Surprising fact: Beans, legumes, rice and seeds can provide all the protein you need.

Want More Protein? Get it from Plants!

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to eat less meat? Or maybe you’ve heard the hoopla about switching to a plant-based diet and how that can help your health. (It can!)

At the same time, you want to make sure you’re getting enough protein, especially if you workout regularly. No worries, it’s not a problem to get all the protein you need without meat. Here are 5 plant families that pack a protein punch.


One cup of fresh edamame contains 18 grams of protein. Enjoy plain as an appetizer, toss on salads, or use in a stir-fry. Dried edamame and soy beans also make a great snack; just read labels and make sure the cooking method doesn’t add a lot of fat, salt and calories.

Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

These legumes are a staple of diets around the world, thanks to their double whammy of fiber and protein. Keep hummus handy in your fridge for a dip with vegetables and crackers. Or use it as a spread in sandwiches, topped with lettuce, avocado, tomato or sprouts. Canned garbanzo beans are an easy addition to soups and stews; use a low-salt version if you can find it. Or toss garbanzo with olive oil, cumin, garlic and chili powder and roast them for a handy high-protein snack.

Wild Rice

Did you know rice isn’t actually a grain? It’s actually type of grass seed from plants native to marshes and wetlands. Unfortunately, many Americans have grown used to white rice, which has been processed to remove the majority of nutrients. Instead, experiment with the many varieties of wild rice now available, including black and red. Not only is rice satisfying and protein-rich, it’s easy enough for even the most basic cook.


Winter is the perfect time to rotate lentil soup into your weekly menu. But have fun experimenting; not only are there lots of innovative recipes, buy you can try black, red, and green lentils in addition to the more common yellow.


Sunflower, sesame, sunflower, poppy, chia, flax, and pumpkin seeds are all excellent sources of protein, as well as minerals and other nutrients. Sprinkle on salads, add to cereals or oatmeal, or eat them as a snack.


This one may seem easy – most of us head for the peanut butter or grab a handful of almonds when we need a protein pick-me-up. But don’t get stuck in a nut rut – there’s a huge variety of nuts available to experiment with, many of them higher in protein than the most popular varieties.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.