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Can you get protein from plants?

Use plant foods to boost your protein intake.


Last week, we gave you a list of protein sources that count towards your new habit of getting protein at every meal.

Just to refresh your memory, here’s the list:

  • Lean meat such as beef, pork, or wild game
  • Poultry such as chicken, turkey, or duck
  • Fish & seafood such as shrimp or scallops
  • Eggs & egg whites
  • Cottage cheese or strained plain Greek yogurt
  • Protein powder such as whey, egg, vegetarian blends, etc.
  • Cooked lentils or beans
  • Tempeh or tofu


These foods “count” because they’re relatively protein-dense.

But you may be wondering about other foods, since most foods have at least some protein.

Here’s the cool part: It all adds up.


So, you can combine more than one protein source.

Or you can combine a food from the list above with other foods to boost the total protein content.


For example, let’s say you’re at a party and chili is on the menu.

3 ounces of chicken = 25 g protein

1 ounce of corn = 3 g protein

¼ cup of black beans = 4 g protein

2 ounces of avocado guacamole = 2 g protein

Total: 34  g protein


Sure, in this example, chicken is still the protein star.

But notice: plants provide 9 grams — about 1/3 — of the protein content of this meal.


So, instead of getting too hung up on getting your protein “perfect”, think more about how you can add protein wherever possible to every meal.


And if you’re a plant-based eater (in other words, vegetarian or vegan), know that with some careful menu planning, you can meet your protein needs with plants.


Make plant protein work for you

However, if you’re a plant-based eater, you will have to plan your meals strategically to make sure you get the protein you need.

It’s hard to get enough protein accidentally if you’re vegetarian or vegan, especially for ticking off this habit.

Luckily there are many tasty options — and meat-eaters, feel free to enjoy them, too.


Which plant foods have more protein?

To help you out, below is a chart that shows the amount of protein in a serving of different types of plant foods. (These aren’t the only plant foods that have protein, of course, just some of the options.)

We also throw in a few non-plant items at the bottom of the chart, just to give you an idea of how plant proteins compare.

Don’t get bogged down in the details of a few grams here or there.

There’s no exam, and your body isn’t an accountant.

In fact, feel free to skip this section if numbers make your head hurt.

Just get the general idea: Which plant foods have more protein per serving.


How do plant proteins stack up?

Now what you’ll notice is that although plants contain protein, they don’t have as much protein per volume as animal foods such as beef, chicken, or fish.

So they’re not often protein-dense.

Which is why they didn’t make our list of recommended protein sources.

For example, on average, 100 g of lean beef has 30 g of protein, while 100 g of broccoli has only 3 g of protein.

So, for the same amount of food, you’d need to eat a lot more broccoli to get enough energy and protein. (This is why cows spend all day eating.)


Good news for everyone

The real point here is that if you’re a vegetarian, you can get enough high-quality protein at every meal. (And you don’t have to relegate yourself to multiple bowls of broccoli or strictly tofu and lentils, either.)

And if you’re a meat-eater, you’ve got multiple new options to try.


This week, try…

Whether herbivore or omnivore, we’ve got a fun project for you this week: Boost your daily protein intake with some creative meal additions.


Don’t worry about the exact grams of protein, or a precise macronutrient breakdown, right now. We don’t care, and neither does your body.


Just get two general ideas:

  • It all adds up.
  • Variety is fun!



  • Whether it’s refried beans on your fajita or a small sprinkle of nuts on your salad, try adding a plant-based protein source to your meals this week.
  • Enjoy lots of different plant foods along with your other protein choices, knowing that it’s all adding up.



  • Include eggs and dairy along with your usual plant-based protein sources (e.g. tofu, beans/legumes, etc.).
  • If you find yourself relying on a few protein sources, and you’re getting bored, try some new ones. Or re-invent your old favorites with a new recipe.



  • Consider boosting your protein intake with a plant-based protein powder, which can help with the ease and convenience of meal prep.
  • Enjoy trying nuts, seeds, and nut butters, but check the serving size — they’re energy-dense, so a little goes a long way.


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