Protein-rich alternatives to meat for a balanced plant-based diet

Protein is an essential part of a balanced diet and vital for growing and repairing cells.
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  • We look at alternative sources of protein if you're trying to cut down on meat or eat a more plant-based diet.

    Many get the recommended daily intake (46g for women, 56g for men) from red meat, which is also rich in iron and vitamin B12. But what are the protein-rich alternatives to meat, if you’re trying to cut down on meat or eat a more plant-based diet?

    The good news is that there are lot of protein-rich alternatives to meat out there to experiment with and we’ve got 10 of them for you to try…

    Protein-Rich Alternatives To Meat

    #1. Quinoa

    protein-rich alternatives to meat: quinoa salad

    Grains are a fantastic source of protein and relatively economical; a handful goes a long way! Trendy grain quinoa contains all 8 essential amino acids, making it more nutritious than rice and couscous but just as filling. When cooked, it has a fluffy texture and nutty taste – the perfect accompaniment to curries and salads. Regarded by the Incas as the sacred “mother grain”, gluten-free quinoa is a fully fledged foodie favourite.

    Try it: Curried quinoa with apple and spinach

    #2. Tofu

    protein-rich alternatives to meat: tofu salad

    Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made from soya bean milk. It is an extremely low-fat and nutritious alternative to meat, containing high amounts of protein, calcium and vitamin E. It’s extremely versatile and flavoursome when you cook it well.

    Try it: Tofu and peanut stir-fry with ramen noodles

    #3. Mushrooms

    protein-rich alternatives to meat: mushrooms

    The mighty mushroom has twice the amount of protein than most vegetables, making it a great addition to pastas, pies and all sorts. The chewy texture gives you something to really sink your teeth into, making larger Portobello mushrooms a satisfying replacement for burgers! Combine with other protein-rich foods such as eggs, tofu and pulses for a super healthy meat-free meal.

    Try it: Spinach and mushroom filo tart

    #4. Cottage cheese

    While all types of cheese contain good levels of protein, cottage cheese provides the most protein per calorie and the least amount of fat. Made from pasteurised skimmed milk and containing healthy fatty acids, cottage cheese has long been a favourite of dieters. Replacing hard cheese for cottage cheese in rich dishes such as macaroni and lasagne will boost your protein intake and reduce fat – without sacrificing that lovely, creamy taste.

    Try it: Healthier macaroni cheese

    #5. Fish

    Seafood such as lobster, prawns, octopus, tuna, salmon and halibut are all high in protein and lower in fat than most meat – even the fattiest fish have a similar or lower fat content to lean meat. Fish also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce heart disease, lower blood pressure and have beneficial effects on the brain. Shellfish such as mussels also have high levels of iron – enough to rival red meat!

    Try it: Seafood linguine

    #6. Lentils

    Lentils have one of the highest levels of protein by weight of all the pulses and only 1% fat, making them an excellent ingredient to bulk up meat-free curries and soups.

    Try it: Lentil and red pepper soup

    #7. Quorn

    As a leading brand of imitation meat, Quorn has a very similar taste and consistency, especially when mixed with your usual Bolognese sauce, curries and chilli con carne. It has all the essential amino acids found in beef or chicken, but has 75% less fat than even lean beef mince.

    Try it: Quorn and almond curry with spinach

    #8. Edamame beans

    Edamame beans are a must-have snack for celebrities such as Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow. Edamame beans are actually baby soya beans and are one of the only vegetables to contain virtually all the health benefits of meat. These nutty beans can be used to bulk up dishes such as stir fries and salads, eaten alone as a super snack, or whizzed in a food processor to make a guilt-free tortilla dip!

    Try it: Edamame, pea and wasabi dip

    #9. Nuts

    Nuts are a fantastic everyday source of protein, which are ideal for health-conscious snacking or for boosting lacklustre salads. One cup of almonds provides more protein than an egg, while cashew nuts are high in antioxidants and promote good cardiovascular health.

    Try it: Nut roast

    #10. Chickpeas

    A staple of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, chickpeas are a nutritious source of protein with a slightly heavier consistency than lentils. They are commonly used in veggie curries and are of course, the main ingredient in hummus. They can also be used to make burgers!

    Try it: Chickpea burgers

    Happy eating!

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