Top 5 Favorite Plant-based Protein Sources

Meatless Mondays seem to be gaining followers and attention wherever I go these days. Most Americans eat at least one meatless meal a week. Now that New Year's resolutions are in place, why not add the goal to eat more meatless to your list? With positive impacts on the environment, animals, and your health, I’m all about celebrating different sources of plant-based proteins.

Can diets comprised mostly or totally of plant-based protein provide enough protein for your body? The average diet should include anywhere from 1.0-1.5 gm protein/kg body weight with 1.5-2.0 gm protein/kg recommended for those looking to gain muscle or active in power sports. (Hint: Divide your weight by 2.2 and multiply by 1.0 and 1.5 for your average recommended protein intake.) In fact, most Americans actually far surpass their daily protein needs. When done right, a plant-based diet can provide just enough protein for your body to both function and thrive.

Check out my 5 favorite plant-based protein sources:

1.) Chia Seeds, a sure superfood, are packed with 5 grams of protein and 140 calories per 2 tablespoons or 1 ounce (one serving). One serving also packs:
10 grams of fiber
Over 20% of your needs for Calcium
All nine essential amino acids
Mix with 4 times the amount of liquid (your choice of milk or 100% juice) and top with nuts, dried fruit, or coconut shavings for chia pudding.

2.) Quinoa, an ancient grain, can be mixed into salads, prepared as a side, or even ground into flour for baking. One cup, or 200 calories worth, adds:
8 grams of protein
5 grams of fiber
3 grams of iron
Check out wild rice, brown rice, farro, barley, and freekeh for other protein-packed whole grains.

3.) Lentils, Less than 10% of Americans take advantage of this delicious legume. Considering it's packed with plenty of nutrients and protein, Americans are missing out. 1 cup of 230 calories serves up:
18 grams of protein
16 grams of fiber
Plenty of potassium, zinc, phosphorus and B-vitamins
A cheap alternative to meat-based proteins, mix lentils into soups, chilies, or as a side dish.

4.) Tofu, Tofu is sometimes looked at as bland and undesirable, but this vegetarian favorite can be versatile, tasty, and nutritious. ½ cup serves up 180 calories and is packed with:
over 75% of your daily calcium needs
20 grams of protein
3 grams of fiber

When concentrating on protein intake, think the firmer the better. When prepping yourself, marinade it for 10 minutes with any acidic-based marinade to pack it full of flavor!

5.) Beans, With 12+ grams of protein per cup cooked, they’re packed with so many benefits. Both cheap and versatile, 1 cup provides:
About 240 calories
About 10 grams of fiber
Plenty of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamin A
Available in the salad bar, pile onto soups, cooked whole grains, salads, and even to top off healthy tacos!

Alexa McDonald

Alexa McDonald, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN), 200 Hour RYT Certified Yoga Instructor, and owner of Expert Nutrition & Wellness (ENW) based out of Hoboken & Edgewater, NJ. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Maryland, College Park, Alexa went on to complete her dietetic internship and obtain her Masters of Science in Foods & Nutrition from New York University. With experience in both clinical and foodservice settings, she works with clients to meet their individual health goals in the areas of Medical Nutrition Therapy, sports nutrition, eating disorders, weight management, and food allergies. In addition to nutrition services, she also provides both group and individual yoga instruction. As an avid runner and self-proclaimed foodie, Alexa is most often praised by her clients for her ability to “fit in the good stuff." Her personal and company mission is to assist clients, teams, and families in creating a balance between eating healthy and enjoying life, while giving them the tools to accomplish their health and fitness goals. In 2016, she is excited to complete her Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) certification and work with new clients that challenge and teach her everyday. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @BeBalanacedRD or email her at Expertnutritionandwellness@gmail.com.

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