Finding high-protein vegan snacks that are also low-calorie can feel like looking for a unicorn. However, knowing about those magical vegan protein snacks can make daily dietary choices much easier.
The trick is to search for high-protein snacks, vegetarian options, and other plant-based alternatives that have high levels of nutrients and low levels of additives.
Read on for a simple and easy guide to vegan, high-protein, low-calorie snacking.
How Do Plant-Based Eaters Obtain Protein?
Vegetarians, vegans, and other plant-based eaters can still get high-quality protein even after choosing to exclude animal products from the diet. In fact, recent research is advising people to try and get the majority of their protein from plant-based sources. Why is this?
Plant-based protein has several advantages over animal-based sources. Protein from plants usually comes along with fiber and prebiotics. Each of the nine essential acids that the body needs from food to function can be found in plant foods.
In contrast, animal-based sources are often rich in saturated fat or cholesterol. These are two dietary compounds that experts warn are too high in the traditional American or Western diet.
Which Vegan Protein Is Best?
An individual looking to reap the benefits of a vegan diet should avoid additives when possible. Just like non-vegan eaters, vegans should focus on nutrient-rich sources of vitamins and minerals for sustenance.
Some great options to meet the average recommendation of 3 servings a day include:
• Nut butters
Best Plant-Based, Vegetarian & Vegan Protein Snacks
The best vegan protein snacks keep it low-calorie and also nutrient-dense. The following 15 options are all packed with protein and also plant-based.
1. Cooked Beans or Peas
For a serving of protein, try half a cup of cooked beans or peas. Rinse them before cooking to reduce the level of salt in a dish. Some potential options for protein-rich bean dishes include:
• Bayo beans
• Black beans
• Brown beans
• Fava beans
• Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
• Kidney beans
• Lima beans
• Mung beans
• Navy beans
• Pigeon beans
• Pink beans
• Pinto beans
• Black-eyed peas (cowpeas)
• Split peas
Additionally, a 1/4 cup of baked or refried beans also counts as a serving of protein.
2. Cooked Lentils
Lentils may initially sound like a boring item but they come in multiple colors. Add a half cup of red, brown, or green lentils to protein-power the day!
Edamame is just immature soybeans still in the pod. Roll them in salt for a delicious and nutritious snack. One cup of edamame is only 200 calories but packs over 15 grams of protein.
Packed with protein and fiber, edamole is a quick, easy, and delicious plant-based snack for vegetarians, vegans, and the like. Serve with favorite raw vegetables, including bell pepper strips, broccoli florets, and cucumber slices.
4. Tofu or Tempeh
In terms of tofu, a 1/4 to 1/2 cup firm or soft tofu can be counted towards the daily goal. Half a cup of tempeh also makes for a plant-based, high-protein snack.
5. Nut Butter or Nuts
The following measurements of nuts or nut butters count as a serving of protein:
• 1/2 ounce of nuts (~1/4 cup)
• 12 almonds
• 24 pistachios
• 7 walnut halves
• 1 Tbsp almond butter
• 1 Tbsp cashew butter
• 1 Tbsp peanut butter
• 1 Tbsp sunflower butter
6. Homemade Granola
Store-bought granola is often packed with additives and sweeteners that are not so nutritious. Instead, making it at home allows for customization.
Combine the following ingredients and bake at a low heat for 30-40 minutes for homemade granola mix:
• Old-fashioned oats
• Nuts (i.e. almond or pecans)
• Seeds (i.e. chia, pepita/pumpkin, flax)
• Dried fruit (i.e. raisins)
• Oil (i.e. sunflower)
• Maple syrup
7. Chickpeas and Hummus
For a serving of nutrient-rich protein, try raw vegetables with about 6 tablespoons of hummus. It is a creamy and delicious dip that's also great as a midday snack. Roast them for a toasty flavor.
8. Healthy Banana Split
This healthy snack also doubles as dessert. Simply peel a banana and split it down the middle in a dish. Then, scoop soy-based yogurt, add a tablespoon of peanut butter, some cacao nibs, and a drizzle of agave nectar on top.
9. Overnight Oats with Chia Seeds
Making overnight oats with chia seeds and vegan milk can be delicious and nutritious. Full of fiber and protein, they promote a feeling of fullness, too. Add raisins or other dried fruits to the mix for a fruity twist!
10. Homemade Trail Mix
Trail mix is notorious for being a great high-protein snack on the go. It can also hide some sneaky additives like added sugar and oils. Make it homemade by picking a few favorites from the following foods:
• Brazil Nuts
• Dried fruit
• Macadamia Nuts
• Cacao nibs
• Banana chips
Popcorn is actually a whole grain snack. Get a buttery flavor by adding nutritional yeast. Other great toppings for flavoring include some olive oil and light salt as well as curry powder, taco seasoning, etc.
12. Guacamole and Crackers
Thanks to simple ingredients like avocado, onion, garlic, and lime juice, guacamole is a vegan dip. Pair it with nutritious whole-grain crackers for a satisfying snack.
The following seeds (hulled or roasted) count as one serving of protein:
• 1/2 ounce seeds
• 1/4 cup chia seeds
• 1/4 cup flaxseed
• 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds
• 1/4 cup sesame seeds
• 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
• 1/4 cup squash seeds
• 1 Tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
14. Plant-Based Protein Smoothie
Nothing beats a delicious smoothie for on the go snacking! Add a scoop or two of plant-based, vegan protein powder to nut milk and some frozen fruit for a frothy cup of low-calorie goodness.
Adding a tablespoon of chia or flax seeds also helps increase nutrients like omega-3 which can be harder to get in a vegan diet.
15. Energy Bites
Energy bites are a portable plant-based protein snack to keep stocked with. They are also great workout fuel, as they help control blood sugar and energy levels.
Make completely vegan but swapping whey protein powder for a plant-based option like pea protein. Also, sweeten with agave and select dairy-free dark chocolate chips.
Wrapping It Up on Plant-Based Protein
Plant-based diets can absolutely be well-balanced for a conscious eater. Eating enough protein is crucial to feeling full throughout the day, and protein-packed snacks help keep vegetarians and omnivores alike feeling satisfied.
Nutritious options like beans, peas, lentils, popcorn, nuts, nut butters, and more can be made in a variety of ways to meet daily nutrient requirements.
13 healthy, functional snack ideas. International Functional Foods Association. Published February 19, 2021. https://iffassociation.org/learn/13-healthy-functional-snack-ideas?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7CKBhBMEiwA0Eb7arTzmH3wgN560TxPUdF_2GIfe9C67UigFA25zwgZjLh6HqBNtV3XvxoC-ksQAvD_BwE.
Streit L. 24 Healthy Vegan Snack Ideas. Healthline. Published November 12, 2018. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-snacks.
Protein Foods. U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods.
Wolfram T. Plant-Based Protein 101. Published February 11, 2019. https://www.taylorwolfram.com/plant-based-protein-101/.