5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (2024)

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (1)

by Cristina Goyanes

February 13, 2017

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5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (2)

Muscles aren’t just for meat eaters. Vegetarians and vegans can also build muscle mass and strength without sacrificing performance. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we’ve selected a few recipes from the new nutrition guidebook, “The Vegetarian Athlete’s Cookbook: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes for Active Living,” written by lifelong vegetarian, registered nutritionist and former British bodybuilding champion Anita Bean.

“More and more people are cutting meat and adopting a ‘flexitarian’ eating pattern with fewer animal products and more plant foods for health, ethical or environmental reasons,” says Bean, who has written 27 books on nutrition and fitness, including the best-selling book, “The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition,” now in its eighth edition.

“Large-scale studies have shown that a vegetarian diet has numerous health benefits, including a longer life span, less cardiovascular disease risk and a lower risk of certain cancers, Type 2 diabetes and obesity,” she says. “I also wanted to dispel the popular myths about vegetarian diets, namely that they are low in protein and cannot support top-level performance. There are plenty of examples of world-class athletes who are vegetarian or vegan. There are also many studies that show that a vegetarian diet can benefit health as well as performance.”

While eating more vegetables daily isn’t a hard sell — we all generally agree that is a must — finding ways to add more fresh produce to your diet can be tricky. Here’s where Bean offers a solution: “All the recipes [in this cookbook] are easy and quick to make. You don’t need to be an experienced cook to manage them! My recipes make use of everyday foods that are inexpensive and widely available in stores. The recipes are designed with the specific nutritional needs of active people in mind. So, there’s a focus on protein, iron, omega-3s and calcium, and nutrients that assist with energy production, muscle recovery and healthy immune function.”

Below, Bean shares five favorite recipes from her new book, and explains the nutritional benefits of each delicious dish. All main meals, excluding desserts, offer approximately 20 grams of protein or more per serving.

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (3)

1. Butternut Squash and Pea Risotto with Parmesan and Pine Nuts

“Risotto is a fantastic source of carbohydrates, which you need before training, so it’s a really great pre-workout meal,” says Bean, who made this weekly for her daughter to eat before swim practice. Another reason this is Bean’s go-to dish: “You’ve got just about every color in there. Butternut squash has a really beautiful gold color and it’s a good source of keratin, which is an antioxidant. You’ve also got kidney beans, which contain fiber and protein. And it has peas, which add vibrancy as well as protein and vitamin C. I like to add pine nuts and other nuts, like cashews and almonds, to get some extra omega-3’s as well as some protein and B vitamins.” If you want to lower the calorie count, Bean advises swapping out rice for extra vegetables. “I might put in some celery or mushrooms to create more volume and give more portions,” she says.

1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/4–1/2 red chili pepper, finely chopped (optional)
1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup Arborio rice
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 3/4–2 1/2 cups hot vegetable stock (or 1 1/2 teaspoon vegetable bouillon dissolved in boiling water)
1/2 (14 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan, and cook the onion over moderate heat, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Add the chili and garlic and continue cooking for about 1 minute.

Add the rice, and continue cooking for 1–2 minutes, stirring constantly until the grains are coated with oil and translucent.

Add the butternut squash and half of the hot vegetable stock, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the liquid is absorbed (about 5 minutes). Add the remaining stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring and continuing to simmer until the rice is almost tender (about 15 minutes). Add the red kidney beans and peas, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. As a guide, the total cooking time should be around 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the grated Parmesan and pine nuts, and season with lots of black pepper. Serve with Parmesan shavings and extra black pepper.

Nutrition Information
Serves: 2

Per serving: Calories: 613; Total Fat: 20g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Carbohydrate: 81g; Dietary Fiber: 14g; Sugar: 11g; Protein: 21g

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (4)

2. Black Bean and Vegetable Curry with Almonds

“This dish offers a good mixture of both carbohydrates and protein, which you need to promote a speedy muscle recovery,” says Bean, who makes curry at least once a week. “Like most beans, black are rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins and iron. They are also a brilliant source of fructooligosaccharides.” (Those are low-calorie, indigestible carbohydrates that enhance flavor and promote immunity, bone health and the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.)

