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How to Get Protein Without Eating Meat

Created May 31, 2022
How to Get Protein Without Eating Meat
More people are seeking to make healthy changes to their diets and lifestyles by cutting back or eliminating meat-based proteins. It’s possible to go meatless and still provide your body with enough protein and other essential nutrients. For those seeking a change, you’ll be glad to know that finding alternative sources of protein is becoming easier than ever.

What Are The Benefits of Plant-Based Protein?

Proteins are an essential part of a balanced human diet. Animal protein alternatives leverage foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and legumes and, as a part of a well-planned diet, can provide the nutrients you need. Switching to a more whole-food, plant-based lifestyle may introduce fiber-rich foods which are more filling and take longer to digest so you eat less and stay satisfied longer.

How Much Protein Do You Need in Your Diet On A Daily Basis?

Factors like age, sex, weight, and level of physical activity play into the daily amount of protein required for someone. Adults typically need 10-35% of their daily calories to come from protein. Seeking advice from a medical professional is the best option for discovering how much protein your body and lifestyle require.

What Are 10 Good Sources of Plant-Based Proteins?

If you're looking to switch up your protein sources, consider swapping some of these plant-based proteins into your favorite recipes:

1.  Tofu

This versatile protein-rich vegetarian food is among the most popular plant-based proteins. It's easy to prepare, takes on the flavor of the food it's being cooked with, and can be used in a variety of recipes. Add tofu to soups and stir-fries, cut into slabs, and roast in sheet pan dinners or scramble as a replacement for eggs. Protein servings are usually 3-4 oz. for ½ cup.

Tip: The more firm the tofu, the higher the protein content. Softer or silken tofu is closer to 4-6g of protein per 3 oz. serving.

2.  Lentils

Lentils are a good source of fiber and complex carbs and are lower in calories and fat. A ½ cup serving of lentils provides around 12g of protein – be sure to combine them with whole grains for a complete serving of protein. You'll love them in soups, stews, as well as curries, and grain bowls. Or cook them with taco seasoning and use them as a replacement for ground beef in tacos and other Tex-Mex dishes. While soaking lentils can cut down on cook time, you can also skip that step and add them straight to the cooking liquid, just like in this recipe for three-bean chili.

3.  Chickpeas

Also referred to as garbanzo beans, these legumes are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They have been known to aid in digestion and can make you feel full for longer. Toss chickpeas in your favorite spice blend and roast for a crunchy snack or addition to a salad or bowl, add to soups and curries, or gently mash to use as a base for grilled or roasted veggies A half cup of cooked chickpeas can contain around 7 grams of protein. Consume with a grain-based food to make it more of a complete protein.

4.  Chia Seeds

You may find chia seeds in smoothies, açai bowls, or bread. They can also be used in puddings, added to fruit- or coconut-based drinks, and stirred into dressings and vinaigrettes. One ounce of chia seeds can contain up to 5 grams of protein.

5.  Soy and Pea Proteins

Faux burgers and other meat alternatives made from soy or pea proteins are growing in popularity. The list of items made from these plant-based products ranges from deli slices and ground meat alternatives to cutlets and nuggets. You can find them in grocery stores and even fast-food restaurants. Use the ground products in any place you’d use ground beef, like chili, enchiladas, pasta Bolognese and meatloaf. When it comes to protein content, one 4oz. soy-based burger patty can contain 19 grams of protein.

6.  Hemp Seeds

These tiny seeds are packed with nutrients. You may see hemp seeds as an ingredient in butters, milk, cheese alternatives, or protein powders. You can add them to baked goods, sprinkle on yogurt, cereals, and salads or blend them into smoothies. They're rich in healthy fats and can provide all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete source of protein.

7.  Vegan Protein Powder

Vegan protein powders can be made from seeds, lentils, and legumes. One scoop can typically contain around 20 grams of protein, making it an easy way to maintain a vegan diet while enjoying protein shakes and smoothies.

8.  Oats

Oats are a nutrient-dense food that boasts 11 grams of protein in one cup, uncooked. They're rich in fiber, carbs, and other vitamins and minerals. Oats are a natural fit for your baked goods. Use them in everything from muffins and bread to cookies and crisps. Or try overnight oats for an easy and filling make-ahead breakfast. And we can’t forget the classic: a warm bowl of oatmeal, topped with fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup.

9.  Nutritional Yeast

This popular component of plant-based diets has a cheesy, nutty flavor that goes well with soups, smoothies, and on top of casseroles. It’s also great as a Parmesan replacement on Caesar salads, pasta, and on grilled or roasted veggies. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast can contain 8 grams of protein.

10.  Nuts

Whether added to smoothie bowls, topping salads, or just eaten out of hand, nuts add color, crunch, and flavor to any number of sweet and savory dishes. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and pine nuts are well-known protein sources. 1/4 cup of mixed nuts can contain approximately 7 grams of protein.

Keep in mind that plant-based alternatives can contain high levels of sodium and saturated fats, so be sure to read and compare nutrition labels carefully. Speak to your medical professional about any major changes to your diet and take time to find the right protein alternatives for you.