I think it’s safe to say, most everyone knows how crucial protein is in your diet. In the body, proteins break down amino acids that promote cell growth and repair. An added benefit: they take longer to digest than carbs, which means you feel fuller for longer and on fewer calories. Whether you are a body builder or keep up a casual exercise regimen, no one can deny the power of protein.
So, how much protein do you need? It’s suggested that men eat between 1 and 1.5 grams and women eat between 0.5 and 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Depending on the intensity of your exercise and training, you may need to eat closer to 2 grams.
I also think it’s safe to say that if asked, most of us would be pretty quick to say that most animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) are great sources of protein. But what if you don’t eat any animal products? Do you have to give up on your high-protein dreams? Absolutely not.
Thankfully, there are several high-protein options for those who choose a plant-based diet.
Foods in the legume family (green peas, lentils) are a great source of vegetarian protein. One cup contains 7.9 grams—about the same as a cup of milk. If you don’t like these foods as a side dish, try blending them into a pesto. a pesto or hummus.
Quinoa is my favorite grain and not just because I love the nutty taste! It contains 8 grams per cup as well as ALL NINE essential amino acids the body needs for growth and repair. You can eat it on its own or add it to soup. I sometimes swap out my morning oatmeal for quinoa—delicious!
Nuts and Nut Butter
All nuts contain healthy fats and protein, making them the perfect addition to a plant-based diet. It’s always best to choose varieties that are raw or dry roasted. If you’re selecting a nut butter, make sure to check the label to see if it has added ingredients. Manufacturers love to sneak in added sugars. Choose a brand with only salt or no additives.
With so many different varieties, it’s easy to find one you’ll love. While they all taste different, they have one thing in common: lots of protein. Two cups of beans contain about 26 grams! The best part? You don’t have to make them from scratch to reap the benefits. Simply rinse and heat canned beans and you’ve got yourself a high-protein dish!
You probably recognize the name from the famed Chia Pets, and yes, it’s the same plant! These seeds are delicious and contain 4.7 grams per two tablespoons. I love adding them to green smoothies, oatmeal, or even making chia seed pudding.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
I’m not going to argue with getting protein from chocolate! Unsweetened cocoa powder contains about 1 gram of protein per tablespoon and is the perfect thing to add to your protein shake or smoothie. Try it out with banana, peanut butter, and your favorite protein powder.