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Getting the nutrients you need with a plant-based diet

If you're considering trying a plant-based diet, be prepared to hear this question a lot: “How will you get your protein?” Eliminating meat doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get enough protein. In fact, adult men only need about 56 grams of protein per day, while adult women need about 46 grams, and children need anywhere from 19 to 34 grams, depending on their age and weight. One average-sized chicken breast has 31 grams of protein, so most meat eaters are far exceeding their daily requirement.

Below are lists of plant-based sources of protein, calcium and iron, the essential nutrients most commonly associated with animal-based foods. Many vegetarians and vegans also choose to use dietary supplements. Speak with your doctor to determine which, if any, supplements are right for you.

Protein

  • Dried beans, lentils and soybeans
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Rice, barley, quinoa and other whole grains
  • Seitan (wheat gluten)
  • Tofu (bean curd) and tempeh (cultured soybeans)

Calcium

  • Beans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Leafy, dark-green vegetables
  • Dried figs
  • Fortified soy milk or other non-dairy milk
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice
  • Tofu processed with calcium sulfate

Iron

  • Dried beans, lentils and split peas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Leafy, dark-green vegetables
  • Dried fruits
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole grain and fortified breads and cereals

This information has been created and supplied to you courtesy of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. It is general in nature and is intended to provide you with an overview of the topic to help you and your family get and stay healthy. If you have questions about your or a family member’s health, ask your doctor.