High-Protein Vegan Snacks for Athletes
Planning high-protein vegan snacks can be a challenge for athletes. Athletes may be unaware of how much protein they need or unsure what vegan foods contain protein. Let’s take a look at how much protein athletes should aim to consume with snacks. Then we will explore ways to help athletes plan high-protein vegan snacks.
What is a Vegan Diet?
An athlete who follows a vegan diet does not consume any animal-based or animal-derived products. This includes beef, chicken, turkey, pork, seafood, dairy products, eggs, and butter. Some individuals following a vegan diet also avoid honey.
Instead, all nutrients in a vegan diet are provided by plant-based sources. Plant-based sources of nutrients include: grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Carefully planned high-protein vegan snacks can help athletes with meeting their sports nutrition needs throughout the day.
How Much Protein?
When it comes to protein, athletes are encouraged to spread their protein intake throughout the day with several meals and snacks. In regard to serving size, athletes should aim to eat ~0.25 grams of protein per kg body weight at each eating occasion. In general, this calculates to be in the range of 20-40 grams of protein1 at each meal/snack, with larger athletes needing more protein than smaller athletes.
High Protein Vegan Snacks for Athletes
When planning snacks, I often encourage athletes to view their snacks as “mini-meals” that help them meet their daily sports nutrition needs. When building snacks, athletes should plan for the snack to contain a good source of protein along with food from at least one other food group.
By pairing foods to enjoy together, athletes can create a snack or “mini-meal” that meets their target protein intake. Let’s take a look at a variety of vegan items athletes can include in their snacks to increase the protein content.
Plant-Based High-Protein Milks
An easy way for athletes to boost the protein content of snacks is to enjoy a glass of a high-protein, plant-based protein milk along with your snack. In general, plant-based milks (almond, coconut, oat) tend to be low in protein (~1 gram of protein per cup). However, soy milk is an exception to this, containing ~6-8 grams of soy protein per cup (depending on the brand).
Some brands of plant-based milks are starting to offer higher protein varieties. Silk® Original Protein is an almond and cashew milk blend that contains added pea protein. A one cup serving of this beverage provides 10 grams of protein, along with calcium and Vitamin D. When you are shopping for a higher protein plant-based milk option, it is important to read the nutrition facts label and compare the protein content between products.
Enjoying a plant-based yogurt is another way to add protein to your snack. The protein content of plant-based yogurts tends to vary based on the type of plant-based milk used in the yogurt. Similar to soy milk, soy yogurt contains soy protein with ~6 grams of protein per 6-oz cup (depending on brand).
In addition, some brands are starting to offer Greek-style, plant-based yogurts, which have a higher protein content than traditional plant-based yogurts.
For a quick, healthy snack consider preparing a fruit and yogurt parfait made with plant-based yogurt, whole grain vegan cereal, and mixed berries.
High-Protein Vegan Smoothie – Great Snack Option!
A fruit smoothie or protein shake is another great high-protein vegan snack option. Athletes can easily meet their protein needs by preparing the smoothie with a high-protein plant-based milk, a plant-based yogurt, nut butters, chia seeds, and even adding in tofu. You can further boost the nutrient profile by adding in a variety of fruits, leafy greens, and spices.
When looking for a quick post-workout shake, athletes can choose to use a vegan, plant-based protein powder. However, it is important to be aware that supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the same way that food is. Dietary supplements may contain banned substances that could potentially make you ineligible for competition.
Due to this, look for supplements that have been third-party tested. Supplements that are third-party tested have an outside organization evaluate the supplement for accuracy of ingredients. Two companies that evaluate sports supplements are NSF International Certified for Sport and Informed Sport.
For a great high-protein vegan shake recipe, check-out the Vegan Weight Gain Smoothie Recipe from Katie Dodd, Registered Dietitian. This smoothie recipe is made with a vegan protein powder, nut butter, and avocado making it a nutrient dense, high protein vegan snack option.
