You know you need protein in your body. The problem is the best source often mentioned is meat. You don’t want to eat meat all the time. Some of you may be looking for vegetarian and vegan forms of protein.
Meat can be good for you, but it can also cause some health problems. We’re not always guaranteed the best cuts, and we can end up adding more saturated fats to our diet. While we need some fats, we want healthy, unsaturated options. Sure chicken, turkey, and other poultry can be good, but they don’t help if you’re looking for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.
The great news is you don’t have to eat meat for protein. There are many other sources that are both vegetarian and vegan-friendly. These options are also low in saturated fats, low in carbs, but high in fiber. Altogether, the sources will protect your body and offer all the nutrients you need.
So, where do you start when looking for meatless protein sources? Here are 10 options to choose.
Before we start, it’s worth pointing out that meatless doesn’t mean vegan-friendly. They are vegetarian-friendly though. There are some animal products on this list for your sources of protein.
Start by Stocking Up on the Japanese Edamame
You’ve possibly never heard of Edamame. It were a popular ingredient in Japan and packed with plenty of protein. In fact, it can replace meat products in Japanese dishes, where they favor fish over other types of animal products.
Edamame is often a snack while waiting for sushi, but you can opt for it as part of your main meal. Replace your meat or other animal products with it. It’s vegan-friendly, as it’s just a bunch of green beans. You’ll get more fiber in a cup than a slice of whole wheat bread, and the protein is through the roof.
You’ll usually find edamame in the international foods section of your grocery store. If not, you can find it in your local Asian foods market.
Try not to boil, as you’ll just release all the nutrients into the water. Opt for steaming instead and cook gently. You’ll keep all the flavor and get all the health benefits of eating the green beans. Enjoy with some almonds if you are going to snack.
Try Out Some Buckwheat
When you start looking for meatless sources of protein, you’ll start coming across more food that you never considered trying before. Buckwheat is probably an ingredient you’ve heard of but not one that you’ve tried. Well, it’s time to add it to your shopping list. Even if you’re just looking for a few meatless days of the week for your health, you’ll benefit with buckwheat on the weekly shop.
Contrary to popular belief, buckwheat isn’t wheat. There’s no gluten in it. It’s part of the rhubarb family and is another popular delicacy in Japan. The plant is often used to create soba noodles, although most countries will use the seeds of the buckwheat to create a gluten-free and healthier flour. You can make delicious cakes and pancakes with ground buckwheat seeds.
There are studies that show buckwheat is good for all types of health ailments. It doesn’t just help to build muscle, but will also help to lower cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. It can also help to boost your circulation. You’ll feel more energized throughout the day.
Add Quinoa to Your Meals
Quinoa (pronounced Keen-way) is the latest food all the health experts and gurus are talking about. In 2013, the United Nations called it the International Year of Quinoa, and since then the focus on the ingredient has just grown. It’s full of numerous nutrients, one of those being protein.
Quinoa is usually used to substitute high carb foods, such as pasta and rice. However, you can opt to replace your meat with it instead. It’s not just low in carbs but high in protein and fiber at the same time. It also offers all the amino acids your body needs. This is a benefit that no other meatless source of protein can offer, so it’s essential if you’re going to give up meat entirely.
You’ll also get plenty of folate and potassium in each serving. This is something for the sustained levels of energy.
There are just so many ways that you can use quinoa in your cooking. It’s a perfect salad accompaniment, or you can create burgers with it to make it feel like you’re eating meat! Watch out as the quinoa will withhold moisture during the cooking. You’ll need to completely strain it through if you don’t want the other ingredients getting overly watery.
Stock Up on Plenty of Lentils
Now that you have your quinoa, it’s time for another carb replacement: lentils. They’re excellent for completely replacing the meat in your meals. While they don’t have all the amino acids, they have a good amount of them and are packed with many other nutrients, including folate, B vitamins, and fiber. In fact, you get your daily amount of fiber from just one cup of lentils!
There are so many types of lentils, too. You can stock up on red, green, and even split pea lentils. Look out for those that you think will work with your dishes better. Split pea and yellow lentils tend to work well with stew, while the red and green can work well with curries and soups.
While helping to build the muscles, lentils will also protect your heart health. They help to lower your blood pressure considerably, lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.
Lentils tend to be on the alkaline side of the scale for food. However, they do absorb salt and acids very easily, so only add them once the lentils are fully cooked. Too many acids and salt meant they become mushy, plus they’re not as good for your health.
Don’t Forget the Chickpeas
When you get lentils, you’ll likely see the chickpeas next to them. You’ll want to stock up on these. They’re a type of bean that has all the fiber and protein you could need in a serving or two. Watch out for the type of chickpeas you get. The canned options will often have added salt, and they go through a process that makes them not quite as natural as they could be.
Chickpeas are what create hummus. You’ve got the perfect dip for your vegetable sticks. It’s crunchy, full of flavor, and easy to take places with you. Your friends will love it when they come over, knowing that they’re protected health-wise and still enjoy their food at the same time.
Add a few chickpeas to your stews and soups. You can also grind them up to create a flour. It’s completely gluten-free, packed with protein, and perfect for all your cooking needs! You’ll wonder why you even bothered with normal flour when you use this and buckwheat!
Add More Eggs to Your Diet
As I said, not all the ingredients would be vegan-friendly. Eggs are still often used in a vegetarian diet and are meatless. They used to get a bad reputation for the cholesterol, but studies have shown that eggs are full of good cholesterol. They will help to line the arteries with a protective and smooth layer that keeps the blood flowing through the system without clots.
