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The Best Vegetarian Protein Sources for Athletes

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    Tofu

    Whether it's marinated and grilled on your salad or scrambled with peppers, asparagus, and cheddar cheese, tofu packs a protein punch with 10 grams in just half a cup. Bonus: Some tofu is prepared with an added kick of calcium. Choose this variety and you'll meet about 50 percent of your daily calcium requirement.

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    Eggs

    Whether you have a pre-workout breakfast sandwich, a breakfast-for-dinner omelet, or a hard-boiled egg as a quick snack, eggs are perfect any time of the day! Their cholesterol is no longer seen as a threat, so enjoy the yolks for their protein and other benefits such as lutein, which is important for healthy vision. Thanks to 6 grams of protein in one large egg, your total intake for the day will add up quickly.

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    Edamame

    Fish isn't the only source of protein in your sushi takeout. If you order a veggie roll with a side of edamame (soybean pods), you'll add a bountiful 11 grams of protein from just half a cup of this delicious finger food. But watch out for the added salt.

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    Quinoa

    This trendy grain is actually a seed from a plant similar to spinach. According to Kristin Reisinger, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., owner and founder of IronPlate Studios in Hoboken, NJ, "This complete protein is chock-full of fiber as well as other much-needed micronutrients such as manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus." It contains roughly 8 grams of protein per cup, and is delicious on its own, in baked goods, or even as a morning porridge like overnight quinoa, adds Reisinger.

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    Beans

    Whether you prefer them baked, refried, or straight from the can, beans are a good source of both protein and fiber. Black beans are an excellent choice with more than 7 grams each of protein and fiber in a half-cup serving. White beans top that with more than 9 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.

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    Nuts and Nut Butter

    With the expansion of almond, cashew, and even macadamia nut butter, it's never been easier to get your protein packaged with healthy fats. Peanut butter has 4 grams of protein per tablespoon, which is the perfect amount to add to a post-workout smoothie. An ounce of almonds (that's about 23 almonds) has 6 grams of protein. But beware of the calories and exercise portion control for any variety of nut or nut butter.

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    Chickpeas

    With 7 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber in half a cup, chickpeas prove that a little pulse goes a long way. Add them to your salad or roast them with olive oil and cumin to satisfy your crunchy snack cravings. (Here's Why You Should Be Eating More Pulses.)

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    Nondairy Milk

    With a new kind of nondairy milk hitting the shelves practically every day it's easy to pump up your protein and change the flavor of your favorite smoothie at the same time. Check out soy milk, or try the latest trend, pea milk. The new brand called Ripple is made from yellow peas and comes close to matching the 8 grams per cup found in cow's milk.

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    Protein Powder

    "As a vegetarian who's into sports, the issue of getting enough protein (and enough complete proteins) is always an issue," says Reisinger. "A favorite go-to protein powder is Vega Sport Performance Protein, which combines pea, alfalfa, pumpkin seed, and organic sunflower seed protein into a complete protein-packed powder." It's the perfect thing to add to your smoothies to boost performance and recovery. Try these 6 Protein Smoothie Recipes That Keep You Full All Day.

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    Dairy

    Whether it's milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese, dairy has your back. Dairy milk boasts 8 grams of protein per cup. Fage Greek yogurt has an average of 13 grams per single-serve container, and cottage cheese carries 10 grams in just 4 ounces.

 

Deborah Tagliareni MS RD

Deborah Tagliareni, a Registered Dietitian and Founder of Milestone Nutrition, received her bachelors degree from Northwestern University and Masters in Clinical Nutrition from New York University.  More →

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