Lent has officially started! For those who participate in giving up meat on a weekly basis, don’t fret: you don’t have to order a Filet-o-Fish or only eat tofu every Friday. Here are 5 fantastic alternatives to add protein to your meals and snacks:
(1) Milk/Soy milk
Dairy is so delicious. I’m obsessed! Whether it’s with your cereal or as a small beverage, a cup of milk and soy milk has about 8 grams of protein. Milk has both casein and whey protein which has the same muscle building/recovery effects as meat when consumed after a resistance workout. If you prefer nut milks, just know that they contain very little to no protein. That doesn’t make them less healthy. It simply means they aren’t solid non-dairy alternatives when it comes to protein.
Whenever you are unsure what protein to add to a dish, choose an egg. It’s the best go-to because it has one of the highest biological values for protein. (That’s HBV, not to be confused with HPV). HBV refers to the composition and level of essential amino acids in the food. In layman terms, the higher the HBV, the more readily-available essential amino acid and protein that the food has. Whether you like it poached, fried, basted, boiled, or scrambled, adding an egg or two is a convenient protein choice.
(3) Peanut Butter
Although nut butters (and nuts in general) have lower protein levels than meat, they’re still a good way to add a little protein to round out your snack. Instead of toast with butter or a plain apple, try adding some nut butter instead. It’ll provide higher satiety effects and heart-healthy fats along with some protein. Plus, it’s absolutely delicious!
Not all yogurts are created equally. Look for milk-based yogurts for the highest levels of protein. Other yogurts like coconut-based yogurts contain little to zero protein. Thicker yogurts (like Greek or Icelandic versions) drain out the liquid whey which yield a yogurt denser in casein protein and overall protein than a regular Yoplait. Top a small cup of plain thick yogurt with fresh fruit and you’ve got a on-the-go breakfast or snack that packs a big protein punch.
“Beans, beans, the musical fruit! The more you eat, the more you toot!” The great part about beans and legumes is that there is so much variety: soy, garbanzo, black, red kidney, black-eyed, green, etc. Sprinkle a handful or two on top of a salad or make a vegetarian bean burger patty. Beans are finally getting the spotlight which makes eating plant-based meals even easier nowadays.
There are other awesome non-meat alternatives out there (like quinoa, seafood, and tofu) which are great options too. It’s all up to your preference! Luckily, there are so many choices to help you feel satisfied and nourished even when you’re reducing your meat intake.
Happy eating, Friends!
Thomas Ngo, RD