"Do I need to combine certain foods with each meal to get all the amino acids I need?"
There are 21 amino acids, the building blocks of protein; nine of them are “essential,” which means our bodies cannot produce them. They must come from food.
There are common misconceptions that you need animal products to get "complete" protein or that people following a plant-based dietary pattern need to combine certain foods at each meal to ensure they are getting "complete" protein. While it’s true that essential amino acids are generally found in lower percentages in plants than in animal foods, nearly all plant foods contain complete protein, and many (beans, lentils certain whole grains, and seeds) have high concentrations.
Essential amino acids can be ingested separately and over time, and stored in the liver and muscle. Some can be used without others and some cannot, but when they’re ingested relative to one another within the span of several days, is unimportant. Complete protein from a single food is not required at every meal or even every day. An exclusively plant-based eating pattern provides all of the essential amino acids you need as long as you include a wide, colorful variety of veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.