15 Protein Alternatives for a Fuller Life

6 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

If you’ve ever contemplated cutting down on your meat intake, then you’re in the right spot. Cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is easy as long as you find healthy, protein-rich alternatives. Start a search today to find protein alternatives.

Even if you decide to make one day a week meatless, it can help your resolve to stick with your new meal plan if you take the time to look up some delicious new recipes to try in place of meat. Check out the options on this list!

1. Lentils

Lentils are a wonderful source of protein as they contain almost 10 full grams of protein for every half cup, and 15 grams of fiber. Lentils are available in two different varieties, red and green, and although they can be used interchangeably, you may find that you develop a preference for one or the other. Lentils are super easy to make since they don’t require soaking, and you can keep them in the fridge for a few days if you find that making a large batch is easier. A great way to feature lentils is in a big batch of rich lentil soup.

2. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are truly one of the most versatile legumes out there. They don’t take long to cook, and come either dried or pre-soaked in cans. Once they’re cooked through, you can turn them into any dish you want. Mix up a batch of fiery Indian channa masala, or spin them in your food processor with tahini and lemon to make some silky-smooth hummus. Chickpeas provide 12 grams of protein per cup.

3. Beans

There are a ton of different varieties of beans out there, and there’s no limit to the different recipes that you can try. Each type of beans contains a different amount of protein, but the average is about 8 grams per half-cup. Beans also come either dried or pre-soaked in cans. If you’re using dried, it will cut down on your grocery bill, but it will add to your time in the kitchen. Shorten the amount of time it takes to make beans by using a pressure-cooker or getting a Crock-pot going before you leave for work. Then, use the cooked beans to make a delicious chili once you get home.

4. Quinoa

Quinoa has gotten a bad rap lately for being bland, but a lot of people skip a crucial step in preparing it. Quinoa tastes best when it’s rinsed, then fried briefly in some oil or butter. This brings out a toasted, nutty taste in the quinoa. Plus, if you still find quinoa bland, try cooking it in bouillon or stock. Then, add half a cup to your salads to up your protein intake.

5. Green Peas

Green peas are truly one of the best things about spring. Freshly picked green peas have to be one of the most delicious foods on the planet. Plus, they’re packed with protein — 8 grams per cup! If you can get green peas fresh from the garden, they almost don’t require cooking. If you feel like making them even more indulgent, add them into dish of pasta or a salad. They can also be pulsed into a delicious spring pesto with some basil and olive oil.

6. Seitan

Seitan is a great meatless protein alternative — it’s vegan, and has a texture that’s unlike anything else. Its unique consistency allows it to be treated almost like a cut of meat, meaning it does really well braised on the barbecue. However, you should stay away from this protein alternative if you don’t eat gluten since it’s made of wheat. Seitan is chewier than most protein alternatives, so it should be treated like meat rather than a vegetable; think seitan burgers or seitan “chops” with apple sauce. It has a whopping 20 grams of protein per half cup.

7. Eggs

Eggs are a super easy way to get more protein earlier on in your day. By starting your day out with some basic scrambled eggs or an omelette, you can ensure that you stay fuller longer, and have enough energy to get through your morning. Obviously, eggs aren’t suited to a vegan diet, but many vegetarians choose to eat eggs, especially if they can be assured that the chickens have been humanely raised. Chickens who eat an all-natural diet and are allowed to roam freely will produce eggs with gorgeous bright orange yolks.

8. Tofu

Tofu has gotten a bad rap in the last few years because many people feel that it’s tasteless and rubbery. While this could be true if you just eat basic grocery store tofu raw, cooked tofu absorbs whatever flavor you add, making it a versatile pantry staple. When cooking tofu, don’t skimp on the flavor. Try marinating chunks in soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil then baking or frying it. Tofu contains 7 grams of protein per half cup.

9. Broccoli

Broccoli is the kind of food that many people appreciate more as adults than children, especially when they find out that broccoli contains 5 grams of protein per cup serving! While it may seem unlikely that any person could just eat broccoli for their meal, making this a go-to side dish allows you to get more protein than you would with a more basic side like mashed potatoes or rice.

10. Tempeh

Tempeh is often grouped into the same category as tofu and seitan, but it’s made of fermented soybeans rather than wheat or bean curd. Tempeh, like tofu, absorbs a lot of the flavors that it’s cooked with, making it a very versatile ingredient, but it does have its own unique texture that’s slightly crunchy. Many people love the sweet, nutty taste, and enjoy marinating it and using it in place of meat in dishes like fajitas or burgers. It contains 11 grams of protein per half cup.

11. Seeds

Like beans, there are many different types of seeds that will add protein to your diet. Hemp and chia seeds, in particular, are very nutritious and rich in protein. Chia seeds specifically have a really interesting property that makes them wonderful to cook with. These seeds become gelatinous when wet, meaning that you can easily use them to whip up a healthy, yet indulgent pudding or breakfast bowl. Other seeds, like sesame, poppy, or sunflower, can be easily sprinkled on top of a salad for a quick protein and flavor boost.

12. Milk

Milk is a protein-rich alternative to unhealthy, sugar-filled fruit juices that many people drink with breakfast. By choosing a cup of milk instead of a glass of orange or apple juice, you’re getting a boost of over 8 grams of protein. Plus, if regular cow’s milk isn’t to your liking, or if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, you can choose a dairy-free milk like rice, hemp, or almond.

13. Yogurt

Yogurt is something that’s easy to buy at the store, but it’s important to check out the different options before choosing which yogurt is right for your diet. Many companies fill their yogurt with sugary fruit purees or artificial flavors. Great yogurt shouldn’t have much sugar — plain, ultra-thick and indulgent Greek yogurt is a great option. You can also make your own yogurt at home using whole milk. Yogurt is great on its own, but for an added boost of even more protein, throw some muesli or granola on top.

14. Edamame

You’ve probably heard a lot about soybeans today. They’re super rich in protein, making them an ideal meatless alternative. Edamame is a type of soybean — young, green soybeans usually served in their own pods. An easy way of making them is to simply boil the pods for a few minutes, then serve them with a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of soy sauce. They can also be shelled, and used in salads and stir-fries.

15. Amaranth

Amaranth is quite similar to quinoa. It’s also an ancient pseudo-grain (it’s technically a seed), and it can be prepared using similar methods. Once prepared, the options for amaranth are endless — mix it with black beans and some other veggies for a tasty vegan burger. Or, you can also pop the tiny grains and use them on top of salads for a bit of extra crunch.

Jordana Weiss