Most people face the question, “Where would I get my protein?” when considering a vegetarian lifestyle, or even just practicing a meatless Monday.
In order to help you understand how easy it is to eat plant-based proteins, I wanted to put together this quick, non-definitive guide. The following five food groups provide a good source of plant-based protein and, when consumed as part of a balanced diet, will provide all the protein you need.
Food is often categorised as carbohydrate, fat, or protein, but in reality, most foods contain a mixture of all these nutrients.
My hope is that you will find some surprise protein sources in the list below, which will give you more options and flexibility when you create your budget-friendly meals. It can be very cost effective to replace animal proteins with plant proteins, and it has proven to be a valuable strategy to keep my budget in check for some time.
Today Apronese would like to introduce you to this source of protein, all of which are available below, read on and follow along.
These values are estimates derived from USDA Food Composition Databases and have been sourced from the USDA Food Composition Databases.
5 Easy Sources of Plant-Based Protein
Beans and Lentils
Plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils are probably the most common types of plant-based proteins available, and these are some of my favorite ways to get my protein from food while keeping the costs down.
A lot of people are unaware of the fact that beans and lentils are very inexpensive, provide a great deal of fiber and minerals, as well as being very shelf stable.
How to Use Beans and Lentils
There are a lot of cost-saving tricks on this website, so one of my favorite ones is to replace half of the ground meat with either lentils or black beans. (See: Sloppy Joe’s Plus, Baked Beef and Black Bean Tacos, Snap Challenge One Pot Chili Pasta).
I also enjoy bean and lentil soups and stews because they make some of the best hearty, satisfying soups and stews I’ve ever had and some of the least expensive and most popular recipes on this website are bean or lentil based soups and stews that are most loved.
There are also many recipes that are not only easy to make, but they also have a great range of vegetables and flavor. (See: Winter Lentil Vegetable Stew, Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetarian Chili, Smoky Potato and Chickpea Stew.) But beans aren’t just for soups and stews. Browse my entire collection of Bean Recipes and Lentil Recipes for more ideas.
Examples of Bean Protein Contents (per 1/2 cup cooked):
- Chickpeas – 7 grams
- Kidney Beans – 7.5 grams
- Brown Lentils – 9 grams
- Black Beans – 7.5 grams
I believe that, although technically, it is a bean, there are so many different products made from soy that I thought it needed to be given its own mention. Besides being available in the form of fresh whole beans (called edamame), soy beans can also be made into many different foods such as tofu, tempeh, and soy milk.
As a matter of fact, most major grocery stores carry soy products due to their popularity over the past few decades, which makes them cheaper than meat products.
There is a wide range of products available to help you fit a little more soy into your daily meal plan with this wide range of products.
How to Use Soy Products
In addition to making a great snack or adding them to salads (see: Sesame Slaw, Spicy Tuna Guacamole Bowls), frozen Edamame shelled can also be incorporated into dishes as an easy protein packed snack (see: Edamame Slaw, Spicy Tuna Guacamole Bowl). In spite of the unique texture of tofu, once you get accustomed to it, it really is quite versatile.
I use it to make stir fries, dips, sandwiches, sandwiches, and more (see the Pan Fried Sesame Tofu with Broccoli, Curried Tofu Salad, BBQ Tofu Sliders).
You should definitely check out tempeh, which is a fermented soy bean product, if you do not a fan of the texture of tofu. You can use it in stir fries, sandwiches, and more (see: Sweet and Spicy Tempeh Bowls,
Buffalo Tempeh Sandwiches) as well as more. As a replacement for dairy milk, soy milk can also be used in many recipes; however, the results may vary since it tends to be a little less creamy. In my opinion, soy milk works extremely well in recipes such as overnight oats, baked oatmeal, and smoothies (see Golden Milk Overnight Oats, Pumpkin Smoothie, and Oatmeal Cookie Baked Oatmeal Cookie Overnight Oatmeal Cookie Baked Oatmeal Cookie).
Examples of Soy Product Protein Contents:
- Shelled Edamame (1/2 cup) – 9 grams
- Extra Firm Tofu (3 oz.) – 9 grams
- Tempeh (3 oz.) – 16 grams
- Soy Milk (1 cup) – 7 grams
Even though grains are commonly viewed as carbs, they can also contain significant amounts of protein if consumed whole.
