Whether you’re looking to eat healthier or build strength in 2018, chances are you’d like to eat more protein. While protein can help form muscle and is an essential part of a healthy and diversified diet, some believe the sole way to get protein is from meat. There are many reasons to eat less meat (lessen your environmental impact, lower cholesterol), and sometimes it truly just gets old eating chicken. Incorporating veggie-based proteins, therefore, can help diversify your meals this year.
Fortunately, there are many sources of non-meat based complete proteins for you to choose from. A “complete protein” refers to the amino acids in food, which are the building blocks of protein. While there are 20 amino acids that can form a protein, 9 of those the body cannot make on its own – so we need to get those from food. With a diversified protein intake, it’s easy to do!
So where exactly can we find complete proteins that help build muscle and keep our bodies strong?
- Eggs and dairy. While still animal-based, these non-meat foods are filled with good-for-you complete protein. They’re also super versatile: scramble eggs with a bunch of veggies for morning, noon, or night; add a glass of milk to your favorite dinnertime meal. Try these morning egg scramble cups to make the most of your egg intake quickly!
- Quinoa. These little grains take on the flavor that you give them, so get out the spices and light sauces, folks. Quinoa is the perfect substitute for rice or couscous and is filled with iron, protein, fiber, and magnesium. Try this Crunchy Thai Peanut and Quinoa Salad recipe to start.
- Rice and beans. The proteins in rice and beans complement each other so well that they make a complete protein. Plus, this yummy flavor combination is super cheap, fast, and easy to make. Add to tacos, stews, and soups for a super filling meal, or try this Mexican Rice Bowl.
- Hummus. Add this delicious dip to wheat pita to make for the perfect mix of carbohydrate and protein that will keep you fuller, longer. Try store-bought hummus if you’re running low on time, or try making your own flavored hummus to get inventive in the kitchen.
- Ezekiel bread. This heavier bread is made from a wide variety of sprouted grains, kept in tact along with its rich protein and fiber content. This is some of the highest-protein bread you can find. Try making your own if you’re feeling adventurous, or try store-bought varieties (which we promise are delicious). Top with peanut butter for added protein!
- Soy. Tofu is the most accessible soy product on the market, but tempeh works too. Opt for the firmer varieties to get more protein for your buck and to make it easier to cook with. Like quinoa, tofu takes on the flavor of whatever you’re cooking, so get to experimenting! Try our favorite Ginger Sesame Tofu and Winter Vegetable Stir-Fry to get started.
There you have it! Getting complete proteins in your diet is easy when you have the right meat-free ingredients. How do you get your daily protein without always relying on meat? Share your best recipes in the comments below!