Do you know how much protein you are eating each day? When you think of protein, is it just meat products that come to mind? Or protein powder? We all need protein in our diets to function and live, but it is even more imperative for the active individual who is trying to succeed in a workout or fitness environment. I will tell you from personal experience, figuring out the protein routine in your diet can do wonders for your physique. In fact, when I meet with individuals for nutrition advice or general workout advice, one of the first things we work on is identifying the a) amount of protein in one’s diet, b) how to calculate protein from foods, and 3) various types of protein to incorporate so that you won’t get bored or sick of eating the same food meal after meal (*cough boiled chicken cough*). Below is a list of protein sources that you may not have known about. There are tons that this article leaves out, of course, but our hope is to challenge you to re-think your protein sources to help you reach your goals! Enjoy!
- Seaweed - Have you seen the snack packs of sushi sheets at the grocery store? Seaweed isn’t just for sushi. It’s great for topping soups, salads, and can be used to make “mini rice rolls” for a quick lunch. If you haven’t tried it, seaweed is salty and adds some crunch to your meal! Of course, it will take a lot of seaweed to get substantial protein, but hey, every gram counts!
- Artichoke Hearts - Artichokes, by volume, have four grams of protein per cup. One cup is a lot of artichokes, but there are tons of ways to use artichoke in your diet like cooking with other mixed vegetables for tacos or making a spinach-artichoke dip. You can even buy them canned or jarred to save yourself some prep time.
- Chia Seeds - Love overnight oats? Have you tried them with chia seeds? Chia seeds are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats and can turn overnight oats into a pudding like delight! Don’t like oatmeal? Try chia mixed into your favorite milk and let it sit for a few hours. The chia will soak up the milk and makes for a wonderful chia pudding.
- Green Peas - Did you grow up eating peas next to your steak and mashed potatoes? Me too. Yuck! I hated peas growing up. Little did I know, Grandma was looking out for my protein goals! I still hate cooked peas on their own, but I have found ways to eat peas that I do enjoy: Dried and roasted peas make for a very good snack, in soups and stir frys (can’t even taste them!), and lots of vegan protein powder use pea protein as the primary source.
- Spinach - Compared to other greens (along with kale), spinach is a micronutrient powerhouse. Spinach makes a great base for salads but can also be added to soups, sandwiches, and anywhere else you might use lettuce. The next time you make a smoothie, try mixing in some spinach leaves. This gives you the benefit and you won’t even have to eat it! (just drink it).
- Nutritional Yeast - vegetarians and vegans know all about this one. Nutritional yeast usually comes in a little bag or a spice shaker and quite honestly, it looks and smells a little like fish food. However, don’t let that scare you away. As a topping on pizza or salads or soups, nutritional yeast gives you a punch of protein, vitamin B12, and can be described as having a “cheesy” or “nutty” flavor. If you look up vegan cheese or vegan queso, you will almost always find nutritional yeast in the recipe. Don’t knock it until you try it!
- Quinoa - Many have heard about quinoa, but the real struggle is how to pronounce it?? Jokes aside, quinoa is a great grain substitute or addition that can make your lunch or dinner a little more protein packed. Try searching for a quinoa pea pesto online, I bet you’ll find some of the other protein sources mentioned above too!
Hitting those protein goals isn’t as hard as you think. Get creative and try some new ways to incorporate protein into your recipes and be sure to share your favorite recipes with us!