How to Eat Less Beef and Still Get Plenty of Protein

Get primed on plant proteins
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Get primed on plant proteins

Here are the stats of some of the most protein-rich foods out there. While, gram for gram, center-of-plate plants may be a bit lower in protein compared to meat, plants tend to be lower in calories. And whole-food plants are much higher in fiber, a carbohydrate that largely passes through the body undigested, meaning it’s not absorbed in the first place.

Black beans or pinto beans: Going meatless at your favorite Mexican restaurant is a no brainer. Substitute meat with black beans or pinto beans. One cup (240 g) of black beans offers 14 grams pf protein, 220 calories, a whopping 16 grams of fiber, and no cholesterol, while three ounces (85 g) of cooked ground beef contains 215 calories, 21 grams of protein, 99 milligrams of cholesterol, five grams of saturated fat, and zero grams of fiber. Note that no plant foods contain cholesterol.

Lentils: These little pulses cook up from dried within 20 minutes. They are one of the crown jewels of plant proteins, with 230 calories per cup, 18 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fiber. Toss them into a slow cooker to make sloppy Joes.

Tofu: While the texture isn’t for everybody, tofu’s protein content is crazy good, with 30 grams per half block, about four ounces. You can find tofu in just about any Asian restaurant, making it easy to swap it in when ordering your favorite dish. Or try half meat, half tofu. At home, pressing the tofu first and marinating it in soy sauce imparts a meatier taste and texture. Tempeh, comprised of whole fermented soybeans pressed into a cake, bears a texture more appealing to some, with 195 calories, 20 grams of protein, and seven grams of carbs per 3.5 ounces cooked.

Edamame: Initiate your sushi dinner with steamed edamame and you’re off to a good start, with 94 calories and nine grams of protein per half-cup cooked. Edamame thawed and removed from the pods are easy to add to stir-fries. Try roasted edamame for a crunchy protein snack.

Nuts: Beef jerky is healthy-ish at best, so replace it with a handful of pistachios, almonds, or peanuts. A quarter cup of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter gives you seven grams of protein and under 200 calories. Nuts’ fat is the good kind that also helps keep you satisfied.

Chickpeas: They’re the same thing as garbanzo beans. They’re also the main ingredient in hummus, a creamy dip that doubles as a spread. In terms of protein, the tally is: Hummus: two grams of protein and 50 calories per two tablespoons, whereas mayo and cream cheese scores a big fat zero. Slather hummus on sandwiches instead of that deli turkey you’ve been eating every day since college. Or try hummus tacos or whole chickpeas sautéed with broccoli.

Soy milk: This plant-based milk contains nine grams of protein per cup, beating almond milk, which contains barely two grams of per cup. Cook oatmeal with it in place of water, and use it in smoothies in place of juice.