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High-Protein Alternatives to Meat

Tasty protein with fewer carbon emissions.

Popular Science

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Cutting out meat and replacing it with plants could have a huge carbon-cutting effect. In fact, according to a report covered by Popular Science in 2020, “the most effective regimens [for cutting climate changing-causing emissions] were veganism, which swaps meats out for plants, and a low-food-chain plan, which swaps them for insects, foraging fish, and bivalves.” In general, foods “that are low on the food chain don’t require feed-based agriculture, so their net emissions are generally low.”

Luckily, there are a variety of plant-based, high-protein foods for our gustatory pleasure. Here are just a few:


A hearty choice. Photo by Amazon

Technically, quinoa is a seed, and a cup of it cooked boasts 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, plus potassium and iron. It’s cheap, filling, vegan, and the perfect base layer to top with vegetables, nutritional yeast, tofu, sriracha, or whatever else floats your boat. It’s easily cooked in a pot and there’s a whole trove of Instapot recipes out there, too.

Quinoa gets a reputation for being a high-protein grain, and that’s largely because it contains the full suite of essential amino acids. That’s great and all, but unless you’re planning to only eat quinoa for many days in a row, you don’t need to worry about protein combining. If you eat peanut butter or peas or lentils some other time throughout the day, you should be good. That all being said, there are plenty of other grains that offer protein. Spelt and amaranth, for example, pack in more protein than quinoa, though they may be harder to find.


Cheap and more planet-friendly than a burger. Photo by Amazon

Not only are beans high in protein and delicious, they’ll help you reach your budgeting and fiber intake goals as well. Soak a few cups of dried beans in a bowl over night, then cook them low and slow with onions, bay leaves, and Adobo the next day. Eat a couple servings and put the rest in the freezer for later. A cup of cooked black beans has around 14 grams of protein.


Make room for the legume. Photo by Amazon

A cup of cooked lentils holds around 18 grams of protein, or about what’s in three large eggs. It also boasts 16 grams of dietary fiber. Cook them with coconut milk, tomato paste, onion, and spices like curry powder, cumin, and coriander.

Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)

A meat replacement for soups and stews. Photo by Amazon

Although texturized vegetable protein doesn’t sound so appealing, it’s an excellent meat substitute to incorporate into pasta sauces, stews, chilis, taco fillings and more. It’s economical and easy to prepare: reconstitute the particles in boiling water and then use it in recipes as you would any browned ground beef. It offers 12 grams of protein per serving (a quarter-cup dry).

High-Protein Snacks

Three flavors. Photo by Amazon

If you’re looking to really reduce your carbon footprint, you should also stay away from highly processed snacks that are shipped across the country. But if you’re looking for a treat and don’t want to give your money the beef industry, you can reach for these high-protein, crunchy snacks. These packages of roasted fava beans pack seven grams of protein per 100-calorie serving. They’re gluten-free and suitable for vegans too, and come in a variety of nice flavors, including sriracha, BBQ, and garlic and onion. Eat them straight out of the bag or sprinkle them on soups or salads for added texture and protein.

Super tasty. Photo by Amazon

While the entire line of Crunchmaster products is delicious, they’ve got two protein-packed options: sea salt and roasted garlic. The multi-seed rice crackers are vegan, gluten-free, and include five grams of protein per serving. Each serving is 32 crackers and 130 calories. They get an A for flavor and an A+ for crunch.

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This post originally appeared on Popular Science and was published June 17, 2020. This article is republished here with permission.

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