If you're moving toward a plant-based diet—for health, environmental, or animal welfare reasons—you may be concerned about getting enough protein. You needn't worry. Many plant foods are good sources of protein, especially legumes, nuts, seeds, and many grains. While it may be tempting to rely on meat substitutes (“meatless meats"), they aren't always the best option; many are high in sodium, with some containing more than 400 milligrams per serving, plus they can contain long lists of additives. Instead, focus on dishes like the ones on the following slides; they derive their protein from whole foods, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
The porcini mushrooms in this soup make it hearty enough to serve as a midday entrée. Just add a slice of sourdough bread and you’ve got a nourishing lunch that’s rich in not only protein but also fiber, beta carotene, folate, and potassium. Protein count: 17 grams per serving.
Replacing even a small amount of your daily animal protein with soy protein, such as tofu, is smart for your heart and blood vessels, as its fat is the heart-healthy, unsaturated type. Soy also supplies fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This healthy stew has a punch of heat and a unique flavor profile, thanks to unusual ingredients like chocolate chips and prune butter that complement the more traditional tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Protein count: 18 grams per serving.
Our healthier version of this classic uses lean turkey bacon in place of the traditional salt pork, and maple syrup in place of molasses. Beans and other legumes are a particularly good protein choice for heart health: An analysis of data from 26 randomized clinical trials, comparing diets with and without foods like beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas, found that one daily serving of such legumes (about 2/3 cup cooked) reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by 5 percent on average. Protein count: 12 grams per serving.
Marked by a single black spot on their skin, black-eyed peas are the mature seeds of the pea plant. These kidney-shaped, creamy-white legumes have a pea-like flavor and firm, resilient texture, making them a perfect base for a hearty—and healthy—salad. Protein count: 14 grams per serving.
Beans are not only a great source of protein, they’re also full of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. The soluble fiber in beans blunts the body’s normal blood sugar spike after eating, so it helps keep blood sugar levels on an even keel; the insoluble fiber speeds intestinal passage of food, so it improves regularity. Try “dressing up” this simple soup with one of the different spins at the bottom of the recipe. Protein count: 21 grams per serving.
It’s okay to use canned beans here, since they provide all the same nutrients as dried beans and take a lot less time to prepare. The only drawback is their sodium content—typically about 400 to 600 milligrams per half cup. Look for low-sodium canned beans, or, if you find those too bland, drain regular canned beans in a strainer or colander and rinse under running water. This can lower the sodium by as much as 40 percent. Protein count: 12 grams per serving.
This dish requires some planning ahead, since the tofu has to marinate for six hours in a mixture of soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and mustard before you broil it. But the extra time pays off: It imparts a ton of flavor to the tofu, which only has to be cooked for about 5 minutes on each side before it’s ready for serving. Protein count: 18 grams per serving.