Being a vegetarian and a competitive athlete can seem like an impossible task. We need plenty of protein to keep us fueled for workouts and meat is a typical source for that.
But if you’re like me and have cut that out of your life (or you’re considering it), there are plenty of alternative sources of protein that can keep you full, repair & rebuild tired muscles, and taste good too! I’m gonna give you a quick rundown of the best (& my favorite) sources of vegetarian protein and how to incorporate them into your meals.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews are all high in protein and lower in bad fats. Favor these over others!
-trail mix, chopped up on salads, granola, oatmeal, nut butters
- Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds are all great sources of protein and really easy to add into all of your meals
-Sunflower and Pumpkin (because they’re larger): trail mix, salads, oatmeal, granola
-Chia, Hemp, and Flax (because they’re smaller): chia pudding, overnight oatmeal, yogurt and oatmeal toppings, granola, sprinkled on salads or mixed in with salad dressings, toast toppings, sandwich
- Tofu/Tempeh: both are made from soybeans and are really good swaps for meat in any meat-including dishes
– Salads, sandwiches, sautéed with veggies (yum!), breakfast scrambles, burritos/tacos, pasta sauce, noodle salads, wrapped with veggies and hummus in a tortilla/kale leaf, stir-fried with rice and veggies
TIPS: If you’ve never bought tofu before, you should know you’ll want to cook it before you eat it! (its way to spongy to eat the way they sell it and it has no taste) Sautéing, baking, frying, or baking it in a sauce are yummy ways to prepare it. Tempeh taste good enough to eat without needing a sauce (has a slight nutty taste) but also can be improved by sautéing it with something if you don’t like it straight up. Also tofu and tempeh can be bought pre marinated at plenty of stores if you don’t have time to do it yourself
- Lentils, Quinoa & Beans: All are yummy and are good for making a big batch one day and storing in the fridge to use throughout the week!
-sautéed with veggies, cold pasta salad, topping on salad, mashed chickpea salad, burrito/tacos, put on top of some brown rice and topped with roasted veggies, stir-fried or sautéed with veggies
- Protein powder: I use plant-based protein powders
- Kale: kale is good source of protein and has TONS of nutritional benefits too (its called the king of greens for a reason)
– salads (duh), sautéed by itself or with other greens, sandwiches, burritos, as a replacement for tortillas in a wrap, smoothies
- Greek Yogurt
-smoothies, layered with granola and fruit, in overnight oats
I try to incorporate these protein sources in every meal I eat with some carbs and vegetables (because balance is the goal, right?) Here’s some pictures of easy balanced protein-rich meals.
Top Left: bowl of mexican spiced tempeh, beans, avocado, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapeños, italian dressing all on top of some greens
Top Right: bowl of mexican spiced tempeh, hemp seeds, veggies sautéed in some sesame oil on top of shredded kale
Bottom: greek yogurt topped with nutty granola, blueberries, and pluot slices