Protein is a nutrient everyone needs in their diet; it is essential for muscle development and movement, protects the body from infections and acts as an enzyme in several biochemical reactions; so if your diet doesn’t include meat, you’ll need to discover some protein sources for vegetarians. The functions of protein are endless and most Americans get more protein than they need merely from animal products; however, protein can be found in many other foods besides animal products. If you are a vegetarian or are thinking about becoming one, this list will help you discover the best protein sources for vegetarians.

-Quinoa and other whole grains.  Most whole grains are considered “incomplete proteins” which means they do not contain all of the essential amino acids.  They must be coupled with other incomplete proteins, like beans, in order to provide the nutrient adequately.  Quinoa, however, is a source of whole grain that is considered a “complete protein.”  In fact, one cup of cooked quinoa provides about 18 grams of protein—so eat up! 

-Beans, lentils and legumes.  All of these healthy foods are excellent sources of protein.  You can add them to almost every dish or meal to make it taste even more delicious.  They also contain several other nutrients that your body needs.

-Tofu and soy products.  People are often hesitant to try these items, but they are actually quite tasty!  Soy ads plenty of flavor to foods—and is a great substitute for milk products.  Several brands of tofu are fortified with other nutrients, including vitamin B12, iron and calcium - three nutrients vegetarians may need help with.  You can add tofu to just about anything you cook, including stir-fries, pastas, soups and salads. 

-Nuts, seeds, and nut butters. 
These foods make great snacks for vegetarians, but should be enjoyed in moderation due to their high fat content.  They contain a number of nutrients and a portion of fiber that should keep you nourished throughout the day. 

-Veggie burgers and meat substitutes.
  Most of these products are made from soy protein, wheat protein, or a combination of the two.  They usually taste just like the real thing!  These are convenient for vegetarians who want to attend barbecues and other events where meat is served.

-Tempeh. 
Chances are that you haven’t ever heard of tempeh.  It is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans and formed into a patty.  It can be prepared in a variety of ways, so experiment with it to increase your protein intake. 

There are some excellent protein sources for vegetarians, but it may take some experimenting to figure out what you like the most.  Don’t be discouraged—you will get plenty of protein if you regularly consume these foods.