The Top 4 Plant-Based Proteins for Meatless Office Meals (No Tofu Necessary)

Posted by on Friday, April 18th, 2014 with 1 Comments

By now, it’s old news that most nutritionists, doctors, and environmental activists think we should eat less meat. Meatless Monday is a widespread success. A simple quote from Michael Pollan (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) now graces reusable shopping bags and meme-ready illustrations. And one environmental group has painstakingly compiled statistics to describe just how terrible mass-produced meat is for the environment, like “If your four-person family skips steak once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for nearly three months.”

And, of course, seemingly endless studies continue to reveal that plant-based diets are the best for our weight, blood pressure, and even our longevity. We get it — we should eat less meat. But what do we eat instead… especially when it comes to ordering takeout, planning a catering menu, or arranging office meals?

The tricky part of trying to serve more vegetarian cuisine in the office is to make sure every meal has plenty of protein… without resorting to hockey-puck-like veggie burgers or highly processed fake meats that would never qualify as “real food”. And luckily, you don’t have to. Whether you’re trying to accommodate a special diet at a catered meal or trying out Meatless Monday during a group takeout order, there are plenty of delicious, wholesome, plant-based proteins to make sure every breakfast or lunch will be just as satisfying as a meat-centric meal. Here are seven plant-based proteins to try:

falafel takeout platter

Chickpea-based dishes, like falafel, are excellent sources of vegetarian protein!
Image source: Flickr user Mr.TinDC


When it comes to satisfying, meatless dishes, look no further than chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans). A cup of cooked chickpeas contains 15 grams of protein, or around a third of the daily recommended amount for a typical diet. From falafel to channa masala to hummus, chickpeas are easy to find on many Mediterranean and Indian takeout menus.

lentil curry dish with cilantro

A mainstay of Indian cuisine, lentils are packed with protein.
Image source: Flickr user Alpha


Packed with protein (18 grams per cup), lentils are another staple of Indian cuisine, where they’re found in nearly endless varieties of dishes known as dalMany restaurants and caterers will also serve hearty lentil soups or warm lentil-based salads, and lentils are also found in many of the better housemade veggie burgers, along with a host of other uses in the hands of creative chefs or caterers.

quinoa salad in white bowl

Quinoa, an ancient seed, is a complete protein and frequent centerpiece of hearty salads.
Image source: Flickr user Amorette Dye


Quinoa is famously known to vegetarians as a “complete protein” (that is, it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce, and so must obtain through food). While flexitarians won’t need to worry as much about complete proteins, quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah” and technically a seed, not a grain) remains one of the heartiest plant-based proteins. Many restaurant chefs have embraced quinoa, and it’s most often seen on menus, starring in meatless salads.

black bean quesadillas

Black beans provide protein in many vegetarian Mexican meals.
Image source: Flickr user Jackie Newgent

Black beans

When it comes to Mexican food, it’s almost too easy to go meatless thanks to ubiquitous (and delicious) black beans, which offer 15 grams of protein per cup! Burritos, quesadillas, and tacos can almost always be ordered with beans and rice — we prefer black, since pinto are frequently cooked with pork fat — and a healthy scoop of guacamole adds a creamy texture and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that makes meat besides the point. Black beans are also frequently used in vegetarian chili, perfect for office meals on wintry days!

You’ll notice that many of the suggested dishes aren’t typical American fare. Be prepared to rely on cuisines like Indian, Mexican, and Mediterranean when trying to order vegetarian-friendly food; you might even consider hosting a lunch-and-learn to promote cross-cultural learning as part of the experience. Whatever the occasion, you’ll be able to find a wide range of meatless menu items available for prompt delivery at!

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

One response to “The Top 4 Plant-Based Proteins for Meatless Office Meals (No Tofu Necessary)”

  1. Neil says:

    As a vegan of Indian origin, I feel fortunate to come from a culture that has designed its cuisine around providing nutritious vegetarian dishes that are high in protein. I work out regularly and can vouch for getting my daily protein from many of the sources listed above – specifically chickpeas and lentils. And God do I love Hummus!