Easy ways to get protein without meat

Easy ways to get protein without meat

Protein has been big news in nutrition in recent years. I’m sure you’ve seen this reflected in the store shelves: protein balls and bars; protein-boosted yoghurt and milk; ‘high protein’ claims on packages of everything from cereal to beef jerky.

Protein is a super-important nutrient. It’s the building block of the body. We need it for growth and repair; it helps in the formation of muscles, hair, nails, skin and organs.

When our bodies are under extra stress – teenagers going through growth spurts; if we’re pregnant or breastfeeding; doing lots of activity or when we’re sick or injured – we need even more protein to keep that growth and repair going. Older people, too, need more protein in order to avoid losing muscle mass; a problem that can start to happen even as early as our 30s and 40s. 

Protein also makes us feel full and satisfied, meaning it plays an important role in regulating our appetites. It’s thought we humans are wired to seek out a certain amount of protein from our food, and we will keep eating until we hit that point. Eating foods high in protein, the theory goes, means we may naturally eat a bit less overall.

If we’re omnivores, it’s likely we get a good chunk of our protein from animal foods; mostly red meat, chicken and fish. For people looking to eat less meat and more plants, there can be the worry that cutting out that animal food might mean we’ll go short on protein.

In fact though, it’s easy to get plenty of good-quality protein in a vegetarian or vegan diet. Vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs will have no problems; both foods will give you a good protein boost, and the bonus is they’re versatile and delicious. I don’t know what I’d do without eggs or cheese, personally.

There’s also good protein to be had from plant foods. Look to legumes: lentils, chickpeas and beans can all add to your daily protein and make great meal bases. Again, these are versatile ingredients that can be taken in tons of different directions, from hummus to dhal. Nuts are another super-useful food that gives a protein boost and can be a snack or a meal component. And legumes and nuts are also full of fibre, adding to that satiety we need.

When we’re thinking about protein, keep in mind the whole day’s food. You’ll get small and larger amounts of protein from almost all the foods you eat; grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, milk, cheese, yoghurt, eggs, rice, pasta etc. They’ll all add up to a good amount every day, especially if you pay attention to eating as wide a variety of different foods as you can.

If you’re just dipping your toe into the waters of vegetarian eating, the team at WOOP has got you covered. The meals in their new Vegetarian box are all well-balanced and delicious and have plenty of protein, so you won’t have to think about anything but putting it all together and enjoying.

Interested in giving WOOP Vegetarian a try?

By nutrition expert – Niki Bezzant


Niki Bezzant is a writer, speaker and commentator who is passionate about food and health. Niki has been involved in the food media for 20 years. She was founding editor of Healthy Food Guide magazine, and is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday, the Monday Herald Be Well, and a frequent contributor to broadcast media. She is a proud ambassador for the Garden to Table  programme which helps kids learn how to grow, cook and share food. She is a member of the Council of Directors for the True Health Initiative and a board member for the NZ Nutrition Foundation.