While this recipe calls for potatoes, Bean often prefers to use sweet potatoes, which contain more beta-carotene. “Try to vary the vegetables,” she says. “If you make this more than once a week, you will want to mix the flavors.”

Speaking of flavor, Bean uses coconut milk for taste. If you want to reduce the fat or boost protein and calcium, consider skipping the coconut milk and instead use more Greek yogurt.

1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1⁄3 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cilantro
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 (14 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup ground almonds
Chopped fresh cilantro (optional garnish)
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the onion. Cook gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the vegetables, spices, garlic, and ginger and cook for a further minute, then add the chopped tomatoes and about 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Add the beans and continue cooking for 2–3 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the coconut milk, yogurt and almonds, then stir into the curry. Turn off the heat, taking care not to boil, otherwise the yogurt may curdle. Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with brown rice or flatbread, if desired.

Nutrition Information
Serves: 2

Per serving: Calories: 592; Total Fat: 21g; Saturated Fat: 7g; Carbohydrate: 66g; Dietary Fiber: 18g; Sugar: 22g; Protein: 26g

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (5)

3. Rainbow Salad with Goat Cheese

Bean recommends roasting a big batch of vegetables on Sunday evening (it takes about 30 minutes) and keeping them in your fridge for the next couple of days so that they’re ready to eat when you want to quickly make this easy salad. Keep the salad interesting by switching up the leafy greens you use as a base and the protein. “I love goat cheese because it’s a good source of protein and calcium,” she says. Winterize this summer salad by warming up the goat cheese: Cut a thick slice and flash it on a hot, nonstick pan for 20–30 seconds. Or make it vegan, and opt for a handful of cashews instead of cheese.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1–2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red pepper, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 carrot, julienned
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups salad greens
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Toss the pepper, onion, butternut squash, carrot and sweet potato in the olive oil and garlic in a large roasting pan. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are almost tender.

Arrange the salad greens, tomatoes and avocado on two plates. Pile the cooked vegetables and top with crumbled goat cheese.

Nutrition Information
Serves: 2

Per serving: Calories: 520; Total Fat: 30g; Saturated Fat: 14g; Carbohydrate: 40g; Dietary Fiber: 11g; Sugar: 21g; Protein: 18g

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (6)

4. Potato, Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata

“This meal really is super quick, actually, and very high in protein,” Bean says. “It’s got 22 grams of protein thanks to the eggs, which are a brilliant food for athletes. Eggs also contain so many other nutrients: B vitamins, iron, vitamin A and vitamin D in the yolks.” Don’t feel obligated to following this recipe exactly. While Bean likes vitamin C-rich spinach (fresh or frozen), any leafy green vegetable will do. Also, consider adding leftover potatoes or sweet potatoes, too. Whatever you want to add to the mix, just be sure to whisk it with the eggs.

1 medium potato, peeled and thickly sliced
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper
Grated nutmeg, to taste
4 cups spinach
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed

Cook the potato slices in a steamer or a small pan of boiling water for 5 minutes until just tender.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the potatoes, spinach and goat cheese.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick ovenproof frying pan, then add the onions and sauté for 4–5 minutes until they are softened. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for 1 minute. Pour in the frittata mixture, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the eggs are almost set. Place the pan underneath a hot grill until the top is golden and just set.

Slide a knife around the edge and slide the frittata onto a large plate. Serve in wedges, with a green salad if desired.

Nutrition Information
Serves: 2

Per serving: Calories: 363; Total Fat: 21g; Saturated Fat: 8g; Carbohydrate: 19g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 4g; Protein: 22g

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (7)

5. Blueberry New York-Style Cheesecake

“A conventional cheesecake made cream cheese could be as high as 800 calories per slice,” says Bean. “After a main meal you don’t need to double your calorie intake. Desserts are a treat. They are not necessarily part of your daily nutrient intake.”

