Most people assume that meat, poultry, eggs and dairy are the best ways to get your protein fix, but there are plenty of other non-animal products that are packed with healthy protein. After all, vegans have to eat something.
We talked to registered dietician Leah Kaufman about alternative protein sources that are fit for animal lovers and hungry athletes alike.
When you're not in the mood for a bloody steak, chow down on one of these plant-based sources of protein.
Half a cup of canned black beans have just 110 calories and one gram of fat, but they have seven grams of protein. Kaufman suggests, "Utilize perfect protein combinations, such as beans and rice." Combining the beans with rice or corn will give you the amino acids you get from animal proteins, but most plant-based proteins lack.
A quarter cup of uncooked quinoa (which fluffs up to about a cup when cooked) has 170 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and seven grams of protein. Plus, "this is the only grain known to be a complete protein—containing all essential amino acids," Kaufman explains. While beans need to be combined with other foods to become a perfect protein, quinoa actually contains all the nutrients you would get from eating meat.
Another vegetarian standard, tofu, which is made from soybeans, has just 94 calories, five grams of fat and 10 grams of protein per half-cup serving. "Tofu can be found in many different forms and is best used for its ability to soak up different flavors," Kaufman says.
"Change up your tofu routine and try tempeh," Kaufman suggests. "It's a versatile firm textured cooked soybean that is also a complete protein," like quinoa. A half-cup has 160 calories and a whopping 15 grams of protein, but it's a bit high in fat with nine grams.
Although people shy away from these calorie and fat dense snacks, nuts are packed with nutrients, fiber and protein (almonds have six grams per one-ounce serving). And despite their high-calorie content, eating nuts actually helps you lose weight. Kaufman suggests approaching them are more than just snacks. "Try using toasted almonds or cashews in an Asian stir-fry or ground almonds as a paste to place on top of any entrees."