My Favorite Plant-Based Proteins
Curious about plant protein and how to add them into your daily diet?
I often hear from my clients that they would love to eat more plant based, but don't necessarily know where to start and have fallen into a routine with eating the same foods day to day especially with their protein sources, primarily coming from animals.
While there is nothing wrong with eating well sourced meat, it is good to switch up your sources and eat a variety of different things. This means you are getting a variety of nutrients!
Picture above: Za'tar-crusted Chickpea Bowl
with Tahini Dressing
There are ample sources where you can get plant-based protein — it’s just a matter of learning what they are, how to use them, and being mindful to incorporate them into tasty and easy meals each day.
1. Lentils - lentils are very inexpensive, easy to prepare, and super filling. There are different kinds of lentils, french green and red being my favorite.
How I like to use Lentils:
Cook french green lentils with your favorite seasonings and enjoy as a lentil salad- I like to toss them in a vinaigrette
Combine with rice or quinoa for a hearty meal + veggies
Use to make vegetarian meatballs or burgers
Use as a taco filling
Red lentils cook up great in marinara sauce because they generally blend in with the sauce, making it heartier
In a soup on their own
2. Hemp seeds - Hemp seeds are small seeds from the hemp plant that have a delicious, subtly sweet and nutty flavor and are so small in size that they can easily be used and added to any recipe to boost the plant protein content. Three tablespoons of hemp = about 10 grams of protein!
My favorite ways to use Hemp Seeds:
Make into a hemp milk
Add to smoothies for a creamy texture
Add to bliss balls, baked goods, salad dressings
Quinoa is a gluten-free grain (technically a seed) that is often classified as a starchy protein because it contains a good portion of carbohydrates, as well as ample amounts of plant protein and fiber. It is great in place of rice for more diversity in your diet!
My favorite ways to use quinoa:
Treat it as you would oatmeal and eat it sweet - I like to add homemade hemp nut milk and fresh fruit with a little added maple syrup for breakfast
Enjoy quinoa instead of rice in stir-fry dishes or as a side dish
Add quinoa to salads for a little more heartiness
Use quinoa in stuffed peppers instead of rice
4. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is a fun one you may have never heard of before. It is one of the top high-protein plant-based foods and has a cheesy flavor with an impressive nutrient content. Nutritional yeast contains no dairy or active yeast, and it’s found in a powder/flake form that can create a paste when mixed with liquid. It’s great for making dairy-free sauces + dressings.
How to Use Nutritional Yeast:
Sprinkle over popcorn for a nice cheesy tasting touch
Sprinkle on pasta as you would parmesan
Mix into pestos as you would parmesan
Incorporate into dips and sauces
sprinkle on salads
5. Other Seeds: such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower, sesame, chia, flax, and are all rich in both protein and minerals! Seeds vary by type, and some are nuttier in flavor whereas others are more sweet and neutral tasting. Pumpkin seeds have an earthy flavor, sesame seeds are very nutty-tasting, sunflower seeds are slightly sweet and nutty, and flax , hemp and chia seeds taste mildly nutty.
How To Use Seeds:
Use in granola or muesli
Blend into homemade seed butter
Blend into dips or dressings
I add them into my bliss balls, and the crumble toppings for baked goods
Sprinkle on top of anything from oatmeal to quinoa, sweet or savory!
Sprinkle over salads
Chia seeds are great to make into chia pudding. Check out my Cherry Gar-Chia pudding here.
Chia seeds can be made into a quick jam
6. Nuts : Love me some nuts! Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and more are not only rich in minerals, vitamin E, and healthy fats but they’re also high in protein. Nuts vary by type, and some are nuttier in flavor whereas others are more sweet and neutral tasting. Cashews are one of my favorite nuts as they’re incredibly versatile to use in sweet and savory dishes.
1/4 cup nuts = around 7-9 grams of protein
How to Use Nuts:
Add nuts to meals or as snacks for the strong mix of protein and fat—two nutrients that help to fill you up and keep you full
Sprinkle nuts on top of salads or any meal to increase the healthy fat and protein content
Use in granola, muesli, or other baked goods
Grind and use as a “flour” in gluten-free baking
Grind or pulse coarsely and use in desserts such as a crumble topping
Blend into your own nut butter
Sprinkle on top of oatmeal, porridges, or cold cereals for added crunch and protein
Blend to make sauces ( cashews and nutritional yeast make a surprisingly good creamy queso!
Storage tip: to preserve the quality of your nuts store shelled nuts at room temperature for up to three months. Store nuts in the refrigerator for up to six months, or in the freezer for a year or more
Beans and legumes like chickpeas are an amazing source of plant protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. Beans are considered to be a starchy protein, just like lentils. 1 cup cooked beans = around 15 grams of protein
How to Use Beans:
Cooked with your favorite spices and seasonings and eaten plain
Top onto salads
Combine with rice or quinoa and some veg to make your own nourish bowls
Use to make vegetarian meatballs or burgers
Use as a taco filling
Blend into a dip
8. Organic Tempeh, Tofu, and Edamame are all soy based proteins. Edamame are the whole beans removed from the shell. Both tempeh and tofu are commonly used as a nutritious meat replacement and can be cooked in numerous ways as they take on whatever flavor your marinate them in. Tofu is made from condensed soy milk while tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh has a more nutty flavor and tofu's has a mild, flavorless profile. All three offer a complete plant protein containing all amino acids. Tempeh is the most nutritious out of this bunch, as it contains naturally-occurring healthy bacteria from the fermentation process.
1 serving of tempeh/tofu/edamame = around 18 grams of protein
How to Use Tempeh, Tofu, and Edamame:
Use edamame as you would beans or lentils- sprinkled in salads, blended into a dip, or as a side dish.
Swap in as a simple meat substitute since tofu and tempeh both can be marinated and soak up the flavor of whatever they are soaked in.
Use tempeh as a topping for salads or on a sandwich
Blended silken tofu makes a great base for “caesar” dressing
Add to stir-fry meals- especially love it with asian peanut sauce based stir-frys - I will be writing a recipe up soon:)
Mix crumbled tempeh into marinara sauce to make a bolognese
Use as filling for tacos or burgers
Shopping tip: always purchase organic and sprouted tofu if available
Whether you are vegetarian or not, its a great idea to start incorporating variety to your diet as so many of these “plant based foods” contain so many beneficial nutrients. Health starts with choosing fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and the variety of protein sources above. Finding the foods that make you feel best and keep you full, energized, and satisfied is the key to following a healthy eating plan and still enjoying the foods you love!