If you prefer chickpeas to chicken, keep in mind you still need 2 to 3 servings of protein per day. These 10 meatless foods are high in protein and will help to keep your body strong and healthy, sans the meat. By: Michelle Klug
Vegetarian Protein Sources
Whether you’ve decided to go meatless once a week or adopted a full vegetarian lifestyle, you need to keep nutrition on the front burner. Since you’ve nixed the meat, making sure your body is getting enough protein to stay strong is crucial. Protein functions to build and maintain your body, fight off disease, and keep energy levels high to you can stay alert all day. While it may seem difficult to get a full dose of protein per day (on average 46g for women, 56g for men), implementing a few of these high-protein foods into your diet can help you reach those protein goals.
EggsProtein: 6g per egg
Start your day off right with protein-packed eggs. This will give your morning a boost and fuel you until lunch. Cooking with eggs brings breakfast to a whole new level. Mix it up a bit with omelets and quiche or try cooking eggs scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, or sunny-side-up.
Cottage CheeseProtein: 13g per ½-cup
Cottage cheese serves as great snack. It’s affordable, comes in reduced-fat versions, and also contains calcium to keep your bones strong. But you can also hide it in creamy dishes, or sub it out for ricotta cheese or sour cream in certain dishes too. Try combining with fresh veggies for a savory treat, or adding fruit and cinnamon for something more sweet.
QuinoaProtein: 8g per 1 cup (cooked)
Pronounced KEEN-WAH, this wonder grain is not only high in protein but also low in cholesterol and a good source of iron and fiber. Eating quinoa often is a good idea for vegetarians or anyone looking for a healthy protein. Plus, some varieties only take 20 minutes to cook – you’ll know it’s done when it turns slightly translucent.
You can make quinoa salads, or use instead of rice for a higher protein whole-grain.
Pumpkin SeedsProtein: 7g per 1 oz
Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are a great grab-and-go snack or topping for salads and soups. While they are available year-round in stores, you can roast fresh seeds at home in fall, when pumpkins come into season. Nuts and seeds can be high in calories and fat so be mindful of your serving sizes.
Dried BeansProtein: 12g per 1 cup (black beans)
Dried black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, and pinto beans are all delicious choices for low-fat, fiber-filled protein. Using dried beans allows you to control the sodium and additives that go into the dish. Soak dried beans overnight in a large bowl of water, rinse until the water runs clean, then simmer for 2 hours on medium/low heat to enjoy. Spice with cumin, garlic, red pepper, or other spices.
Soy MilkProtein: 8g per 1 cup
While all soy, including tofu and soybeans, are excellent sources of protein, soy milk is convenient and versatile, making it the perfect thing to have around. In addition, some brands offer options that are fortifed with extra calcium. Chocolate flavors are available for when your sweet tooth strikes, vanilla is great in cereal and coffee, and original is a great substitute for baked goods and smoothies.
Greek YogurtProtein: 15g per 6-oz container
Greek yogurt packs as much as double the protein as regular yogurt. It’s also thick, filling, tart, and less sweet than some regular varieties, all while staying in the low-calorie range. It’s great on its own, with fruit, or as a substitute for sour cream.
Peanut ButterProtein: 8g per 2 Tbsp
Bring back this crunchy or creamy childhood favorite by spreading peanut butter on toast instead of butter for more protein to your morning routine. Also try using it in smoothies and baked goods, or just keep some stashed away with a package of whole-wheat crackers for when you belly is rumbling.
SeitanProtein: 18g per 3 oz serving
Seitan, AKA wheat-meat, is hailed by vegetarians because of its substantial texture and high protein. Unlike tofu, seitan is a meat substitute that mocks the texture of chicken, making it ideal for sandwiches, soups, or anywhere you would traditionally use meat. Made from wheat gluten, seitan may not be sold in all grocery stores, so stock up at specialty markets, or make a batch from a recipe like this.
AlmondsProtein: 6g per 1 oz
Go nuts over almonds – the monounsaturated fats they contain have been shown to reduce heart disease. A serving size is about one handful of almonds, or 2 tablespoons of almond butter. Try sliced almonds on top of salads or create your own spice recipe to liven them up a bit.