The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for most healthy adults. For a 150-pound person, that’s about 55 to 68 grams of protein per day. Vegetarians should aim for the higher end of that range, since they may need slightly more grams of protein coming from different plant sources to cover their bases for all the essential amino acids we need, since most plant foods contain only a few, whereas animal proteins contain all nine. Things like activity level, age, and certain medical conditions or medications can affect our needs. People who are very active, for example, may need more. During pregnancy and lactation or when healing from surgery or an injury, needs also increase.
The good news is that adding protein throughout the day can make it easy to meet your needs. Make protein powder, bars, and fortified foods your last resorts instead of staples, and instead, try these easy real-food approaches to up your protein intake:
1. Hemp hearts:
Instead of croutons, top your soup or chili with a generous spoonful of hemp hearts. Each tablespoon provides about 3 grams.
2. Roasted chickpeas:
Another great soup topper, roasted chickpeas also make a great addition to salads and grain bowls or even enjoyed on their own as a handy snack. Toss with a little olive or coconut oil and your favorite spices and roast at 375°F until crispy, about 20 to 30 minutes. A half-cup adds about 7 grams of protein.
3. Nutritional yeast:
Nutritional yeast is super-convenient for adding protein to all kinds of foods. Its pleasant, savory taste makes is a nice complement to many flavors. Shake it over salad, pasta, grain bowls, or popcorn. You can also use it to make a vegan “cheese” sauce by cooking it with nondairy milk and savory spices.
4. Puréed tofu:
Puréed tofu is a great way to bulk up smoothies, baked goods, or soup. Toss this sauce with cooked chickpea pasta for a nourishing vegan take on mac & cheese.
5. Swap your yogurt
Greek yogurt and Icelandic skyr offer up as much as double the protein content of regular yogurt. One cup can have as much as 20 grams!
6. Rethink cottage cheese:
Both cottage cheese and ricotta contain about 6 to 8 grams of protein per quarter-cup. They make great toast toppers instead of cream cheese or butter, and they also add staying power to a smoothie or oatmeal.
7. Swap out your grains:
Instead of whole wheat pasta or a whole grain like brown rice or barley, try a lentil or bean-based pasta or a serving of beans or lentils as your carb for the meal. You’ll get tons of fiber and lots of protein to keep you satiated.