5 Protein Foods To Transition To A Plant-Based Diet In The New Year

As a very challenging year concludes, you may find yourself considering making the transition to a plant-based lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Plant foods tend to help with our body’s overall health, both physically and mentally. You may be looking at your life and feeling like you need to do something good for yourself. Or maybe you have been considering this for years and now just feels right. Regardless of what brought you here, I hope that you find these 5 foods helpful in the transition to a plant-based diet.

NOTE: This post is an extension of my post “6 Foods to Help You Transition to a Plant-Based Diet.” Once you read this one, be sure to hop over there and see the other foods we found highly useful on our journey towards a plant-based diet.

Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.

5 PROTEIN-PACKED FOODS TO TRANSITION TO A PLANT-BASED DIET

peanut butter, toast, spread

1. Nut Butter

When transitioning to a plant-based diet, many immediately think of plain and bland foods. But what is easily forgotten is the number of dips, sauces, and butters that can be used to amp up the flavors of plant foods.

Nut butters are one of these that have gotten a mixed message over the years. Some people say they are bad for you, others say to eat them daily. In our home, we use nut butter whenever we want, specifically peanut butter.

What I personally love about nut butter is that they come in a variety of types; peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, super seed butter, etc. so there is truly something for everyone. I also love the range of ways to use it; smoothies, with fruits, with veggies, on its own… the sky’s the limit!

But to be totally honest, I LOVE how it can curb hunger cravings, especially for kids. My kids love to snack on raw fruits and veggies and by adding some peanut butter we go from needing snacks every 30 minutes to much longer between hunger strikes. Did you know that most nut butters are also a plant-based protein source?

RELATED: 18 Delicious Plant-Based Protein Sources

If you are hoping to follow a more traditional whole food plant based way of eating, I recommend a natural peanut butter that contains nothing more than peanuts. You can find these options at health food stores and even places like Costco or Sam’s Club.

AMAZON FIND: Spread The Love NAKED Organic Peanut Butter


2. Tofu

Tofu may be an intimidating food but once you figure out how to cook it, it can be a delicious addition to your diet. One of the things we love about tofu is it’s versatility AND it’s protein content. Especially for toddlers, incorporating tofu can be a quick and easy way to increase protein. Did you know you can throw tofu in smoothies?! The mild flavor is masked by the fruits etc you include making it a great option.

If soy is a concern of yours, I recommend checking out this post from Harvard University. Long story short, most people do not need to worry about consuming soy but if you are feeling particularly concerned, reach out to your medical provider who understands a plant-based diet.

RELATED: Our 5 Favorite Tofu Recipes – Super Simple!

As you try tofu for the first time, my tip to you is to try firm or extra firm tofu. Our favorite brands are Nasoya (extra firm) and Franklin Farms but if you are planning to add tofu to smoothies or turning it into sauces (like this vegan alfredo sauce), you can probably snag a great deal at Sam’s Club or Costco for silken tofu!

AMAZON FIND: Spring Tofu Press


3. Hummus

You can’t go wrong here. Hummus is deeeelicious. And it comes in a huge variety of flavors; garlic, roasted red pepper, spinach and artichoke, and even dessert hummus!

Obviously not all of these options are healthy and to be honest, the store-bought brands aren’t the best (if you can make homemade, you should definitely give it a try!) but they are a great option for snacks or as a sauce / spread alternative for sandwiches, wraps, etc.

RELATED: Pantry Essentials for a Vegan Family

I personally love throwing hummus on salad as a dressing. It adds some healthy fats, delicious flavor, and is an easy vegan replacement for creamy salad dressings.

Bonus: Hummus has about 1.2g of a protein per Tbsp making it a good option for kiddos needing more protein!

4. Rice

Rice – a great pantry staple for all families! It’s inexpensive, filling, and super versatile. (Has anyone caught on that I love versatile foods?!) Did you also know that rice is a great gluten-free making it a great option for those with gluten sensitivities?

TIP: Don’t forget to RINSE your rice before you cook! Learn more about why.

Rice probably has more protein than you would guess – around 5g per cup of cooked brown rice! (Or 4.3 long-grained white rice cooked) Considering how cheap it is and how well it can store, I say this is a great option for those starting on a plant-based diet!

AMAZON FIND: Botan Musenmai Calrose Rice (SO tasty!)

5. Nuts and Seeds

Growing up I never saw nuts and seeds as a “food choice”. Why? Well, mainly because the only time I really heard of people eating them was in a tiny bowl at a holiday party. Did people really eat nuts or seeds otherwise?

As we decided to transition to a plant-based diet we realized that incorporating nuts was going to help support our diet choice and was something we wanted to “normalize” for our kids.

Depending on the nuts or seeds you choose, there is a variety of ways to use them.

Here are a few ways we use nuts and seeds:

  • Cashews we typically use to make plant-based nut parmesan, creamy alfredo sauce, or spreadable nut cheese.
  • Hemp Seeds (or Hemp Hearts) are a great protein and omega source that you can add to pretty much everything, especially for kids. We use them as “sprinkles” on toast, spaghetti, and yogurt, but also can be added to some of the recipes I talked about in the cashew section.
  • Almonds are often used to make homemade almond milk, eat plain, or make almond butter. All are great options!

There are obviously TONS of other nut and seed options out there but these are a few that we use/eat regularly. I like offering them to the kids as a snack option and believe it or not, they LOVE them! (I never thought my kids would like nuts and seeds.)

RELATED: 6 Foods To Transition Plant-Based For Adults and Kids

Want to try something fun? Check out this nut arrangement! What a fun way to give all the different nuts a try and see which your family prefers. This would also make a great gift!


As I close out this post, I want to remind you that I am not a medical professional. These 5 foods are a small snapshot of foods that you can and should eat on a plant-based diet. Please consult your medical professional if you plan to adopt a plant-based diet and have any questions.

So what do you think? Do you think adding these food options will help you on your transition to a plant-based diet? If you try incorporating them, let me know which ones you like most!


MORE FROM REALISTIC PLANT-BASED MAMA:

How to go Plant-Based for Kids

Pantry Staples for a Plant-Based Lifestyle

5 Tips and Tools for Transitioning Plant-Based

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