KUSA - When you think of protein, one thing that might come to mind is a big, red steak. However, there are dozens of other foods that can give you a protein punch and nearly all of them are vegetarian and vegan friendly.
Nutrition scientist and registered dietitian Michelle Cardel at the University of Colorado Medical Campus suggests these foods:
1. Quinoa and other whole grains - Whole grains are a great source of protein and quinoa has increased in popularity due to its high protein content. Other good grains that are high in protein are spelt, kamut, teff, and amaranth.
2. Nuts, seeds and nut butter - Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and pine nuts are great sources of protein. They are also high in "good" fats but portion sizes should be monitored to ensure you aren't eating too many calories. Avoid nuts and seeds that have been salted.
3. Legumes – Beans are a staple in our house! Kidney, garbanzo/chickpeas, white, black, pinto, and lentils are easily digested and pack a protein punch. However, they are missing the amino acid methionine and are best when eaten with a whole grain such as brown rice or quinoa.
4. Dairy and eggs - Both are complete proteins and include milk, cheese, and yogurt. Eggs are actually the most bang for your buck when it comes to protein so eat up. If you are trying to save on calories but want the protein then egg whites are a great option.
5. Greek yogurt - It is higher in protein and lower in sodium and carbohydrates than traditional yogurt. It also provides probiotic organisms, which are good bacteria that help keep your digestive system healthy. To save on calories, grab the non-fat, plain Greek Yogurt. You can add a little honey, seeds, or fresh fruit for more flavor. Non-fat, plain Greek Yogurt is also a wonderful substitute for sour cream!
6. Hemp seeds - Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor and a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle on top of your smoothie or add it into one of your favorite recipes.
7. Seaweed - This is becoming a more popular alternative protein and offers many nutrients and is low cost. The amount of protein differs depending on the variety but ranges from about 2 to 9 grams per cup. It's easy to add into salads, soups, or stir-fry!
Nutritionists recommend not eating an entire diet filled with protein because the extra amount is often stored as fat. So, a good rule of thumb is to have proteins make up 10-35% of your overall diet.
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