By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

QUESTION: I loved your web page about protein; however, as a gluten-free vegan, I wondered if I could get enough protein. Do I need to combine protein sources at each meal?

GF, via email.

ANSWER: Here's a sample meal plan that doesn't contain wheat, rye, barley, or other foods with gluten that meets the protein recommendation for a female vegan. If you want to learn more about protein recommendations go to

meal dish Protein (grams)
Breakfast1 cup cooked quinoa8
2 Tablespoons peanut butter8
Lunch2 corn tortillas2
1 cup pinto beans12
DinnerStir-fry with 3 ounces firm tofu, 1 cup broccoli, and 1 ounce cashews7, 4, 5
1 cup brown rice5
Snack1 ounce almonds6
Protein Recommendation for a Female Vegan = 52 grams

[Based on 0.9 gram of protein per kilogram body weight for 57.5 kilogram (126 pound) female]

Additional food should be added to this menu to provide adequate calories and to meet requirements for other nutrients.

This menu uses beans, gluten-free grains, nuts, and vegetables as protein sources. This use of a variety of protein sources over the entire day makes it possible to meet amino acid needs without struggling to carefully combine specific ratios of protein sources at each meal. Amino acids are what our bodies use to make protein. This protein is used in our muscles, our bones, and other parts of our bodies. For our bodies to make protein, all of the different amino acids that make up that protein must be present in our bodies.

While we are able to make some amino acids, our bodies cannot make nine amino acids, which are called essential amino acids; we get these from food. Compared to what are called high quality proteins such as soy products, quinoa, meat, and dairy products, grains are lower in lysine (an essential amino acid) and beans are lower in methionine (another essential amino acid).

Our bodies are able to store amino acids over the course of a day so that if one amino acid is in short supply in a meal, say lysine from a grain-based meal, stored amino acids from other meals, for example, stored lysine from an earlier bean-based meal, can be used to make body protein. So, if you are a vegan who is avoiding gluten, it's not necessary to combine protein sources at each meal. Focus on eating a variety of unrefined gluten-free grains, beans (including gluten-free soy products), seeds, nuts, and vegetables throughout the day.