While meat is an excellent source of protein, it isn’t something that is part of everyone’s diet. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or simply don’t eat much meat, it is still vital to consume adequate amounts of protein. You might have to get a little creative in your food choices throughout the day, but that creativity should be backed up with knowledge.

So, what constitutes a protein?

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. For the human body, there are 9 essential amino acids that we require through our diet. All other amino acids can be built by bodies of healthy, adult humans.

How can I get all the essential amino acids?

When it comes to your diet, you can create a complete protein by pairing foods in a meal that individually are incomplete proteins (don’t contain all 9 essential amino acids). The most common pairing of incomplete proteins is the combination of rice and beans. Together, they have adequate amounts of all amino acids, so your body can still build muscle and maintain normal bodily functions. Most cereal-legume combinations supply all the necessary amino acids.

What are some other great non-meat protein sources?

1. Eggs- Egg whites are the most easily absorbed protein by the body, so eat up! They are also almost pure protein, so they are a great way to consume a lot of protein without a ton of additional calories. One egg white has about 4 grams of protein for just 17 calories.

2. Soy- Whether it be edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, or any other soy products, soy is a great plant protein source. Protein amounts vary by product, so always check packaging.

3. Dairy- Of all dairy products, greek yogurt and cottage cheese are the protein powerhouses. One 6 oz container of greek yogurt contains 17 grams of protein, and cottage cheese contains 15 grams per half cup.

4. Legumes- Lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are all great protein sources. They also are great at keeping you fuller for longer.

5. Whole grains and quinoa- While not the most protein rich of all foods, they can assist in helping you reach your protein goals. Oats, whole wheat, and quinoa are some of the better sources.

6. Nuts- Almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts are some of the best nuts to choose if you are looking for protein. Watch out for fattier nuts like pecans and walnuts though. They have much lower protein counts.

7. Seeds- Chia, pumpkin, and flax seeds can be great additions to your cooking for a few extra grams here and there.

Becca Capell
iFit Head Trainer