Whether you’re trying to cut back on your meat intake or you’ve fully committed to veganism, getting your protein fill from plant-based foods rather than animal products can be confusing. When we think of protein, usually steak, chicken or eggs come to mind – but it is possible to get your protein requirements without sacrificing taste or morals (if that is your motivation).
If, when going meat free, you find yourself simply removing the meat from your meals without thinking too much about how best to replace it, then you could be missing out on some serious protein opportunities in your diet.
Along with promoting skin, hair and nail health, protein also aids recovery from exercise and muscle repair – essential if you’re a regular in the gym. Having protein-rich foods present in your meals will also help you feel fuller for longer, and helps to slow the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream – a useful tidbit for those looking to shed body fat.
These plant-based protein sources mean you can swerve the meat without sacrifice fitness goals or meal satisfaction.
Tofu often gets a bad rap for being bland, boring or tasteless. In fact, the neutral taste makes it a super versatile option for many different dishes as it takes in whatever flavour you choose to marinate or cook it in – you just need to get creative! Try grilling firm tofu with a homemade satay sauce (mix peanut butter, sesame oil and soya sauce to taste), scrambling silken tofu with turmeric to emulate vegan-friendly scrambled eggs, or chucking diced tofu into a stir fry or Thai curry to keep it super simple.
The low-calorie soy-based protein source packs 8g of protein per 100g and is also rich in calcium and iron – two minerals important in muscle function, making tofu a good choice for anyone who works out regularly.
Beans, legumes and pulses are a standard go-to when it comes to getting your plant-based protein fill, but chickpeas in particular deserve a special shout-out. They’re delicious as they are (soaked overnight if you’re buying the dried kind or simply as they are, out of the can) tossed into a salad, but there are so many other easy ways to incorporate them into your diet. Chickpea curries are a firm favourite among vegans and veggies, but you can also blitz them into a homemade houmous along with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and tahini for a simple snack. Chickpea flour, otherwise known as gram flour, is also an unsung hero in baking when it comes to gluten-free treats, both sweet and savoury.
Packing 19g of protein per 100g, the humble chickpea also offers up a healthy dose of iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium, the latter of which is a mineral crucial in aiding restful sleep and healthy muscle contractions.
Tempeh is another soy-based protein source, but perhaps one that’s used less commonly. It can be found in most decent health food stores and is definitely worth scouring for thanks to its health benefits. It can be an acquired taste due to the fermentation process it goes through, but this also makes it seriously good for your gut. Try it sliced in sandwiches to replace cold meats, crumbled into a hearty stew for dinner or if you’re feeling creative, grated in place of mince meat in a chilli.
Boasting 20g of protein per 100g, Tempeh is definitely worth giving a go if you’re looking to broaden your horizons when it comes to plant-based protein. And with its high levels of magnesium, phosphorus and manganese (important for a healthy metabolism), we strongly recommend it.
Quinoa has become so popular in recent years that we are finding more and more ways to enjoy it. Often used in place of other grains, you can now readily find red, black and white variants in supermarket aisles. You can serve it straight-up as a side dish, but it’s also an interesting porridge replacement in the mornings topped with fruit and nuts – give that one a go if you haven’t already!
There’s roughly 14.1g of protein per 100g, making it a really easy go-to if you’re stuck for ideas for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Being rich in B vitamins, quinoa can be helpful in energy production, making it a good choice for those who struggle with tiredness.
5 Pumpkin seeds
Often overlooked for ‘meatier’ forms of plant-based protein, pumpkin seeds are surprisingly filling and offer up a really simple way to add a tonne of nutritional value to any meal or snack. Sprinkle them on porridge or yoghurt, snack on them straight-up or bake them into your own protein bars if you’re a bit of a whizz in the kitchen.
You’ll get around 30g of protein per 100g of pumpkin seeds, as well as a healthy helping of minerals like magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. They’re also rich in zinc, which helps to support a healthy immune system.