Probably the number one question that comes to mind for vegetarians or those cutting back on meat consumption, is am I getting enough protein? The good news is that there are so many sources of non-meat protein that you can absolutely meet your protein needs.
How much? First it is important to consider exactly how much protein your body needs! Depending on your activity level you need about 0.5 grams of protein per pound or up to a maximum of 1 gram of protein per pound. For example: 150 pound athlete need about 75 grams of protein per day or up to a maximum on 150 grams per day. As with most things, if some is good… more is not better. If you over do it on protein you will be crowding other other important nutrients like quality carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Where does protein come from? Protein comes from a wide variety of foods including: edamame, beans, legumes, lentils, tofu, tempeh, Greek yogurt, Icelandic yogurt (Skyr), cottage cheese, oats, quinoa, nuts, nut butters, and protein substitutes (e.g. mycoprotein).
Here are highlights and quick tips on some of the many protein-rich foods to consider including in your eating routine!
Edamame - This protein-packed bean has 22 grams of protein per cup, making edamame (soybeans) are an great source of plant-based protein.
You can buy edamame in the pod or shelled. If you buy them in the pod, remove the beans from the pod when eating. Look for them in the produce section of the grocery store or frozen in the freezer section.
You can simply steam edamame and sprinkle with some sea salt or incorporate them into a variety of dishes like chili, salads, stir-fry, or even as a base for hummus.
Oatmeal - Oats deliver protein too, a one cup serving of prepared oatmeal has 6 grams of protein. To give your oatmeal a protein boost, mix in peanut butter to your oatmeal, which will add another 8 grams of protein (per 2 tablespoons peanut butter) for a total of 14 grams of protein.
Quinoa - Although quinoa is often considered a grain, it is technically a seed; this grain-like food is a perfect way to add-in protein to meals.
One cup of cooked quinoa has 6 grams of protein. Plus what makes quinoa unique is that it is a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids which are the building blocks of protein.
Buy quinoa in the grain aisle at the grocery store. Add-in quinoa as a side dish at meals, as a base for stir-fry, or even a stand-in for cereal breakfast topped with a drizzle of maple syrup and pecans.
Nuts and Seeds - A quick way to add protein to meals or snacks is with nuts, seeds, and nut butter. One ounce of nuts or seeds (about one handful) is a serving and 2 tablespoons (about a golf ball size) of nut butter is a serving. Each serving delivers about 4 - 8 grams of protein.
For example: peanut butter (8 grams protein per 2 tablespoons), peanuts (7 grams protein per ounce), pumpkin seeds (7 grams protein per ounce), almonds (6 grams protein per ounce), cashews (4 grams protein per ounce), and walnuts (4 grams protein per ounce).
Quick tips on adding-in nuts and seeds: top oatmeal with nut butter or seeds, have a peanut butter on toast or as a sandwich, add nuts as a snack.
Greek Yogurt or Icelandic Yogurt - All types of yogurt will deliver protein although Greek yogurt and Icelandic yogurt (aka Skyr) deliver more; each 5.3 oz serving of Greek yogurt has about 13 grams of protein and Icelandic or Skyr has 15 - 16 grams of protein.
These types of yogurt deliver more protein because they are strained, which concentrates the protein and is a thicker texture.
Add-in yogurt to smoothies for a protein-rich base or have a snack of yogurt topped with fruit and grains like granola.