An RD's 4 Genius Ways To Get All The Protein You Need From Plants

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To kick off 2022, perhaps you're trying "veganuary" or opting for a "reducetarian" lifestyle. Either way, you're probably looking for ways to boost your intake of plant protein. If you're just starting to make the shift to a plant-based diet, it can seem nearly impossible to get enough protein into your day. However, once you identify all the sources of plant protein, it won't feel so intimidating (trust me!).

How much protein do I need? In case you're not sure how much protein you need to begin with, here's an easy calculation I use: Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to get the number of kilograms. Then simply multiply by one to get the number of grams of protein you need each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that's equivalent to 68 kilograms, so you'd want to aim for approximately 68 grams of protein daily. Each day is different, so don't stress about hitting that target number on the daily.

1. Nuts & Seeds

You know that nuts and nut butters are a fantastic way to add plant protein to meals. Most tree nuts shell out at least 3 grams of protein per ounce and up to 6 grams in the case of almonds. Peanuts pony up 7 grams per ounce. But have you gotten cozy with seeds yet? They're another way to sprinkle extra plant protein into your day. 

Chia seeds and flaxseeds serve up about 2 grams of protein per tablespoon, while hemp seeds have 3 grams and flaxseeds provide 2 grams per serving. Pumpkin seeds are a protein star, with 3 grams per tablespoon.

You can sprinkle seeds over yogurt, oatmeal, avocado toast, salads, and pasta. Plus, you can blend them into hummus, pesto, pancakes, and smoothies for a protein boost.

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2. Chickpeas

This versatile pulse has reached cult status for good reason. They have a bevy of benefits to show off, with 7 grams of protein and 4 grams fiber per half-cup serving. Chickpeas are delicious on their own, or you can blend them into hummus, bake for a crunchy snack, or toss into a grain salad. Even the water they're packed in (aka aquafaba) can be utilized to make fluffy desserts, like mousse, meringue, and even marshmallow fluff. And in case you didn't know, chickpeas can also be used to make a really fantastic pizza crust, which offers more protein and fiber compared to a standard wheat crust.

3. Peas

The past few years have seen a tsunami of new products featuring pea protein. It's become popular because unlike nuts and soy, it's not a common allergen. Plus, growing peas helps to build healthy soil by returning much-needed nitrogen back to the earth. And it takes far less water to grow peas than other types of crops, thanks to their shallow root structure. This allows other crops to thrive on the water that was saved. 

4. Soy

This hearty legume was somewhat controversial during the last couple of decades. But the truth is that soy protein is one of the highest-quality sources of plant protein. A half-cup serving of edamame boasts 8 grams of plant protein, plus 4 grams of fiber. 

The takeaway.

With a little bit of experimentation in the kitchen, you'll be powering up your meals and snacks with plenty of protein from plants. And don't forget, when you choose to base your diet on plants, you're not only cutting back on saturated fat and cholesterol, you're also automatically adding fiber and antioxidants. Sounds like a pretty great shift to this nutritionist!

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