Non-Meat Protein Sources That Will Make You Feel Better

what to eat instead of meat on a plant-based diet

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. We were taught that animal products are our protein sources. We were told that a meal was not complete without meat and dairy.

Do you agree? Was this instilled in you as a child, too?

eat these items instead of animals on a plant-based diet

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.

Complete protein plant sources

There are a variety of plant protein sources that DO offer the complete protein.

  • Quinoa, 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 per cup of cooked quinoa.

    • Here are some savory quinoa recipes you’ve got to try!

PS: Quinoa is gluten free!

Quinoa is a great source of plant based protein. The nutrition facts blow rice and beans out of the water. Have you tried quinoa? Check out these prices!
  • 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 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!

    • 2 Tablespoon hemp seeds contains about 11g of protein.


additional high protein plant foods are:

  • Lentils

    • Protein is approx. 8.8g per 1/2 cup.

  • Beans (chickpeas, kidney, black, pinto, etc)

    • Chickpeas contain about 7.25g per 1/2 cup.

    • Black beans contain approximately 7.6g per 1/2 cup.

  • Nuts like Peanuts, Cashews, or Almonds

    • Peanuts are about 20.5g protein per 1/2 cup.

    • Almonds are 16.5g of protein per 1/2 cup.

If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet or you love a good burger or hot dog, here are some great brands to try!

(Note: A lot of these meat alternatives are highly processed and therefore I do not recommend eating them for every meal. They typically contain a lot of sodium and other additives so use carefully.)

There are so many non meat protein options if you are following a plant-based or vegan diet. You’ll find resources to fit every family and budget here including plant based protein powders and more!
  • Beyond Meat - this option and the Impossible brand below taste so similar to meat (to me) and have a similar texture. For me, this is a turn off, but for those new to this lifestyle, they get RAVE reviews!

  • Impossible Burger

  • Boca

  • Lightlife - We love the hot dogs from Lightlife. They even carry them at some Costco stores for a killer deal!

  • Dr Praegers - 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.


  • Oats - about 7g protein per 1/2 cup

  • Farro - about 7g protein per 1/4 cup

  • Banza pasta - 25g 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.

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:

There are so many non meat protein options if you are following a plant-based or vegan diet. You’ll find resources to fit every family and budget here including plant based protein powders and more!
  1. Orgain Chocolate Fudge (This is our go-to one. It’s delicious!)

  2. Vega Protein & Greens

  3. Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Powder

  4. 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!

—> PSST: don’t forget to grab this FREE MEAL PLANNER and join my FREE FACEBOOK COMMUNITY.