Still, you don’t have to rule out satiating your sweet-tooth. “If you can make sure that desserts do contribute something useful to your daily intake then it’s a nice bonus,” she explains. “I added blueberries, but you can add other fruits, like bananas, strawberries, or whatever is in season. In the winter, perhaps use dried fruit if you can’t get hold of any decent quality fresh fruit.”

In this “cheat” version of cheesecake, she uses an almost fat-free soft cheese called quark, but you could swap in ricotta.

For the base:
1/2 cup graham crackers or gingersnap cookies
3 tablespoons olive oil spread or butter

For the filling:
18 ounces quark or fat-free ricotta
2 eggs
3/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar with stevia or 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Blitz the graham crackers or cookies in a food processor or place in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin to fine crumbs. Melt the olive oil spread or butter in a pan over a low heat. Remove from the heat, add the crumbs, and mix well. Press crumb mixture into an 7-inch lined springform pan.

Place the quark, eggs, yogurt, corn starch, sugar with stevia (or sugar) and vanilla into mixing bowl. Blend at low speed for 1–2 minutes; scraping the sides of the bowl and mixing paddle halfway. (Or, beat together with a large spoon.) Carefully stir in the blueberries with a large spoon.

Pour the batter into the pan; bake for 40–45 minutes until just set with a slight wobble. It should be cream on top with just a slight golden hint around the edges. Turn off the oven, prop open the door so that it is slightly ajar, and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven (this prevents it cracking).

Once cool, remove from oven. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan, and keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

Nutrition Information
Serves: 8

Per serving: Calories: 211; Total Fat: 7g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Carbohydrate: 23g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 10g; Protein: 14g

Tagsrecipesports nutritionVegetarian

About the Author

5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (8)

Cristina Goyanes

Cristina Goyanes is a NYC-based freelance editor and writer who covers topics including sports and fitness, health and lifestyle, and adventure travel for various national men’s and women’s magazines and websites. When she’s not feverishly typing stories at her desk, she’s exploring the world, from the Arctic to Antarctica and plenty of countries in between. Follow her adventures and more at CristinaGoyanes.com.


5 Amazing Vegetarian Recipes for Athletes (2024)


What must an athlete on a vegetarian diet consume? ›

Consume a range of foods that are included in a healthy vegetarian diet: whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Use fortified foods where needed. Calcium can come from fortified orange juice, or one can consume iodized salt. Supplement when necessary.

What is the most famous vegetarian dish? ›

Originating in the Middle East, falafel is one the most popular vegetarian foods in the world! As one of the most popular vegetarian foods in the world, falafel needs no introduction! However, the origin of these beloved patties is rather controversial.

What are the best protein sources for vegetarian athletes? ›

Common sources of plant-based proteins include soy products (tofu, edamame, soymilk, etc.), lentils, chickpeas, beans, quinoa, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, peanut butter, peas (including snap peas, snow peas, split peas, or black-eyed peas), mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, and various grains.

What is the most nutritious vegetarian meal? ›

Our 10 Healthiest Vegetarian Dinners
  1. Vegetarian Kale and Cannellini Bean Stew. ...
  2. Vegetarian Paella with Red Peppers & Chickpeas. ...
  3. How To Make the Best Lentil Dal. ...
  4. Tofu Chickpea Stir-Fry with Tahini Sauce. ...
  5. Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Herbs. ...
  6. Roasted Broccoli & Cheddar Soup. ...
  7. Sweet Potato Fajitas.
May 1, 2019

Is Tom Brady A vegan? ›

Tom Brady follows a “commonsensical” diet, primarily plant-based but not strictly vegan or vegetarian. He emphasizes that he's not a vegan or vegetarian by definition. Tom's meals comprise approximately 80 percent plant- and 20 percent animal-based foods.