Whole grains, like beans and lentils, are cheap, shelf stable, and they are a great powerhouse ingredient when it comes to budgeting. If you build your meals on the foundation of whole grains, you’ll be able to get a filling meal for a reasonable price.
The brown rice might be the most common whole grain, but you should also contemplate experimenting with other grains such as quinoa, farro, and bulgur (cracked wheat), which are technically seeds, but are cooked and used in the same way as grains. Of course, you ought not forget the versatile oats.
How to Use Whole Grains
A cooked and cooled grain is a wonderful addition to a salad. It transforms the dish from a “side” to a “main dish.”
Examples include roasting cauliflower and quinoa salads, Parsley Salads with Almonds and Apricots, and Mediterranean Farro Salads with Spiced Chickpeas. Furthermore, I love switching up the base for my bowl meals so that it includes a variety of grains (see: Soy Marinated Tofu Bowls, Sweet Potato Grain Bowls with Green Tahini Sauce).
Grains are great for breakfast, too! It should be noted that in addition to finding a million ways to use oats, I have also enjoyed both apple nut quinoa and banana nut breakfast farro for breakfast (see: Apple Nut Quinoa, Banana Nut Breakfast Farro).
Examples of Whole Grain Protein Contents:
- Quick Oats (1 cup cooked) – 6 grams
- Oat Bran (1 cup cooked) – 7 grams
- Bulgur (1 cup cooked) – 5.5 grams
- Brown Rice (1 cup cooked) – 5.5 grams
- Quinoa (1 cup cooked) – 8 grams
People may not expect to find significant amounts of protein in vegetables, but some vegetables contain significant amounts of protein.
Adding fresh or frozen vegetables to pasta, salads, soups, casseroles, and more is an excellent way to enhance the nutrition of any dish. I always keep frozen vegetables in my fridge so that I can add them to anything I am cooking in a flash so that I get a quick boost of nutrition.
It is good to be aware of the following vegetables that you can include in your daily protein intake:
- Russet Potatoes (large, 3-4.25″, baked) – 8 grams
- Broccoli (1 cup cooked) – 4 grams
- Sweet Peas (1 cup cooked) – 5 grams
- Kale (1 cup cooked) – 3.5 grams
- White Mushrooms (1 cup raw) – 3 grams
- Brussels Sprouts (1 cup cooked) – 4 grams
- Spinach (1 cup cooked) – 5 grams
Nuts and Seeds
Although nuts and seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein, they are also extremely expensive.
Aside from protein, nuts and seeds are filled with fiber, healthy fats, and minerals, making them an excellent addition to any meal, whether you’re using nut butters or whole nuts and seeds.
They can be kept in the freezer for even longer periods of time. It doesn’t matter if you use nut butters or whole nuts and seeds, adding a tablespoon or two every day to your meals can make a big difference.
How to Use Nuts and Seeds
Whenever I am making oats, smoothies, or chia seeds, I always add them to the mixture (see: Make Ahead Seeded Oats, Blueberry Almond Overnight Oats, Pumpkin Smoothie).
I’ve also been successful in incorporating seeds into a variety of baked goods, including my Seeded No-Knead Bread and Apple Flax Muffins, so that it isn’t just bread that’s enriched with seeds.
In addition to sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and other seeds are perfect for adding extra crunch to salads or bowl meals. Nut butters are also great addition to salads and bowl meals, but they can also be used for a lot more than toast.
As a vegan, I use peanut butter throughout my diet in sauces, stews, and baked goods (see Fried Coconut Vegetable Stir Fry, Peanut Butter Brownie Baked Oatmeal, and Spicy Coconut Vegetable Stir Fry)
Examples of Nut and Seed Protein Contents:
- Peanut Butter (2 Tbsp) – 7 grams
- Almond Butter (2 Tbsp) – 7 grams
- Chia Seeds (1 oz.) – 4.5 grams
- Flaxseed (2 Tbsp ground) – 2.5 grams
- Hempseed (2 Tbsp, hulled) – 6.5 grams
- Pumpkin Seeds (2 Tbsp) – 5 grams
All in all, with all these protein sources available to you, you have lots of choices to choose from and will be able to find one that suits both your taste buds and the dietary needs that you have.
This is all that Apronese wants to share with you today.
Whether you’re new to vegetarianism or if you’ve been leading that lifestyle for a while, please share your favorite source of plant-based protein in the comments section below so that we can all learn from each other.