As a dietitian, I would never encourage everyone to go strictly vegan or vegetarian. Many people enjoy meat, and that is okay, but research shows that a reduction in animal protein (beef, pork, lamb and processed meats in particular) can improve health, including a reduction in cardiovascular disease, prevention or better management of diabetes, and reduced risk of cancer.
Skipping meat at meals two to three times a week doesn’t mean you will lack the protein your body needs. Many plant foods are high in protein. Try to incorporate these foods into your weekly meals to replace meat and improve your health!
Whole Soy Foods
Soybeans have complete proteins, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids that we need for our bodies. Just ½ cup of firm tofu will provide about 10 grams of protein, and tempeh will provide 15 grams protein per ½ cup.
- Soy nuts
- Soy milk
Lentils and Beans
- Lentils have almost 9 grams of protein per ½ cup
- Beans like chickpeas have about 7 grams of protein per ½ cup
Quinoa, Farro and Wheatberries
- Quinoa is a complete protein
- Each of these grains provide 6 grams of protein per ½ cup
Peanuts and Peanut Butter
- ¼ cup peanuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provides 8 grams of protein
Chia and Hemp Seeds
- These seeds are both complete proteins, providing about 5 grams of protein per tablespoon
- They are great in yogurt, oatmeal, a salad or a smoothie
Whole Grain Bread
- One slice can have 6 grams of protein; check your loaf’s nutrition panel
As you can see, there are many options to choose from to incorporate plant-based proteins into your diet. A little effort goes a long way toward a healthier lifestyle. Go ahead, give these foods a try!
Bridgette Bostic, R.D.N., is the community nutrition educator in the Tevis Center for Wellness.