Often times, the first question people ask when they hear that someone is vegan or vegetarian is "where do you get your protein?" When in fact, getting an adequate amount of protein on a meat-free diet is actually quite easy, assuming you are also consuming an adequate amount of calories as well.
Before we get into the sources of protein on a vegan diet, it should also be noted that it is not always necessary to combine specific foods in order to create a "complete protein". There are actually several complete sources of plant-based proteins that we can eat. In addition, our bodies can create complete proteins as long as we consume a variety of higher protein foods throughout the day. You don't always have to eat beans with your rice ;)
1. Beans & Legumes
Speaking of beans, they are a great source of both protein and fiber! The typical 1/2 cup serving provides 7 grams of protein on average, for just about 100 calories. You can choose from black beans, kidney beans, lentils, soy beans (edamame), chickpeas, the list goes on! And you don't have to have them as is. Grind chickpeas into hummus for a high-protein dip, make your own veggie burgers, or even try using beans in a dessert, like these black bean brownies. Yum!
Quinoa, oatmeal, wild rice, buckwheat etc. One cup of these cooked grains provides a whopping 8 grams of protein! Not to mention, many whole grain breads (specifically sprouted) are incredibly high in protein as well. A simple breakfast consisting of two slices of toast with a peanut butter and a banana could easily be clocking in at 16+ grams of protein. It doesn't have to be complicated!
3. Nuts & Seeds
Speaking of peanut butter, although technically a legume, the peanut's cousins are also quite high in protein. Almonds, cashews, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. all make great snacks and spreads. They are also easily added to salads for some extra crunch and a protein boost! Just a few tablespoons of these babies can add anywhere from 7-13 grams of protein.
You wouldn't think of vegetables as being high in protein, but they actually are! Especially the green ones ;) Just a single cup of broccoli, spinach or brussel sprouts contain 5 grams of protein.
Aside from the foods mentioned above, there are also vegan-friendly "substitutes" that are high in protein as well. Less processed choices include tofu, tempeh and seitan which tend to have a "meaty" consistency but are made from things like wheat gluten and soy. They can have anywhere from 20-30 grams of protein per cup. There are also vegan protein powders that can help you reach your protein goals quite easily, containing about 15-20 grams of protein per scoop depending on the brand.
And finally, as veganism becomes more popular, there are also packaged meat substitutes that tend to have a decent amount of protein as well. While we prefer to advocate consuming more whole foods, there is nothing wrong with choosing these foods on occasion and they can certainly help curb cravings as well.
This is just an example. The RDA recommends 0.8g of protein per kg body weight. So someone weighing 130 lbs would need to consume approximately 50 grams of protein per day.
Breakfast: Oatmeal with tbs peanut butter and a small banana
Lunch: Salad with mixed greens, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and kidney beans
Dinner: Baked sweet potato with lentils and roasted veggies
Dessert: Black bean brownie
Total: Approx. 1,700 calories and 71 grams of protein