People are always looking for new and innovative ways to get enough protein in their diets. While meat is a common and popular source of protein, there are many other ways to fulfill your daily requirements. This article will discuss some tips for increasing your protein intake without resorting to meat. We’ll touch on everything from plant-based health supplements to the perfect grocery store finds to ensure you’re getting enough of this essential macronutrient.
Reasons to Avoid Meat
If meat is such an easy source of protein, why don’t we just stick to eating plenty of it? The truth is, many folks are now choosing to lead meat-free lifestyles for various reasons. Some do it for health reasons, as processed meats have been linked to increased cancer risk. Others abstain from eating meat for environmental and sustainability reasons. For example, it’s estimated that the livestock industry is responsible for up to 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. And lastly, some people avoid meat because they simply don’t want to contribute to animal cruelty.
Discussing the Labels
You might not want to label yourself, but understanding the difference between vegetarian, vegan and pescatarian diets is important. Why? Because it helps you to understand what foods you can and cannot eat based on your decisions and aspirations for a meat-free diet. The main distinction between these diets is what, if any, animal products they allow.
A vegetarian diet includes plant-based foods and excludes meat, fish and poultry. Of course, many vegetarians will continue to eat animal products like eggs, dairy and honey. However, it’s not uncommon to find some that give up various animal products for different reasons.
A vegan diet takes it a step further and avoids eggs, dairy and other animal-based products. This includes honey, gelatin and some wines that use animal-derived fining agents. Again, this is strictly a plant-based diet.
A pescatarian diet is a plant-based diet that allows for fish and may include animal-based products like eggs and dairy.
Why Is Protein Important?
Protein is crucial because it’s one of the three essential macronutrients required for human health, along with fat and carbohydrates. In addition, protein is a significant component of every cell in our bodies. It is used to build and repair tissue, make enzymes and hormones and provide structure to our cells. Protein is also essential for the growth and development of children, teens and pregnant women.
There are various points of view on how much protein we should consume in a day. When assessing the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein, researchers have argued that it is set too low. The RDA of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight is the minimum necessary to prevent lean body mass loss and stop a person from getting sick. Unfortunately, RDA is often misrepresented and misinterpreted as a recommended optimal intake. Thus, aiming higher by eating healthy, protein-rich foods is a better strategy to ensure you’re getting all the benefits this macronutrient offers.
Up Your Protein Intake Without Meat
Fortunately, there are many meat-free foods to ensure you’re meeting your protein needs. So whether you’re a frontline worker, stay-at-home parent, boardroom warrior or aspiring bodybuilder, we’ve got you covered.
1) Plant-Based Protein Supplements
Protein supplements can ensure you’re getting enough protein, especially if you’re struggling to meet your daily requirements through diet alone. They come in many different forms, such as plant-based protein powders, protein bars and pre-mixed protein shakes. But read those ingredient labels carefully because some are loaded with sugar, while others lack the essential vitamins and minerals needed for proper health. So when choosing a protein supplement, be sure to read the nutrition label carefully to avoid any unwanted surprises.
2) Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a delicious and creamy dairy product packed with protein. It contains about double the amount of protein as regular yogurt. Greek yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium, which is important for bone health, and lower in sugar than regular yogurt. If you’re vegan, there are plenty of plant-based yogurts made from soy, almond or coconut milk that are also high in protein.
3) Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are a staple in many meat-free diets. They’re high in fiber and protein and versatile in how they can be prepared. A cup of cooked black beans, for example, contains around 15 grams of protein and can be incorporated into stews, used as a side dish or blended into a dip or spread, similar to hummus. Lentils, chickpeas and peas are also excellent sources of plant-based protein. You can add them to soups, salads or make a delicious veggie burger.
4) Nuts and Nut Butters
Nuts and nut butters are excellent sources of plant-based protein. For example, a quarter-cup of almonds contains about four grams of protein. In comparison, a tablespoon of peanut butter has around eight grams. Both make for a great snack or can be added to oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies. If you have a nut allergy, plenty of seed butter alternatives are also high in protein, such as sunflower seed butter and pumpkin seed butter.
Quinoa is often called a “superfood” because it’s packed with nutrients. It’s one of the only plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. Quinoa is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins and iron. It can be enjoyed as a side dish, used in place of rice or added to soups and salads.
Tempeh is a fermented soy product that’s high in protein and fiber. It has a firm texture and can be grilled, stir-fried or used in place of ground beef in recipes. Tempeh is also a good source of vitamin B12 and minerals, such as magnesium, calcium and iron.
7) Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are the perfect plant-based protein powder alternative. They’re high in omega-3 fatty acids and all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete protein. Hemp seeds can be eaten raw, roasted or ground into a powder and added to smoothies or baking recipes.
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that’s often sold in powder form. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet and an excellent source of plant-based protein, containing several (though not all) essential amino acids. It’s also high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Spirulina can be added to smoothies or juices, sprinkled on top of salads or used as a natural food coloring agent.
There are many options for getting enough protein without meat. These include beans and legumes, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, tempeh, hemp seeds and spirulina. However, don’t forget great options like plant-based supplement stacks to round out your diet and nutritional needs. When it comes to protein, variety is key. Be sure to mix up your protein sources to get all the essential amino acids your body needs.