I would recommend any product from Morningstar or Boca Foods Company. These products are specifically designed for vegetarians and vegans and contain high amounts of protein. They are also enriched with many vitamins and minerals.

Quinoa

Quinoa has received a lot of attention in recent years because of its high protein content and it contains all nine essential amino acids. Just 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and is a healthy source of fiber. Quinoa makes a good side dish to any meal or it can be made into a salad as a main entrée.

Nuts and nut butters

One tablespoon of peanut butter contains 4 grams of protein and one ¼ cup of whole almonds contains 8 grams of protein. Make your own personalized trail mix or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a quick snack.

Tofu

Tofu has a bad reputation because people say it’s flavorless and they’re right. However, because tofu is bland, it absorbs the other flavors of the dish making it a delicious alternative for vegetarians. Tofu is rich in protein in which 1 cup is packed with 21 grams of protein. Not sure how to prepare tofu? Try your hand at one of these recipes


Risa is a boss ass Brazilian. When she's not running around helping her friends and studying nutrition, she likes to indulge on crime shows and stove top popcorn. She is passionate about global health, well actually, any global-related issue, and hopes to help solve the world's problems. She has already traveled to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Marshall Islands and can't wait to drop another pin on the map. In the meantime, she'll sip on a vodka cranberry while planning her future.