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If you are vegetarian or have recently switched to a more plant based diet, you might be looking to up your protein intake via non-meat sources.

There are many reasons why you might want to incorporate more protein into your diet.

Common amongst these are those wishing to build up more muscle  as well as taking protein to help aid weight loss. Whatever your motivation for eating more protein, we take a look at some of the best vegetarian food which is also high in protein.

Protein – why do we need it?

If you are wondering ‘why do I need protein?’ then the simple answer is that protein is essential for growth and maintenance of muscle as well as the promoting good health. It is also an important source of energy.1

You do not need to be a personal trainer, triathlete or bodybuilder to want to increase your protein intake.

As the “building blocks of the body”, the amino acids in proteins are used not only to build muscles, but also many other tissues and elements of your body.

Vegetarian protein sources

Fortunately for non-meat eaters, vegetarian protein sources are easy to come by.

Lean chicken, pork steaks and beef fillets are no longer the only go-to sources, and whether you are completely vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian or just bringing some more plant-based foods into your diet, there are plenty of vegetarian protein sources to choose from.

The recommended daily amounts of protein is 45g for women and 55g for men.2

What is the best vegetarian protein?

If you are hoping for that ‘one’ top vegetarian protein rich food that you can simply focus on, we have to say that it does not exist!

It is important that your body gets its protein from a wide range of sources in order to make sure it can create the right mix of amino acids for all the different protein functions needed.3

So avoid focusing on consuming just one!

But if you are looking for inspiration, here are some of the most protein rich vegetarian foods:

Cheese is a protein rich food

Parmesan tops the list of protein-rich cheeses, which, per 100g, has up to 36g of protein.4 Edam and cheddar are also high in protein, ranging from around 25-27g per 100g.5

As with all cheeses though, how they are made can make a difference to the protein content, so expect some variations in these numbers.

Dairy food can also be a great source of other nutrients such as calcium and even vitamin D.

Whey, a by-product of cheese making, is also rich in protein.


The average large egg can contain up to 7g of protein, making this readily available food a great and very versatile source of protein.

Vegan proteins: tempeh and tofu

Tempeh, which is fermented tofu, has as much as 34g of protein per 100g, and tofu around 18g.6

Soya, from which tofu and tempeh are made, is an all-round great vegan protein.

So whether you are using tofu, tempeh, soya beans, soya chunks, mince or milk products, it is a great protein rich food. Shop our range of soya and meat alternatives.

Protein packed seeds and nuts
For vegetarians and omnivores alike, make for great snacks to keep hunger at bay.

But which nuts and seeds top the list for the protein content?

Per 100g, here are the top five:

  • hemp seeds (32g)
  • pumpkin seeds (30g)
  • peanuts (24g)
  • almonds (21g)
  • pistachios (21g).7

What about whey protein?

And don’t overlook whey protein powder, you might be amazed by its protein content!

You may not have thought about whey protein before. It is a by-product of the cheese making process. When the fatty parts of milk come together to make cheese, the watery bit is separated as whey. You might even have spotted it as the watery substance on top of your yoghurt.

You’ll remember that you need a wide range of proteins in your diet to get the various amino acids needed for all those important functions in your body, and whey protein contains an incredible range of those. Funny to think that this used to be discarded as a waste product!8 Whey protein is easily absorbed, has that wide range of amino acids, and can contain a phenomenal 80-90g of protein per 100g of whey protein powder.9

Check out our range of whey protein products below and see how you can introduce this amazing vegetarian protein into your diet alongside other foods.

Shop Whey Protein Products

Last Updated: 4th January 2021

Bhupesh Panchal

Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.