Protein is an essential nutrient needed by the body to build and repair muscle and tissue, produce hormones and fight disease and aging. While everyone needs to eat protein daily to stay healthy, weight trainers, weight watchers, and athletes may need additional protein intake for muscle recovery and muscle growth after strenuous physical activity.
An average person needs about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of their body weight, so if you weigh 155 pounds, you need about 62 grams of protein daily from healthy food sources. If you’re following a weight-loss program, eating plenty of protein will keep you feeling full for longer and prevent unhealthy snacking while also supporting muscle repair as you exercise.
If you’re looking for convenient ways to increase your protein intake, here are some of the healthiest fuss-free alternative protein sources that you can easily add to your diet, starting today!
Mixed Nuts and Seeds
If meat is not up to your alley, eating a fistful of nuts and seeds every day is a great way to eat protein. It’s convenient, requires no cooking and limits unhealthy snacking between meals. While a one-ounce serving of nuts delivers about 6 grams protein, they contain multiple other essential nutrients such as iron, magnesium, vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus and more.
A mix of almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, peanuts and pistachios makes for a filling and healthy snack when you’re out and about. The best high-protein seeds to sprinkle over your meals or add to your smoothies include flaxseed, chia seeds, linseed, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, safflower seeds, and hemp seeds.
According to nutritionists, the best way to have nuts is to eat them raw and unprocessed, as roasted or blanched products may have unwanted additives such as flavors, salt, sugar, and oil. Toss them into salads, yogurts, and stir-fries or simply pop them raw—including these power-packed natural foods in your diet will provide you a guilt-free daily dose of protein and healthy fats.
Protein-rich Cereal Bars
If you’re looking for a low-calorie no-fuss snack that you can have on the go, then low sugar protein bars are also a great option—particularly if you’re not able to get your protein fix from your regular diet. A high-fiber protein bar can serve as a light breakfast, a midday snack, a light lunch or even a healthy sweet treat after dinner. Its high protein content will leave you feeling full, the fiber will give you energy and the low sugar content will keep you from consuming empty calories.
With so many options on the market, it can be confusing to pick a protein bar that packs the right ingredients and is healthy enough to be included in your diet. A golden rule here is to avoid cereal bars that contain excessive artificial additives, excess sweeteners, trans fats, or minimal protein. A good protein bar should have at least 10g of protein along with fiber and healthy fats. Also, steer clear of “nutrition bars” that have too many artificial ingredients with little or no nutrients.
Tofu is a widely popular alternative protein food that packs about 8 grams of protein per 100 grams serving. It has a cheese-like texture and is made from soybeans, which itself is a high-quality source of protein. Tofu is considered an excellent protein source as it contains all the essential amino acids required by the body. In addition, it provides a number of vitamins and minerals along with healthy fats and carbs.
With only 70 calories per 100 grams, tofu is a great nutrient-dense alternative to traditional protein sources such as red meat, poultry, and seafood. One key advantage of choosing tofu over meat is that it reduces your total consumption of saturated fat.
Eating tofu is fairly easy. Simply cut a block into small pieces, sprinkle some rock salt and black pepper and have it as a light. fulfilling lunch or a healthy evening snack. Stir fry your favorite vegetables with tofu or toss a handful of pieces into a salad or sandwich for a generous dose of protein.
Green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, and asparagus deliver between 3 and 8 grams of protein per cup. Green peas top of all these veggies as a protein source, with a whopping 75 grams of protein per cup. These veggies are easy to include in your meals as they can be simply chopped and tossed into a dish (or stir-fried for a minute if you don’t like the raw taste). Aside from protein, plant greens provide a host of other essential nutrients, including vitamin B, vitamin C, calcium, and folate.
While the protein content of most greens may not be very high, their low-calorie content and high nutritional value make them an ideal inclusion in a healthy diet.