When people find out I don’t eat meat (including chicken or fish) – and don’t go heavy on the animal products – one of the first things they ask is where I get my protein from. While it’s true that meats and animal products are great sources of protein, going meat-free doesn’t mean you’ll be missing out. There is an abundance of plant sources of protein to choose from.
Following a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be getting adequate nutrition. As with leading any other kind of lifestyle, staying healthy is about making a conscious effort to ensure that you’re getting enough of what you need every day.
That being said, if you’re transitioning to a primarily plant-based or fully vegan lifestyle, it will require that you pay a little more attention to your protein sources. As always, balance and variety are key elements of a good diet. Whether you’re already vegetarian or would like to have more meat-free meals, there are some key foods to consider, including lentils, beans and legumes, quinoa, and nuts and seeds. I thought I’d share the sources of plant protein I eat most often, in case you’re looking for some inspiration.
My top 5 dietary sources of plant protein
Quinoa is one of the best sources of plant protein you could have in your diet. It exceeds the recommendation of all the essential amino acids, meaning it packs the best protein for your buck than other grain (or technically, seed) sources. I use it as a base for buddha bowls and salads, or as a substitute for rice in almost any recipe.
beans and legumes
I love all kinds of beans and legumes (red beans, black beans, and chickpeas are my favorite). Beans are a great source of both carbs and protein. I like to pair them with a source of complex carbs, usually brown rice, to get a good mix of proteins (aka complementary proteins). My favorite ways to have beans are in buddha and burrito bowls. If you’re eating them on their own, have them with some rice or whole grain, rye, or oat bread for a satisfying meal on a lazy day.
These tiny black seeds are a staple in my pantry. Packed with protein, chia seeds have gelling properties – meaning that when mixed and soaked with liquid, they form a gel-like consistency. I love having chia puddings for breakfast or dessert. I also add them to my smoothies, oatmeal, and energy bites, and sprinkle them on top of toast and salads.
Hemp seeds are another great source of plant protein. It took me a little while to track them down in Lebanon, but ever since I got a hold of them, I’ve been adding them to all my smoothies and smoothie bowls for that extra bit of protein. Another easy way to incorporate them in your diet is by sprinkling them on top of salads and soups.
nuts and nut butter
I’m a complete nut butter addict. Not a day goes by when I don’t slather almond butter on toast, or add it to my smoothies (do you sense a theme here?). Nuts and nut butters are a great source of healthy fats and protein, so I make sure to have some on the daily while trying to keep it in moderation. For an on-the-go snack, try trail mix or one of the recipes below.
For more information on plant-based protein sources, check out these resources, and feel free to share this post with your friends who are interested in learning more:
- 15 Vegan Protein Sources (includes an easy hummus toast recipe)
- 10 Plant-based Proteins You Should be Eating
- Plant-based Protein Q&A
What are your favorite sources of plant protein? I’d love to hear any of your ideas and recipe recommendations!