Surprising Sources of Protein

Lauren Klein

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May 13, 2021
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When I say protein, is a burger or piece of meat the first image that pops into your head? For so long meat has been used interchangeably with protein. Animal products are often a good source but not your only option. 

Before we look at some surprising sources of protein let me give you a guideline of what is considered an adequate amount of protein. A general estimate of how much protein you need in a day can be found by multiplying your bodyweight in kilograms by 0.8. For example, if you weighed 120lbs (54kg) then you would multiply 54 by 0.8. Giving this person an estimated need of 43g of protein per day. Of course, these estimations can vary greatly based on your current situation and goals. 

Remember, your body can only handle so much protein at a time. That means more isn’t always better. Meaning, those ‘ultra-protein packed’ protein powders with 75g of protein in a serving may just be a waste of money. 

Cottage Cheese

1 cup has a whopping 28g of protein1

Greek Yogurt

8oz has 22g2

Soy Milk

1 cup has 11g3

Green Peas

1 cup has 8g4

Pumpkin Seeds

¼ cup has 9g5

Whole Wheat Pasta

2oz has 7g6

Spinach

1/2 cup has 2g7

Cooked Asparagus

1 cup has 4g8

Raw Broccoli

1 cup has 4g9

Who knew green peas had so much protein!  Although some of these (spinach, cooked asparagus and raw broccoli) are not dense sources of protein, are you surprised by how much they have?

When looking at these protein sources keep in mind the serving size. When you have cottage cheese are you likely to have one cups worth? Or when you eat pasta, are you only eating 2oz worth? 

As you can see there are an array of foods that have more protein than you may have expected. This shows that even vegetarians can reach their protein needs without having to rely on meat. 

Building A Balanced Meal

A balanced meal includes protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Now that you know new sources of protein, I hope using them in an appetizing meal no longer seems daunting! 

  • Try topping your trendy avocado toast with cottage cheese. Not only does it make for a complete meal, but it also adds a deeper dimension of flavor!
  • Create a parfait with Greek yogurt. Add a portion of yogurt to a bowl then top with your favorites or whatever you have on-hand! Consider: sliced fruit, nut butter, nuts, seeds, or nuts.
  • Having a grilled cheese with tomato soup for lunch? Instead of making your soup with water replace it with soy milk. It makes for a more luxurious and protein-packed soup!
  • Green peas may seem like an arbitrary veggie, but they can be the easiest addition to any meal. Having mac-n-cheese? Pop in some frozen peas for some additional protein without the hassle while addition more texture!
  • Pumpkin seeds aren’t just something to have while carving jack-o-lanterns. In some places they are referred to as pepitas, don’t worry, you’re still getting the promised protein. You can sprinkle them on a salad for a slight crunch and amped up flavor.
  • Spinach isn’t just for salads. Making your whole wheat pasta for dinner? Saute some spinach and add it in. You can add a TON of spinach without even realizing it this way. Now you have a vegetarian meal with two sources of protein!

How do you plan to incorporate new sources of protein into your next meal?

References:

  1. Calories in Cottage Cheese and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/cottage-cheese. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  2. Calories in Chobani 0% Plain Greek Yogurt (8 oz) and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/chobani/0%25-plain-greek-yogurt-(8-oz)/8-oz. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  3. Calories in Soy Milk and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/soy-milk. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  4. Calories in Green Peas and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/usda/green-peas. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  5. Calories in Trader Joe’s Raw Pumpkin Seeds and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/trader-joes/raw-pumpkin-seeds. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  6. Calories in Best Choice Whole Wheat Pasta and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/best-choice/whole-wheat-pasta. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  7. Calories in Hannaford Whole Leaf Spinach and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/hannaford/whole-leaf-spinach. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  8. Calories in Cooked Asparagus (Fat Added in Cooking) and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/generic/asparagus-cooked-fat-added-in-cooking. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.
  9. Calories in Great Value Broccoli Florets and Nutrition Facts. Fatsecret.com. https://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/great-value/broccoli-florets. Published 2021. Accessed May 11, 2021.

Edited by preRD intern, Lauren Gatto

Lauren Klein

Lauren Klein

I graduated in 2020 from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Nutritional Sciences and Health Promotion. I am not halfway through my M.S. program at Grand Valley State University working on Clinical Dietetics. I also create recipes and nutrition content for my blog, www.pieceoflulu.com.