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Tasty Protein Alternatives

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Tasty Protein Alternatives

Creating a healthy balanced meal includes making sensible protein choices. Meat isn’t the only option when planning the protein on your plate. Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Meridan Zerner, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, shares a plethora of protein alternatives for your next grocery haul.

It is helpful to start with knowing how much protein you actually need, which varies person to person. Zerner recommends 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. After assessing your recommended protein intake, get creative with these delicious alternative protein sources.

Lentils have 9 grams of protein per ½ cup (cooked). As a bonus you also get 8 grams of fiber. Fiber is good for your heart and can help keep your weight in check.

Like lentils, beans are also inexpensive and contain 7-8 grams of protein per ½ cup.

Also called green soybeans, shelled edamame has 10 grams of protein per ½ cup. You can even buy it frozen! Edamame makes the perfect protein addition to salads, stir fries and grain bowls.

Green peas
Most of us don't think of green peas as a protein source, but they actually have a surprising 4 grams of protein per ½ cup. Green peas serve as a delicious side dish and can be added to soups and salads.

Nuts and seeds
These easy pantry staples are full of fiber, healthy fat and protein! Hemp and chia seeds are shelf-stable and can be sprinkled into oatmeal or spaghetti sauce to add 3-4 grams of extra protein per tablespoon.

Zerner shares that many of her clients like to mix nuts or seeds with a high-quality, gluten-free starch such as quinoa. Containing 4 grams of protein per ½ cup (cooked), quinoa is unique because it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. This is rare since most plant-based proteins are not considered complete proteins.

Peanut butter
Peanut butter offers 7 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. Try peanut butter on toast, blended into smoothies or in a peanut sauce for savory dishes. The same is true for almonds and almond butter with 1 ounce of almonds having approximately 6 grams of protein.

Greek yogurt
Packed with 12 grams of protein per ½ cup, Greek yogurt can be added to smoothies for extra creaminess or layered with fruit and granola for the perfect parfait. It is also loaded with calcium and gut-healthy probiotics.

Cottage cheese
If you are watching your salt intake, keep in mind that cottage cheese is a little higher in sodium than Greek yogurt. But with 14 grams of protein per ½ cup, cottage cheese makes a great afternoon snack, especially mixed with an assortment of fruit!

Finally, don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the egg. This very inexpensive protein alternative packs 6 grams of protein per large egg. Serve sunny side up, scrambled on top of avocado toast or in a simple frittata.

The options are limitless when it comes to meatless protein. So whether you’re simply trying to incorporate more of a variety into your diet or get the biggest protein bang for your buck, it is still possible to maximize your protein intake without sacrificing quality and taste by getting creative with alternative protein sources!

To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.