Protein Content: 4 g per ounce
Though the protein content isn't as high as some other vegetarian foods out there, chia seeds pack a huge nutritional punch. For starters, they're an incredible fiber resource with nearly half (11 g) of the amount you need every day in a single ounce. That helps fill you up and eat fewer calories. They also contain 18 percent of your daily calcium requirement, more than triple that of milk, which helps your bones. Chia seeds have no flavor, so you can add a tablespoon to any food you wish to without altering its flavor, and unlike flax, chia seeds don't need to be ground in order for your body to absorb all the nutrients.
Tofu and Tempeh
Protein Content: Tempeh, 18 g per serving; tofu, 8 g per serving
"I call tofu the veggie white meat, anything chicken can do, tofu can do, too," says Blatner. "Tempeh [a fermented form of tofu] has a fabulous texture and is a great burger stand-in or perfect crumbled in chili or seasoned or broiled into a high-protein crouton on a salad." Look for organic products to avoid genetically modified soy and hexane, a cancer-causing contaminant that has been detected in heavily processed, nonorganic soy products.
If you're not a fan of tofu or tempeh, you can still reap the protein benefits of soy in soy milk (8 g per glass) and edamame (green soybeans, which have 17 g per cup). But do go easy on soy products, as too much can raise estrogen levels and wreak hormonal havoc in both women and men. Aim for one serving of tofu, soy milk or edamame per day.
Protein Content: Seeds, 6 g per ounce; Milk, 2 g per cup
If you're allergic to soy, or just freaked out by its estrogenic activity, hemp products are your next best bet. Sold as a dairy alternative or as seeds, hemp is one of very few plant proteins that supply you with all the essential amino acids, acids your body can't produce on its own to build muscle and create more protein. The fatty acids in hemp seeds and hemp milk also boost your immune system, and the crop itself is highly sustainable, growing as fast as 10 feet in 100 days and naturally requiring very few pesticides.
Protein Content: 6 g per egg
There's a reason the incredible, edible egg is such a popular breakfast choice. The protein in eggs has the highest biological value, a measure of how well it supports your body's protein needs, of any food, including beef. And the yolks contain vitamin B12, deficiencies of which are common in vegetarian diets and can cause attention, mood, and thinking problems while raising blood homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's.
To get the healthiest eggs, find a local producer whose chicken flocks are small and feed off of grass, bugs, and organic grain; studies have shown that E. coli and salmonella contamination in eggs is directly related to the size of the flock.