Answer by Cher Pastore, Registered Dietician, Author, Owner; CherNutrition:
Vegetarian Protein sources:
1) Beans and legumes: Lentils, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, etc. Beans are versatile, filling, and easy to make in a variety of different ways. You can add beans to a salad, make a soup, (lentil and 3 bean vegetarian chili are two of my favourites), you can eat them as a side dish, beans are used widely in Indian cooking. There are so many options. Pretty much all you need to add are spices and veggies (I like adding red onion, cilantro, and avocado) and you've got a satisfying meal! (One cup cooked lentils has 18 grams)
2) Quinoa: One of modern nutrition's biggest buzzwords, this one couldn't be less of a hassle, and if you want proof--I used to make it in my dorm room by boiling water in an electric kettle, adding it to a bowl with quinoa, and resting a textbook on top of it until it was cooked. Then you just have so season it (I also added lemon juice) and you've got something great to eat faster than you can say "ramen noodles." (one cup cooked has 9 grams)
3) Tempeh: There's a lot of conflicting info out there about soy. For every person saying to avoid it, there's another pointing out the incredible health of Asian populations that eat a lot of soy. Here's the thing--those populations eat a lot of fermented soy, which is vastly different. Tempeh is an example of fermented soy, so if you do want to choose soy, it's a preferable option. One serving (half a package contains 20 grams)
4) Seeds: Not only protein-packed, but super portable. Chia seeds are easy to add to tons of things without really noticing, and hemp seeds are one of the higher-protein options, but feel free to choose whatever you like best. (2Tb of chia seeds has 6 grams)
5) Nuts (Especially nut butters): This one makes the list because it's an excellent protein to snack on, and especially great with crunchy fruits like apples. When choosing a nut butter, it's always best to go with one with as little added to it as possible. Ideally, the finally product would just include nuts, and maybe salt (but makes sure you watch how much! (one serving of almonds has 7 grams)
6) Soybeans and Tofu (one 3 ounce serving of tofu has 9 grams): Soybeans (think edamame) and tofu are mainstays in many a vegetarian diet. I like to just boil up some edamame and eat it as a snack or toss it in a salad. Tofu stir frys are a quick and nutrition lunch or dinner.
7) Nutritional Yeast: This one's a little bit strange, but it's an ingredient that most people who have been following a plant-based diet are familiar with. Nutritional yeast is great for those who eat little to no meat because it also contains tons of relevant vitamins, and is what makes vegan things taste "cheesy," making it a valuable addition to your diet if that's a flavour you've been craving.
8) Ezekiel Bread: Ezekiel bread has loads of nutritional benefits, compared to white bread which has very few. If you enjoy this product, get in the habit of reaching for it as your default bread choice.
9) Spirulina: This strange powder isn't for everyone, but the trick is to add it to things in small enough quantities so you can't really taste it (add too much by mistake and you've got a smoothie that looks and tastes like a pond). It has a beautiful blue-green color and if you can get 2 Tbsp into your diet each day, you'll get a nutrition jump start as well as a protein boost.
10) Hummus: Another snack, this time for when you're craving something savoury. There are countless flavours of hummus at the supermarket, so it's difficult to get tired of the stuff. I prefer to eat hummus by dipping carrots or cucumbers in it, but if you want to double-up on protein, try spreading some on Ezekiel bread.
11) Dairy Products (eggs, Greek Yogurt, or cottage cheese): If you eat dairy, these foods are a great source of protein for non meat eaters. Don't just think of eggs for breakfast, serve up a veggie omelet for lunch or an asparagus and mushroom frittata.