The 10 Best Alternative Protein Sources for a Beginner Vegetarian

If your New Year’s resolution was to eat less meat but you’re having trouble sticking with it, or you’re struggling to get through Lent this year on a meat-free diet, perhaps your problem is that you can’t seem to get enough protein into your meals. Luckily, I’m here to help! Here are the best alternative protein sources to keep your resolution running into the next year. 

  1. 1. Chia Seeds

    Chia seeds are a huge superfood, providing high antioxidants, strength and energy. 14 percent of their weight is protein - that’s a lot for a tiny seed! 

    A one-ounce (28g) serving of chia seeds is about two tablespoons, and contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat (five of which are Omega-3s), 18 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium, and 30 percent of the recommended daily intake of magnesium. 

    In addition to providing a healthy topping or ingredient to foods like oatmeal, cereal, rice cakes or chia pudding, the high fiber and protein content in chia seeds may help you lose weight, since it absorbs a lot of the water in your stomach, increasing fullness. They also reduce your risk of heart disease, blood sugar levels and chronic inflammation! Now that’s a seed that packs quite a punch.  

  2. 2. Chickpeas

    Chickpeas are another yummy alternative that you can add to your salads, soups or use as a hummus dip for your favorite veggies. 

    A one-ounce (28g) serving of chickpeas contains 8 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and 4 percent of the recommended daily intake of iron. 

    Chickpeas are rich in plant-based protein, which helps with bone health and maintaining muscle strength. The quality of protein is also higher in chickpeas than some other plant-based proteins, because they contain a higher number of essential amino acids. However, like chia seeds, they are not a complete source of protein, and should be added to a meal that contains whole grains.  

    Fun fact: You can also make dessert hummus dip for fruits! Brownie batter and cookie butter hummus are very popular on foodie instagram right now, so if you’re feeling like trying out a new recipe, one with chickpeas shouldn’t be hard to find. :)

  3. 3. Edamame

    Soybeans, including edamame, are one of the most versatile food crops on the planet. Just one cup of cooked edamame contains 18.5 grams of protein! And, unlike most other plant-based protein sources, they provide all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. 

    Another perk of edamame is that it is so easy to cook, and can be thrown into salads, stir-fry, eaten as an appetizer or even blended into a smoothie! A delicious option for some packed protein. 

  4. 4. Greek Yogurt

    Greek yogurt is a game-changer, not only for protein, but for so many different meals that it can be added to. One serving of greek yogurt can contain between 12-17 grams of protein and provides more energy and oxygen to your veins. 

    Greek yogurt is also a superfood in terms of probiotics. Gut health is extremely important, and probiotics help to balance your gut and improve your immune system. 

    Plus, you can eat greek yogurt for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Add it to your oatmeal or eat it with some fruit, throw it into a chicken salad or use it as a chip dip, make a delicious and creamy pasta sauce with it, or blend it with some frozen fruit to make a delicious ice cream. With so many ways to incorporate greek yogurt into your diet, protein should not be a problem. 

  5. 5. Peanut Butter

    Everybody loves peanut butter - it’s simple, creamy (or crunchy!), easily spreadable and the perfect comfort food to spoon into your mouth. Unless you are allergic; then I do not recommend spooning peanut butter anywhere. 

    But did you know that peanut butter is also a great source of protein? A 100 gram portion of peanut butter contains 25 grams of protein, which is a significantly higher amount compared to some other plant-based protein sources. 

    It’s important to look out for organic and natural ingredients in your peanut butter to avoid unnecessary fats and sugars, which most commercial brands add to their jars. If you’re looking for a lower-calorie alternative, try powdered peanut butter for the same level of protein, or make your own peanut butter from scratch. 

  6. 6. Nuts

    If you’re looking for a new food to snack on, try turning back to the trusty nut, whether it be in trail mix or a statement bowl. All nuts contain a high amount of protein to throw into a salad or just eat on the go for a quick addition to your meals. 

    Some of the higher protein nuts are almonds, walnuts and pistachios, containing between 4.5-7 grams of protein per a 35 gram serving. Lots of these nuts also contain tons of antioxidants to boost your mood and cleanse your body. Just like peanut butter, you can blend these into a simple spread for your toast, as well. Talk about a yum-factor. 

  7. 7. Avocado 

    You’ve probably noticed that avocados have been a trend to eat lately, and that’s for a good reason. They are considered a “healthy fat” that provides essential vitamins and minerals for your body. Not to mention their high-protein content: One whole avocado contains 3 grams of protein and more potassium than a banana!

    If you’re a guac lover, start making guacamole more, and if you need a new delicious food that’s green, look no further than the avocado. 

  8. 8. Eggs

    The average egg contains 6-7 grams of protein, with a larger egg containing up to 8 grams. 

    Contrary to popular belief, the egg yolk actually contains about half of the protein content of an egg, so don’t leave out the yolk! While the whites of an egg are typically “healthier” for you, the yolk also contains many healthy nutrients and the necessary protein your body needs. 

    It also is important to consider how you cook your egg, since some methods of cooking your egg could provide higher or lower amounts of protein. Eating an egg raw actually provides the least amount of protein, so those fad egg drinks you may be seeing are not only putting you at risk for salmonella, but also skimping you on protein! Your body also absorbs the proteins in an egg more when they are cooked, so make sure you cook your eggs. 

  9. 9. Quinoa

    One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. The proteins in quinoa contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs, so it is considered a “complete protein” and can be eaten without another protein source. 

    Quinoa is also gluten free, so if you are looking for a healthier, protein-filled alternative to rice, quinoa may be your new best friend. NASA is actually looking into using it as a suitable crop to grow in space, so you could be eating a future space crop!

  10. 10. Oats

    The final protein you can try on your meat-free journey is oats. A very versatile protein source, they can be made into flour, milk, bars, cookies, or endless bowls of oatmeal. 

    3.5 ounces (100g) of oats contain 16.9 grams of protein, which makes up about 11 percent of their total dry weight, which is significantly higher than other grains. The major protein element in oats isn’t found in most other grains, but can be found in nuts, which is another great protein source listed above. Pure oats are also considered safe for people with a gluten intolerance.