Five Plant-Based Proteins & How to Use Them

With Earth Month still going strong, I wanted to talk sustainability as it relates to our food choices (in case you missed it, see last week's post on how I made my kitchen more green!). I once heard a conference presenter state three simple ways that we can all make more sustainable food choices and it has really stuck with me ever since:

  1. Eat only as much food as you need (as opposed to routinely over-eating)
  2. Minimize food waste as much as possible
  3. Focus on plants, cut back on animal products

I loved how realistic these were (she wasn't telling everyone to go vegan tomorrow) and I also think this gives us something concrete to work on. Many of you are probably thinking, "so what do I eat instead?" Here are five plant proteins with some suggestions for how to use them:

Chickpeas

If you have followed me on Instagram for a while, you know how much I love garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas). The canned version is a definite pantry staple in my house as they are so incredibly versatile. You can use them to make homemade hummus, add them to salads, or season/roast them to eat for a salty/crunchy snack. 

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Edamame

Edamame is another term for a whole soybean, the highest protein bean/lentil out there! Most people are probably familiar with them in the context of sushi (steamed and salted), but I also buy them frozen (pre-shelled) so I can add them into stir-fry, noodle dishes or fried rice for color, texture and protein. 

Peanuts and/or Peanut Butter

Did you know peanuts are actually a legume, not a nut? You learn something new every day. Of all of the "nuts" that they are generally lumped in with, peanuts are the most protein dense with 7 grams per serving. There's way more to PB than just sandwiches, like creamy peanut noodles, or peanut-based salad dressings. You can also add it to smoothies for an extra nutritional punch, or add crushed peanuts to salad or curry as a finishing touch.  

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Hemp Seeds

These are a relatively newer trend compare to others and might be a little bit more difficult to find. If you can get a hold of them, I would highly recommend! I buy them at Trader Joe's and love their nutty taste and soft texture (compared to most other seeds). With 10 grams or protein per three tablespoons, these are an easy way to add protein to just about anything. They are also a good source of iron and magnesium.

Soy Milk

This is a great alternative to cow's milk if you are lactose intolerant, or if you just want to experiment with some non-dairy options. Soy is the only milk substitute that is comparable in terms of protein, plus it's a naturally good source of omega-3 fatty acids and I like the creaminess it adds to oatmeal. Many people also use it in lattes/cappuccinos!

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Once you start experimenting, it becomes fun to try some new and interesting foods. When it comes to protein, the key is variety and timing (spreading intake throughout the day instead of all at one meal). Hopefully this provided some new insight on plant-based protein sources!

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