Protein is hot-hot-hot right now. Protein is a building block for muscle, as well as hormones and enzymes in our bodies. Beauty bonus: protein helps our bodies grow healthy hair and nails and keeps skin looking good too. Foods high in protein are very filling because the nutrient takes longer to digest and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes, like simple carbs do. Most of us are eating enough protein, but we don’t always space it out during the day. Many of us eat a majority of our protein at dinner and not too much at breakfast and via snacks. Plus, many amazing vegetarian and vegan proteins often get overlooked when people think of protein. We tried to choose foods that you may not think of as “protein” to show you how easy it can be to eat more protein.
1. Black Beans: ½ cup = 8 grams of protein
Black beans—or any beans, really—are often overlooked as a protein source. But whether you use them as taco filling, stir them into soup or whir them into dips, beans are a great source of protein. Half a cup of cooked lentils has 9 grams of protein, and chickpeas and kidney beans aren’t far behind. Beans offer a protein-fiber one-two punch, and since most of us aren’t eating enough fiber, eating more beans is a good place to start. Try dry-roasted chickpeas to get your protein on the go.
2. Tofu: 3 ounces = 8 grams of protein
Tofu is a vegan and vegetarian powerhouse protein. If you think you don’t like tofu, it’s possible you just haven’t made it the right way. Tofu is a very versatile protein-think of it like chicken, a blank slate. Silken tofu is great in smoothies, and firm tofu adds protein to stir-fries and soups.
3. Cheddar Cheese: 1 ounce = 6.5 grams of protein
An ounce of cheese just edges out an egg with its protein content. Cheese has gotten a bad rap for being high in saturated fat and sodium, but it turns out that cheese is healthier than we used to think. It makes a great snack on its own (or as part of an awesome cheese board).
4. Almonds: ¼ cup = 7 grams of protein
Almonds have been shunned for being high in fat (they are, but it’s the heart-healthy kind that’s good for you and helps keep you full), but this nut is also rich in protein. Try slivered almonds on top of your salad, or spread nut butter on your toast.
5. Chickpea Pasta: 2 ounces = 14 grams of protein
We don’t often think of a bowl of pasta as protein-rich, but new bean pastas are changing that. (Barilla is even making a red lentil pasta that’s protein-packed and tasty.) These relatively new noodles use bean flours instead of semolina to give you a meal that’s packed with protein and fiber. Chickpea pasta doesn’t taste quite the same as regular pasta—the texture is a little heartier and you can tell it’s made from beans—but with a yummy sauce, it makes a tasty dinner.
6. Greek Yogurt: 1 cup = 23 grams of protein
Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular versions, and it delivers a lot more protein than an egg. Probiotic-rich yogurt is excellent at breakfast—try a parfait with berries and granola, or add it to a smoothie.
7. Peanut Butter: 2 tablespoons = 7 grams of protein
Humble and classic, peanut butter does more than makeup half of a PB&J sandwich. It delivers a nice boost of protein to toast, noodles, smoothies and oatmeal. For a protein-rich snack, spread peanut butter on apple slices or celery sticks.
8. Sprouted-Grain Bread: 2 slices = 8 grams of protein
Most of us don’t think of bread as a protein source, but it does have a bit. Some whole-wheat breads have 3 to 5 grams per slice, and if you make a sandwich on sprouted-grain bread, you’ll get 8 grams (and that’s not including any of the fillings). Sprouting grains helps their natural sweetness and nuttiness come out, and the texture of sprouted-grain bread is pretty hearty. Look for these breads in the freezer aisle at your grocery store, since they’re sometimes kept there to maintain freshness.
9. Quinoa: 1 cup cooked quinoa = 8 grams of protein
This protein-rich whole grain delivers 8 grams of protein per cup. Quinoa is also a rare complete plant-based protein, which means that it provides all the essential amino acids. Not to mention, quinoa delivers 5 grams of fiber per cup and cooks quickly.
10. Pumpkin Seeds: 1 ounce = 9 grams of protein
Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are protein-rich. Snack on them on their own or add them to muffins, trail mixes and quick breads. Pumpkin seeds also deliver zinc, which supports the immune system, and magnesium, a mineral that helps keep your heart healthy.