Edamame – High Protein Vegan Snack Addition
Edamame is a type of green soybean typically served in the pod. A 1-cup serving of cooked edamame contains ~18 grams of soy protein2. Soy protein is a complete protein. A complete protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce. In addition to protein, edamame contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals making it a great option for vegan athletes.
I recommend athletes keep a bag of frozen edamame on hand to defrost and enjoy for a quick, high-protein vegan snack. For a change of flavor, you can toss the edamame in sea salt, garlic, ginger, or any of your favorite spices.
Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts and nut butters are great options to boost the protein content of your snacks. In addition to protein, nuts contain unsaturated fats, vitamins, and minerals. Different types of nuts provide different nutritional benefits, so try to include a variety in your overall sports nutrition meal plan.
Nut butters make a great spread for sandwiches, are delicious mixed into smoothies, and are a perfect topping for apple slices and whole grain, vegan crackers. In general, a 2-tablespoon serving of nut butter contains ~7 grams of protein.
When selecting a nut butter, choose a product that has limited added ingredients. Some nut butters contain added sugars and hydrogenated oils, making them less healthy choices. Also, be mindful that not all nut butters are vegan, as some contain added sweeteners, such as honey.
Seeds are an excellent way to add protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Aim to include a variety of seeds, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds, with your snacks.
Vegan Trail Mix
Trail mix is a great vegan snack option. You can build your own trail mix by combining together your favorite seeds, nuts, dried fruits, as well as vegan breakfast cereal, whole grain crackers, and pretzels. Pack your trail mix into individual serving size bags and enjoy on the go.
When looking for ideas to increase the protein content of your vegan snack, don’t forget about chickpeas. Chickpeas, also referred to as garbanzo beans, are a type of legume. A 1-cup serving of cooked chickpeas provides ~10 grams of protein3. In addition to protein, chickpeas contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Chickpeas are the main ingredient in hummus. For a snack, consider enjoying hummus as a dip with whole grain vegan crackers or as a spread on a sandwich.
Roasted chickpeas are another great snack option. Try out this Healthy Roasted Chickpeas with Seasoning recipe from Amy Gorin, Registered Dietitian. Once you prepare the roasted chickpea recipe, you can toss them into your trail mix for added flavor and crunch.
Protein Overnight Oats
Protein overnight oats is a great high-protein vegan snack athletes can prepare in advance and eat on the go. Although individuals may traditionally think of oatmeal as a breakfast food, it can be enjoyed at any time of day.
A benefit of overnight oats is that the recipe is extremely versatile. Athletes can add in high protein, plant-based milk, plant-based yogurt, nuts, nut butter, and chia seeds to make an oatmeal packed full of protein. By changing up the type of fruit and spices used, athletes can enjoy a new flavor every day.
If you have never made overnight oats and are interested in trying it out, you can click HERE to download a free Overnight Oats recipe.
Vegan Protein Bars
When athletes are looking for a quick snack to help meet their protein needs, a vegan bar can be a good option. Keeping some vegan bars in your gym bag can help ensure you have a snack available when time is limited. When you have more time to plan and prepare snacks, focus on eating whole foods that provide vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
When you purchase vegan bars, look for products that are made with whole grains, contain a good source of plant-protein, and have limited added ingredients. Some of my favorite vegan bars include Orgain®Organic Protein Bar, Larabar® Protein, and Garden of Life® Sport Organic Plant-Based Performance Protein Bars.
Preparing High Protein Vegan Snacks for Athletes
You are now set with a variety of ways you can add protein to your vegan snacks. Remember the importance of focusing on variety when planning snacks for the week. By carefully planning your snacks to fit within your overall vegan meal plan you can ensure all of your sports nutrition needs are met.
For athletes looking for additional plant-based sports nutrition tips, check-out my blog: Vegetarian Post-Workout Meal: 3 Keys to Success.
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About the Author
Mandy is a Sports Dietitian Nutritionist in the San Antonio, TX area. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian, a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, a Licensed Athletic Trainer, and is a Certified Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. Mandy believes the key to reaching one’s full potential, both in everyday life and in sports performance, relies on a healthy nutritional foundation. Learn more about the work Mandy does here.
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