Want to beef up those muscles? Every person in the room would tell you to load up on protein. Aside from increasing muscle mass and strength, protein also makes up the building blocks of organs, skin, hormones, and almost every matter in your body.
When we talk about protein-packed meals, your mind can’t help but think about juicy chicken breasts and chunky beef steaks. Athletes, like boxing champion David Hayes and tennis star Serena Williams, sure got their toned body and impeccable strength from their protein-rich diet. But let me get one thing straight: Williams and Hayes don’t eat meat – they’re vegans!
So you might be wondering: how do pescatarians, vegetarians, and raw vegans get their daily dose of protein without eating meat?
Whether it’s for health benefits, environmental concerns, or ethical reasons, here are 8 meatless yet high-protein foods to include in your diet.
Best Pick: Egg whites
Eggs have high-quality protein – thanks to their amino acids content.
Here’s why they never fail to give your morning a boost: The egg yolk contains vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants while the egg white is composed of mainly water and protein.
If you want to load up on protein alone, go for the egg whites. An average whole egg contains 6 to 7 grams of protein, and 60% of this comes from the egg whites. Leaving yolk behind and increasing egg white consumption is a smart way to increase your protein without the cholesterol and added calories (which are found in the yolk).
Best Pick: Tuna
Avoiding meat? Switching to fish is a solid choice. Aside from protein, fishes are rich in omega-3 fatty acids too. Fishes, however, aren’t made equal: some fish types contain more protein than the rest of the pack.
Tip: Tuna has the highest protein content compared to other fishes. They are low in fat too, which makes it perfect for losing weight and building muscle mass. Three ounces (85 g) of raw yellowfin tuna packs about 20g of protein with only 92 calories.
Halibut, tilapia, salmon, cod, pollock, mackerel, and trout are other great protein sources. Even canned sardines, with 42 grams of protein per 6oz, pack a nutritional punch.
Best Pick: Shrimp
Seafood is indeed a great source of protein – and we’re not only talking about aquatic creatures with fins.
Shellfishes, especially shrimps, are rich in protein and are low in fat. Shrimps contain 24 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces serving. They’re also low in calories, carbs, and fat – perfect for losing weight.
Other seafood, like clams, mussels, and scallops also contain high levels of protein. Crabs and lobsters are good sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals too but they should be eaten in moderation since they’re high in cholesterol and sodium. It’s time to get your seafood fix from your local seafood market.
We know that extra cheese is a no-no when you’re trying to lose weight. But a half cup of cottage cheese, which contains 13 grams of protein, might be an exception.
Aside from protein, it contains calcium for bone development. There are reduced fat versions too if you’re a bit conscious. The taste isn’t as appealing as your cheddar cheese dip but you could hide it in creamy dishes or add fruit, cinnamon, and nuts for extra flavor.
Best Pick: Non-fat yogurt with no added sugar
Swap your high-fat dairy cravings for some nutritious Greek yogurt. A 6-ounce container (170g) can provide you with a whopping 17 grams of protein – that’s twice the amount of protein as regular yogurt. It contains fewer carbs too. Whether it’s a sweet or savory take, Greek yogurt makes a great substitute for other dairy products like sour cream, cheese, and ice cream. Add fruits for added flavor punch. You can even make a healthier salad and sandwich by replacing mayonnaise for Greek yogurt.
Best Pick: Almonds
If you’re looking for crunchy, protein-rich snacks, nuts are a good way to go. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, cashews – these are all healthy protein sources vegetarians rely on.
Nuts are also packed with essential micronutrients like vitamin E and B6, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium. Each serving of nuts contains 4 to 7 grams of protein. 22 unsalted almonds, for instance, contain 5.9 grams of protein.
Beans and legumes
Best pick: Soybeans and lentils
Like nuts, a variety of bean and legume choices are packed with protein. Soybeans (and soy products) and lentils are among the world’s top sources of plant-based protein. Soybeans contain 28.5 grams of protein per cup while lentils contain 18 grams per cup.
Other beans like kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and lima beans contain 15 grams of protein per cup.
Quinoa is one of the most popular superfoods – it’s a recommended protein source for vegetarians. A single cup of cooked quinoa (185g) contains around 8 grams of complete protein, with 222 calories to fill you up.
For a protein-rich, whole grain meal, you can use quinoa instead of rice.