Your main dish no longer has to be meat to make sure your diet is rich in protein.

Plant- Based Protein: Why and How to Eat More of It

When many people think of protein, they think of meat. But with doctors warning of the health risks of eating too much red meat, this common misconception is becoming a thing of the past. Now  we recognize that plant-based protein is a healthy alternative.

How much protein do you really need? Nutritionists recommend that 10-35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. This is around 46-56 grams per day for the average adult.To supercharge your plant-based meals, try these strategies.

1. Aim for Variety

Get the complete proteins (those containing all nine essential amino acids) your body needs by eating different proteins throughout the day. The best sources include legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas.

Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is one of those all-purpose foods to keep around for a protein boost at any time of day. Spread it on toast in the morning or use it as a dip for vegetables and whole wheat pita chips as an appetizer or at dinnertime.

2. Don’t Overlook Grains

Unfortunately, we often think of grains as carbs, when in fact healthy whole grains – particularly those known as ancient grains – are a significant source of complete protein. And in fact, the distinction between good carbs and bad carbs is an important one. Whole grains that are particularly high in protein include amaranth, spelt, quinoa, bulgur, and wild, red and black rice.

3. Snack Smart

Stock up on protein-packed snacks such as nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews) and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia). Then keep them handy throughout the day to keep your energy up and hunger at bay.

4. Go for Greens

Often overlooked, green veggies such as spinach, broccoli, avocado, and of course edamame, pack plenty of protein per ounce.

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.