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February 28, 2020

Plant-Based Protein

By Bonnie Wilson, MS, RDN, LDN

Many people are making efforts today to introduce more plants into their diets. While there are many reasons that someone might choose to eat less meat, a popular reason is that these diets tend to be high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease. One common question that dietitians hear about plant-based diets is “how do I make sure I’m getting enough protein?” Luckily, there are many ways to prioritize protein without relying on animal products. The following 10 foods are rich in protein and 100% vegetarian:

  • Tofu – this is a curd made from mashed soybeans, which is commonly found in Asian cooking. It contains all the essential amino acids to make a complete protein and provides plenty of vitamins and minerals as well. Per 3.5 ounces, tofu contains 8 grams of protein.
  • Tempeh – another soybean product made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh typically has a slightly nutty taste. Just like tofu it is packed with vitamins and minerals, and per 3 ounces it contains 15 grams of protein.
  • Edamame – these are immature soybeans that are green and eaten from the pod. 1 cup provides nearly 20 grams of protein. Edamame is typically sold frozen and very easy to prepare.
  • Beans – one of the cheapest and easiest plant-based proteins! Beans are rich in fiber and boast around 15-20 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Bean varieties include navy, pinto, kidney, and black beans.
  • Chickpeas – also known as garbanzo beans. Fun fact: the reason they are called “chickpeas” is because they look like a baby chick from the side! Chickpeas like other varieties of beans have around 15 grams of protein per cup. They are also commonly mashed up with sesame paste, tahini, and garlic to make hummus.
  • Lentils – lentils are a type of legume that can be found in various colors, including brown, green, yellow, and red. They are very inexpensive and provide many different vitamins and minerals. They are also full of protein, with around 40 grams per cup of cooked lentils.
  • Quinoa – a gluten-free grain that contains all essential amino acids. It is a popular alternative to rice and contains 8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. It is also very high in fiber compared to other grains.
  • Green Peas – green peas are technically a legume but are also known as a starchy vegetable. They provide 8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving and are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Nuts and nut butters – all nuts are easy-to-grab sources of healthy fats and protein. Although they all vary slightly in terms of nutrient makeup, all nuts provide around 5 grams of protein per ounce. They are also very high in antioxidants.
  • Peanuts and peanut butter – peanuts are technically “legumes” and have slightly more protein than tree nuts. 1 ounce of peanuts has 7 grams of protein.


Here are some ideas for including more plant-based proteins in your diet:

  • Spread peanut butter or another nut butter on 1-2 toasted frozen whole wheat waffles. Top with berries for a yummy breakfast!
  • Make an easy lentil soup for dinner – a budget-friendly recipe that comes together in less than an hour.
  • Throw some beans or chickpeas on your salad at lunch. Edamame works great as well!
  • Make a southwestern quinoa bowl for dinner – top with salsa, lettuce, black beans, and cheddar cheese.
  • Enjoy carrots (or your favorite raw veggie) with hummus as an afternoon snack.
  • Make a stir fry with frozen mixed vegetables, brown rice, and tofu.
  • Grab a handful of mixed nuts for a quick snack between meetings.
  • Add peanut butter and a sliced banana to a warm bowl of oatmeal in the mornings.


To discuss more ideas on incorporating more plant-based protein into your diet, make an appointment with an Avance Care registered dietitian. Call (919) 237-1337, option 4 to schedule your appointment today. Happy eating!


Bonnie is a registered dietitian at the Avance Care Durham location. In her free time, she enjoys exploring her home of Raleigh, NC and playing with her new puppy, Nola, or kitty, Wolfgang. She enjoys most sports and can often be found cheering on her NC State Wolfpack, Carolina Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes.

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