What are the 6 foods an athlete should include in their diet? ›

include a wide variety of foods like wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables (particularly leafy green varieties), fruit, lean meat and low-fat dairy products to enhance long term nutrition habits and behaviours. enable the athlete to achieve optimal body weight and body fat levels for performance.

What foods are surprisingly vegetarian? ›

Top Accidentally Vegan Foods
  • Cinnamon Life.
  • Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix.
  • SkinnyPop White Cheddar Flavored Popped Popcorn.
  • Airheads.
  • Cracker Jack.
  • Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili–Flavored Tortilla Chips.
  • Fritos.
  • Fruit by the Foot.

Who is the number one vegetarian in the world? ›

India. India has the highest percentage of vegetarians in the world, with an estimated 20-39% vegetarian population.

Which is the No 1 vegetarian country in the world? ›

India is ranked top in the world with 38% of the total population being vegetarian. Vegetarianism in the region became popular after the introduction of Buddhism and Jainism, which was around the 6th Century BC.

What are 5 protein rich foods vegetarian? ›

However, there are some vegetables that have a greater quantity of protein such as spinach, potatoes, broccoli, asparagus and even sweet potatoes. Though the quantity of protein each of these is not comparable to non-vegetarian sources, it still is quite a decent value at around 5 g per cup full of veggie cooked.

Which vegetarian food is highest in protein? ›

19 High-Protein Plant-Based Foods and How to Eat More of Them
  • Almonds. ...
  • Brussels sprouts. ...
  • Chia seeds. ...
  • Yellow sweet corn. ...
  • Potatoes. ...
  • Asparagus. Total protein: 4.32 grams per cup (boiled) ...
  • Broccoli. Total protein: 4.28 grams per 1 stalk (boiled, medium) ...
  • Avocado. Total protein: 4.02 grams per 1 avocado (medium)
Aug 20, 2019

What are 3 foods that vegetarians get protein from? ›

What is a good source of protein that isn't meat? Some plant-based foods, such as soybean products, seitan, beans, and lentils contain high amounts of protein. You can also find protein in nuts, whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, and hemp seeds.

Which vegetarian food has highest energy? ›

The following vegetables are good options for energy:
  • Yams and sweet potatoes. Yams and sweet potatoes are beneficial sources of carbohydrates, which provide energy. ...
  • Beets. ...
  • Dark leafy greens. ...
  • Dark chocolate.

How can I eat healthy everyday as a vegetarian? ›

Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables every day

Try to eat at least 5 80g portions of fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced fruit and vegetables a day. As well as vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables provide fibre, which can help digestion and prevent constipation.

Are vegetarian diets good for athletes? ›

According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the macronutrient and energy needs of an athlete [12,13]. Vegetarian diets can vary widely in terms of calorie content and fiber, just like omnivorous diets.

Can a vegetarian athlete consume enough protein? ›

Vegetarian athletes can meet their protein needs from predominantly or exclusively plant-based sources when a variety of these foods are consumed daily and energy intake is adequate. Muscle creatine stores are lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians.

What foods do vegetarians need to build muscle? ›

Foods to eat
  • Beans and legumes. These provide a good source of protein and fiber.
  • Hemp, flax, sunflower, and chia seeds. They contain a good amount of protein and omega-3s.
  • Quinoa and amaranth. ...
  • Meat substitutes. ...
  • Soy products. ...
  • Calcium-fortified plant milks and yogurts. ...
  • Spirulina. ...
  • Vegan protein powders.
Nov 19, 2019

What does a vegetarian bodybuilder eat in a day? ›

Let's have a look at the 20 top tips that the vegetarian bodybuilder needs to know.
  • Get Sufficient Calories. ...
  • Consume Plenty Of Fruits And Vegetables. ...
  • Don't Neglect Chickpeas And Legumes. ...
  • Swap Rice For Quinoa. ...
  • Utilize Egg White Or Plant Protein Powders. ...
  • Avoid A Heavy Reliance On Processed Foods.


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