Saint Peter’s Better Health

The term meatless suggests going without. But choosing alternative protein sources for a meal or two per week isn’t really a sacrifice. In fact, setting aside chicken, pork, and beef can benefit your health.

Why? All proteins provide raw materials for building muscle, bone, and skin. But nonmeat protein sources often contain less saturated fat and more good-for-you nutrients like fiber. Options include:

Beans and lentils: Part of a vegetable food group called pulses, these small-but-mighty superfoods boast ample protein, iron, and zinc. Add them to soups or salads, tuck them into enchiladas or samosas, or even mash and bake them into cookies or brownies.

Tofu and tempeh: Soy’s the thing here—tofu is soybean curd, while tempeh is fermented soybeans. You can add smooth, silken tofu to smoothies, puddings, and dips. Meanwhile, turn extra firm tofu or tempeh into baked nuggets or a stir-fry.

Nuts and seeds: Tiny kernels like almonds, pistachios, and chia seeds pack a protein punch. And they contain healthy fats, selenium, and vitamin E. Add chopped nuts or nut butters to pancakes or oatmeal at breakfast. Sprinkle chia seeds on rice or yogurt. Or drizzle sesame paste—better known as tahini—over salads and slaws.

Whole grains: They’re best known as being fiber-rich. However, the whole grains quinoa and amaranth are also complete proteins. They contain all nine building blocks called essential amino acids. You can cook them in a rice cooker and serve them as you would rice or couscous. Craving something sweet? Bake breads, muffins, and cakes with amaranth flour.

Dairy: For those who don’t avoid all animal products, milk-based foods provide plenty of protein. They also offer bone-building calcium and vitamin D, and sometimes, gut-friendly probiotics. Add an ounce of string cheese to lunch, snack on nonfat Greek yogurt with granola, or make a smoothie with low-fat milk or kefir.


Online Medical Reviewer: Nelda Mercer, RD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
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