When I ask my community, family, or friends what is holding them back from going plant-based, a common response is:
“We aren’t sure what to eat if we aren’t eating meat or dairy.”
This is a particularly popular response from husbands. Friends….I get it, I totally do! We were trained at such a young age that meals MUST have meat in order to be balanced. Many of us are taught that animal products are our protein sources. Or we have been told that a meal was not complete without meat and dairy.
Do you agree? Was this instilled in you as a child, too?
I never really understood this until I began studying nutrition. For some reason I was always so blind to the reality of nutrition. After all, we basically just did what our family suggested and nobody asked any questions. But you know what….
ALL plant foods have protein!
It’s true. Protein is what makes up the plant just as protein makes up the human body. The difference between the two is that some plants are incomplete proteins and some are complete. (Animal products are complete proteins as they contain amino acids. This article from Harvard is very informative)
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.
It is so important that anyone who decides to take up a plant-based diet and even those who don’t understand what foods actually contain protein and which don’t. There is nothing more frustrating that the ongoing question of “but what do you eat for protein?”
Understanding the top sources of plant protein will help you to confidently answer that question and THAT is what I want for you.
I want you or even your kids to say, “Did you know that quinoa is one of the top sources of plant protein – AND it’s a complete protein.”
Okay so maybe you wouldn’t answer that way BUT wouldn’t it be nice to have that knowledge in your back pocket?
Complete protein plant sources
When it comes to protein there are two types, complete and incomplete. Incomplete proteins are what most plant foods fall under as they do not contain all 9 essential amino acids.
When a food DOES contain all 9 essential amino acids, that will fall under the complete protein category. And guess what?! There are a variety of plant protein sources that DO offer the complete protein! I love this because guess what… no eating animals is necessary! *cue dance party* What you find below are plant sources of complete protein and should be easy to implement into your life.
This is one of our go-to foods, is a complete protein meaning it’s highly beneficial to human health!
- You can grab Quinoa on Amazon or most grocery stores. Check near the rice and beans.
- Quinoa contains around 8g of protein per cup of cooked quinoa.
- Here are some savory quinoa recipes you’ve got to try!
PS: Quinoa is gluten free!
Soybeans which can come in a variety of products from tofu to tempeh and edamame. (also a complete protein)
- All these varieties are great ways to consume this complete protein. We like Nasoya brand tofu (Available at most stores) and Trader Joe’s Tempeh!
- Protein is about 10g per 1/2 cup of tofu, 8.5 per 1/2 cup of edamame, and 15g per 1/2 cup tempeh.
Chia seeds, one of our favorite seeds, contains about 2g of protein per tablespoon and is also a complete protein. We add chia to our oatmeal, in water, on yogurt, in smoothies, etc. We even make Strawberry Chia Jam!
You can find it in most grocery stores or online.
- Hemp seeds (we use these ones from Manitoba Harvest daily) are also a complete protein and contain omega 3’s which is so important for those on a plant-based diet!
- 3 Tablespoon hemp seeds contain about 10g of protein.
Incomplete Protein Plant Sources
When it comes to incomplete protein I don’t want you to look at that and think “lesser than”. These protein sources are still amazing to include in your daily routine and should not be discounted as a top plant protein source.
- The protein of lentils is approx. 8.8g of protein per 1/2 cup.
Beans (chickpeas, kidney, black, pinto, etc)
- Chickpeas contain about 7.25g of protein per 1/2 cup.
- Black beans contain approximately 7.6g of protein per 1/2 cup.
Nuts like Peanuts, Cashews, or Almonds
- Peanuts are about 20g of protein per 1/2 cup.
- Almonds are 16.5g of protein per 1/2 cup.
- Cashews are 10g of protein per 1/2 cup.
If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet and are used to having burgers or similar as your protein sources, here are a few “non-meat“ options to help you out.
PLANT BASED MEAT REPLACEMENT OPTIONS
Reminder: A lot of these meat alternatives are highly processed and therefore I do not recommend eating them for every meal because they typically contain a lot of sodium and other additives so use carefully.)
This option and the Impossible brand below taste so similar to meat (to me) and have a similar texture. And for me, this is a turn off, but for those new to this lifestyle, they get RAVE reviews!
- Beyond Meat contains around 20g of protein per patty.
- 4oz of these burgers contain 19g of protein.
- On average, a boca patty has 13g of protein per serving.
We love the hot dogs from Lightlife. They even carry them at some Costco stores for a killer deal!
- These veggie dogs contain 8g of protein per serving.
They make amazing products that are packed with veggies. Be sure to check the package because not all of their items are vegan. You can find their vegan items here.
- Depending on the type of burger you choose from Dr. Praegers you could get up to 28 grams of pea-based protein per serving!
These patties are a great cost and can be found at most Aldi locations. However, as a protein source, they are not that great.
The options I have found range from 2-7g of protein per serving. The chickenless patties (which we love) contain 11g of protein per serving and the cost is much better than the other store options we have found.
OTHER SOURCES OF PLANT PROTEIN
- Oats – about 7g of protein per 1/2 cup
- Farro – about 7g of protein per 1/4 cup
- Banza pasta – 22-25g of protein per serving (!)
There are tons of plant-based protein sources and many you may already enjoy!
My only advice would be if you are into weight lifting, intense cardio, or are pregnant, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough protein so consider tracking in an app like Chronometer.
Plant-Based Protein Powders
If you are thinking that you might want to also include a plant based protein powder (which we do, still, especially for our kids) into your routine until you feel more comfortable about a plant-based diet, here are a few You can find on Amazon that we’ve tried:
- Orgain Chocolate Fudge (This is our go-to one. It’s delicious!)
- Vega Protein & Greens
- Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Powder
- OLLY Kids Protein Powder (for you little ones)
These are the best plant based protein powders we’ve tried! What other brands do you swear by?
Remember, a plant-based diet is not difficult to follow; eat more plants, eat less/no animals, eat until you feel full, enjoy food, feel healthy!
Sounds good, right?!
If you are ready to get started on a plant-based diet, you’ll want to check out my top tips for getting started! Have you gone plant-based? How has your journey been?!
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