To put it simply, I love carbs. Like a lot. Bread and pasta probably make up about 90 percent of my diet, which is why one of my New Year’s resolutions is to increase my protein intake. Aside from wanting to eat more well-balanced meals and fewer girl dinners, tons of benefits come from including more protein in your diet. Research shows that diets higher in protein increase muscle mass, promote bone health, boost your metabolism, and so much more. Adding more protein to your diet can be easier said than done, though, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian or just straight up sick of eating chicken (*raises hand*). If you’re looking for easy ways to increase your protein intake, read on for 10 simple suggestions on how to get protein without meat.
1. Infuse protein powder into baked goods
Believe it or not, there are countless creative ways to enjoy your protein powder other than sipping it from a blender bottle. Health coach and food blogger Brittany Mullins of Eating Bird Food recommends adding protein to sweet treats to help curb the blood sugar spike that usually happens after eating dessert. To incorporate protein powder into your baked goods, simply replace all or a portion of the amount of flour a recipe calls for.
2. Swap white rice for wild rice
If you’re only eating white rice as a side, you’re missing out on extra protein and nutrients. Unlike white rice, wild rice doesn’t have its bran removed, making it dense in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. According to the USDA, 1 cup of white rice only has about 4 grams of protein, whereas wild rice has 24 grams. This simple swap can make all the difference in hitting your protein goals for the day.
3. Add cottage cheese to recipes
If you’ve scrolled through TikTok lately, you’ve likely seen chefs like Meredith Hayden from Wishbone Kitchen enjoying cottage cheese. Some TikTokers are having it as a snack alongside fruits and veggies, while others are adding it to recipes to pack an additional protein punch. Cottage cheese can easily be blended into soups or pasta sauces, making those meals more nutritious.
4. Have nuts as a snack
To (kind of) quote Regina George, “Is peanut butter a carb?” It’s not. But it is full of protein and healthy fats. That’s why nuts like peanuts, almonds, and pistachios make such a great snack—they’re full of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Enjoy them alongside some cheese and an apple for a well-balanced snack that will keep you full all afternoon.
5. Sprinkle in some nutritional yeast
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to add protein to your everyday snacks and meals without having to give it much thought, consider topping them with nutritional yeast. Because of its cheesy flavor, it’s especially good on popcorn, pasta, or added to sauces or soups.
6. Eat more legumes
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you already know how important beans and lentils are as part of your diet. Beans contain about 15 grams of protein per cup, not to mention nutrients like fiber, iron, and potassium. Similarly, lentils have 18 grams of protein and have been found to promote a healthy gut.
7. Have eggs for breakfast
Eggs for breakfast is definitely not a new concept, but they’re a morning staple for good reason. Not only are they a good source of protein, but studies show that they also contain essential amino acids and can aid in muscle health. Because they’re full of protein, they also keep you feeling fuller longer.
8. Make yourself a parfait
If you’re more of a sweet than savory person (like me), I’ve got good news for you: Yogurt is protein-packed. Opt for higher protein varieties like Greek yogurt or Icelandic yogurt (AKA skyr) since they typically have around 15-20 grams of protein, making them a great option for breakfast or a snack. Want to make it a more balanced meal? Add berries and granola for additional micro and macronutrients.
9. Add spirulina to your drinks
Take a trip to your local smoothie shop, and you’ll probably see spirulina on the menu. Why? Research shows this blue-green-colored algae contains both protein and micronutrients that the body needs. Two tablespoons of spirulina contain 8 grams of protein as well as high amounts of magnesium and potassium. Simply blend the ingredient into your morning smoothie, matcha green tea, or lemony cocktail for an added boost of protein.
10. Try a meat substitute
While meat substitutes often get a bad rap for their taste and texture or are relegated as something only vegans and vegetarians enjoy, they’re a great option for someone who wants to increase their protein intake without eating more meat. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan are common plant-based meat alternatives that can easily be seasoned to take on the flavors of any meat-centered dish. Just be aware of sodium content and additives like sugars and artificial coloring in meat substitutes—try plain, organic tofu or tempeh rather than “burgers” or “nuggets” that are typically highly processed.