Plant-Based Sources of Protein

Every vegetarian and vegan has heard it before, and will undoubtedly hear it time and time again—“But where do you get your protein?” Just to set things straight, a lot of Americans are overweight because we actually eat too much protein than we need to due to many of us rarely exercising. For everyone who thinks people on plant-based diets are lacking protein, you’re sadly mistaken; most of us are definitely getting adequate amounts.

If you’re convinced that devouring a huge hunk of steak is the only route to feeling full and staying satisfied, I can vouch for the fact that plant-based alternatives do the trick, too. Hey, self-proclaimed carnivores, you really can do just fine on the many plant-based protein-packed options that are out there. Give the omnivore (or even herbivore) diet a chance!

  1. Black Beans: If you’re torn between choosing black beans or pinto beans, black beans are the way to go. They’re full of protein, fiber, and taste! Make yourself a black bean burrito bowl, a black bean burger patty, or use them to bulk up your salad.
  2. Black-Eyed Peas: Outside of the South, black-eyed peas tend to only be eaten on the very first day of each year for good luck, which is terrible because they are downright delicious. Although, I’ve only had them fried into crunchy little tidbits or sautéed with seasonings, and they’re incredible either way. I’d imagine you can incorporate these creamy legumes into dishes wherever various beans might be featured.
  3. Chia Seeds: For protein and fiber, sprinkle some chia seeds onto pretty much anything, especially your smoothie or yogurt. If you’re a fan of tapioca pudding, try making this quick and easy chia seed pudding because the seeds take on a similar texture. I used to make all kinds of different flavors for breakfast and/or dessert. It’s great!
  4. Edamame: I’m sure you’ve ordered an edamame appetizer at your favorite Asian restaurant, but have you ever prepared edamame at home? All you have to do is steam them and flavor them with whatever you’re in the mood for. They’re a great snack or addition to salads or brown rice/quinoa bowls that are inspired by Asian flavors.
  5. Garbanzo Beans: In addition to being the main ingredient of hummus, garbanzo beans, or chickpeas, are always a fabulous salad topping. Also, crisped up garbanzo beans are a wonderful alternative to chips. If you’re tired of PB&Js, mash up garbanzo beans with avocado for a super yummy sandwich filling.
  6. Lentils: I just recently began cooking with lentils, and I had no idea what I was missing out on. They soak up whichever flavors you want them to, and pair nicely with essentially any carbs. Lentil soup is beautiful. Lentil tacos are amazing. My next venture is going to be lentil “meat”balls!
  7. Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are the best taco salad topping ever. Also, roasted pumpkin seeds slathered in BBQ flavors are out of this world. Don’t think that you can only snack on delightfully crunchy pumpkin seeds in October.
  8. Quinoa: One of the many reasons why quinoa is a superfood is because of it’s a fiber-rich complete protein. Quinoa has a texture similar to couscous, but quinoa’s naturally gluten-free. Cooking quinoa requires the exact same basic process as white rice, and works well wherever rice would. I love quinoa and veggies drizzled with vinaigrette or topped with marinara and vegan cheese. Yum!

Photo Credit: "Santa Fe Black Bean Burger [revisited]" by julie west is licensed under CC BY 2.0