I’m a big proponent of eating lots of protein. It’s a vital nutrient for our bodies, and it’s also a fantastic hunger buster. However, steak and burgers aren’t your only options. I’m Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien, and I have seven sources of protein that aren’t meat!
Why Is Protein Important?
Protein is a crucial macronutrient, and it’s found in many healthy and delicious foods. Most people know that meat is a protein, but some other protein sources might surprise you.
If you’ve heard the term “complete protein” (one with all nine amino acids that our bodies need) and are concerned that some of these sources may not be complete, have no fear! If you incorporate a variety of incomplete proteins into your diet, you’re likely to get all the aminos you need. Here are some of my favorite non-meat protein sources.
1. Greek Yogurt
Yogurt was never the star player on team protein until Greek yogurt entered the game. This yogurt is strained differently from regular dairy yogurt, so it retains more protein and less sugar. Plus, it has a thicker consistency. Plain Greek yogurt has about 24 grams of protein per cup. Impressive! Wondering how to enjoy this miracle food? Zazzle it up!
And for an easy breakfast bowl that you’ll flip for, check this out. Make it in a jar if you want to take it to go.
Peach Mango Bowl
Entire recipe: 323 calories, 7.5g total fat (0.5g sat fat), 124mg sodium, 53g carbs, 12.5g fiber, 32g sugars, 23.5g protein
1. In a medium bowl, mix 6 ounces (about 2/3 cup) fat-free plain Greek yogurt, 1 no-calorie sweetener packet (like Truvia), and a dash of cinnamon.
2. Top yogurt with 1 cup chopped peach and 1/2 cup chopped mango (both fresh or thawed from frozen), followed by 1/4 cup high-fiber bran cereal, and 1/2 ounces (about 2 tablespoons) chopped pistachios.
Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart, if it’s protein you’re after, eating beans is smart! Black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans are all good sources of protein, with around 12.5 grams per cup. Add them to salads, egg scrambles, and steamed veggies. Bonus: They’re good for weight loss!
Make fish a part of your weekly menu. Tuna contains about 25 grams of protein per 4-ounce portion. (Salmon too!) If cost is a concern, canned/pouched tuna is a smart way to get that protein for less. It’s fantastic on salads, whole-grain crackers, and in this healthy noodle casserole.
Rockin’ Tuna Noodle Casserole
1/4th of casserole: 167 calories, 5g total fat (1g sat fat), 882mg sodium, 14g carbs, 4g fiber, 2g sugars, 16.5g protein
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8” x 8” baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. Drain and rinse 3 bags of House Foods Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine Shaped Noodle Substitute. Thoroughly pat dry, and roughly cut. Microwave for 1 minute, and pat dry again.
3. Add 1 wedge of The Laughing Cow Creamy Swiss Light cheese, breaking it into pieces. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until melted, and mix well.
4. Drain and flake a 6-ounce can of albacore tuna packed in water.
Stir tuna into the noodles, along with 1/2 cup frozen peas, a 10.75-ounce can of 98 percent fat-free cream of mushroom condensed soup, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan-style grated topping. Transfer mixture to the baking pan.
5. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parm-style topping. Bake until hot and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.
If it’s salmon you’re looking for, did you know that you can prepare salmon baked in a packet of foil?
4. (Green) Soybeans
The king of beans by far is the soybean. Unlike other beans, it’s a complete protein! Mature raw soybeans contain a whopping 22 grams of protein per cup, and raw edamame has about 33 grams per cup.
They make a perfect snack, and edamame is the first thing I order when I go out for sushi (which is often!). It’s one of my sushi dos!
Another stellar source of protein is the mighty lentil. Lentils taste great and are nutritional powerhouses. One cooked cup has about 18 grams of protein. Just like beans, they can be eaten solo, made into dips, paired with chicken or fish, stuffed into potatoes, added to soups, and tossed with veggies or rice. For convenience, you can buy them already prepared. I love the ones from Trader Joe’s!
6. Meat Substitutes: Tofu, Seitan & Tempeh
You probably know about tofu, but if you haven’t heard about seitan and tempeh, you’re missing out. All of these contain a good dose of protein; seitan contains the most, with about 18 grams per 3-ounce portion. Seiten is a wheat gluten with a chewy, meaty texture. Tempeh is a soy product (like tofu). It differs from tofu in that it’s fermented and more flavorful, and it has a crumblier texture. Try them all and choose your favorite. Here’s an easy recipe made with tofu, but feel free to swap in one of the others!
Turbo Tofu Stir-Fry
1/4th of recipe (about 1 1/3 cups): 189 calories, 6.5g total fat (0.5g sat fat), 768mg sodium, 16.5g carbs, 4g fiber, 7g sugars, 13g protein
1. Drain a 12-ounce package of block-style extra-firm tofu, and lay it on a dry surface, with the shorter sides on the left and right. Vertically cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Horizontally cut each piece into 4 smaller pieces.
2. To make the sauce, in a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium/lite soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, a dash of ginger, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Whisk until cornstarch has dissolved.
3. Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to high heat. Add tofu and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes, gently flipping to evenly brown. Transfer to a large bowl, and cover to keep warm.
4. Add the following ingredients to the skillet: 4 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables, 3 cups frozen broccoli florets, and 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic. Cover and cook until hot, about 5 minutes.
5. Give the sauce mixture a stir and add to the skillet, along with the tofu. Cook and stir until sauce has thickened slightly and tofu is hot, about 3 minutes.
You get 6 grams of protein from just one large egg! The egg whites contain a bit more protein than the yolk, and I often skip the yolks to save calories. Have eggs for breakfast to keep yourself satisfied until lunch. That’s the protein working for you! Eggs can even be beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight, so why not get creative with them? Top a savory spinach and feta oatmeal bowl with one, or mix them up with veggies for an easy Mexican scramble.
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