You will want to watch the amount that you eat. Even good cholesterol can be bad for you in large amounts. But when consumed moderately, eggs are extremely good for your overall health.
They’re low in calories, while packed with protein. They’re also full of choline, which is a nutrient that helps to support the brain health. Just one egg will give you 7g of protein, and most recipes will call for at least two!
Eggs can be enjoyed in all sorts of ways. Hard boil them for your salads or turn them into an egg mayonnaise (with homemade mayo of course!). You can scramble them, opt for an omelet, or even create a frittata.
Do look at the labels of the eggs. Cage-free options are more humane and have more nutrients than caged hens. They’re worth the slightly extra costs.
Add Greek Yogurt to Your Shopping List
Another non-vegan friendly option is Greek Yogurt. It’s full of milk, which means that it’s full of protein.
It’s common to think that yogurt is bad for you. It’s creamy and often full of sugar, right? Well, it depends on the type of yogurt that you get. Plain Greek yogurt is the best option. It’s low in calories but high in protein, while also offering something slightly naturally sweeter for the end of the day. With a little fruit, Greek yogurt will soon curb your sweet craving.
Do make sure it’s plain and look out for the full-fat options. Low fat often has added sugar for the taste and doesn’t have as much protein and other nutrients. The fruity versions will have added sugars that cause problems for your health.
Greek yogurt is a perfect alternative for mayo and sour cream. You’ll soon get used to the slightly different texture. You can also create your mayonnaise using Greek yogurt.
Stock Up on Nut Butters
Really, you want to stock up on nuts, but nut butter is also good. Of course, if you’re allergic, you’ll need to stock up on seed butter instead. Seed butter isn’t as good for the protein, but you’re putting your health first!
Peanut butter is the most commonly found nut butter, but you can also get almond butter easily. You’ll get more protein in two tablespoons of nut butter than you would in one egg! Plus you get fiber and healthy fats that will keep your heart and digestive system working.
One of the best things about enjoying peanut butter is the feeling that you’re eating something naughty. It helps you stick to a healthy diet because you get to enjoy something that’s good for you.
Don’t bother with the reduced fat butter, but do look for reduced salt. The reduced fats will usually add more sugar to make them taste just as good. You want natural peanut butter as much as possible and try to get something that’s smooth. You can control the portion size better to help keep the fat to a minimum. While you want the healthy unsaturated fats, you want them in moderation.
Enjoy nut or seed butter on your toast or over crackers. You can also add a little onto your fruit, giving you a protein and fiber-filled snack.
Opt for Plenty of Seeds
As mentioned, seed butter can be good for protein sources. It’s actually seeded that are great for you, and you want to eat as many as you can throughout the week. Chia seeds are the best option when you want plenty of nutrients, including protein.
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds, but don’t let their size fool you. They’re whole grains and gold when it comes to brain and heart health. They’re backed with fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, while also offering all the iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium you couldpossible need. And just two tablespoons of the seeds will give you 9.4g of protein!
It’s extremely easy to add any seed to your diet. You can add them to your smoothies, your porridge, or even into other cereals. You can also throw them into salads, with fruit, or enjoy them with a mixture of nuts in a trail mix. You’ll barely even realize you’re eating them.
Try Out Meat Alternatives
Tofu and quorn are two extremely popular meat alternatives, and not because they help to bulk out your meals. They can offer all the protein you need without touching real animal products. Similarly, the dairy alternative soy can also be beneficial for your protein intake. If you’re allergic to soy, it’s not worth using it. There are other milks and dairy alternatives around.
You can opt for soybeans on their own. You can also turn them into tofu or just buy the tofu yourself. It’s also possible to buy the soy in tempeh and natto forms. Either way, you’re getting plenty of protein in a serving. Of course, you can also stock up on your soy milk.
Soy is classed as a complete protein, as it is full of all amino acids. You can switch between soy and quinoa for your health benefits. If you are extremely worried about the amount of protein you’re eating, opt for firm tofu (as firm as possible) as this has the most protein available out of all soy products.
Quorn is slightly different and known as a mycoprotein. It was originally developed to combat food shortages around the world, but is now regularly sold in supermarkets around the world. It uses fungi (from the mushroom family) to create a meat substitute and is often an excellent replacement for poultry. You can also get minced or stripped versions that can replace pork and beef.
If you’re allergic to mushrooms, you may want to give Quorn a miss. Or you’ll want to try it in a very small amount. Few people suffer adverse reactions, but it’s important to warn you.
Unlike tofu, Quorn isn’t vegan-friendly, as it’s bound together with eggs. You’ll want to check the specific products to make sure it works for your lifestyle.
You Can Go Meat-Free
If you’re looking to live a meat-free lifestyle, you’ll need to think about where you’re going to get your protein from. The great news is that a meatless life is possible. Or you can just opt for a few days of meatless eating without having to sacrifice your health. Meat isn’t the only source of protein in the world.
While meat remains to be considered one of the best, there are plenty of other sources of protein. Look out for quinoa and soy for your complete proteins, but you should also stock up on nut butter, seeds, meat substitutes, and even eggs (depending on your vegan vs. vegetarian lifestyle).
You’ll be surprised at the life you can live life without sacrificing your health. The forms of protein in the foods above are completely natural, and the foods offer far more benefits than meat could ever offer.