Sure, having a salad for lunch or dinner can have a good dose of other vegetables, fruits, and vegetables, as you get a rich supply of iron, fiber and antioxidants, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and magnesium.
However, leafy greens and vegetable-based toppings won’t do much when it comes to protein – which is why people often throw canned or grilled salmon, grilled chicken, shrimp or steaks for an extra protein boost. Protein is essential for post-workout muscle recovery, cognitive health, and satiety, as this power will satiate you for longer. It is also one of the macronutrients for maintaining human life, so it is very important!
But for anyone who hates eating meat or dairy-based proteins, you can still add plant proteins to achieve that needed overall boost! While animal protein is easily absorbed and available for the body to use more than plant protein, you can combine different sources of plant protein to make a high-protein salad that is completely meat-free.
Here are two ways to increase protein content with plant-based ingredients, in addition to boosting the flavor of your salad.
Tofu and edamame
Made with soybeans, tofu, and edamame, they are two high-protein plant-based ingredients that are vegetarian and work well over a sweet or savory salad. You can make a Thai-inspired salad with chopped peanuts and ginger or peanut sauce, edamame and tofu, for example. Or mix in edamame or tofu with blueberries and nuts for a fruit salad while still getting your protein intake.
Quinoa is a high-protein grain that is also gluten-free, so it’s suitable for those who are gluten intolerant or allergic to it as well. Plus, it actually contains a complete amino acid profile, which is rare among plant proteins. This is important to ensure that you are getting all the essential amino acids that stimulate muscle growth and development. As an added bonus, quinoa tastes great and gives salads a grainy texture and a satisfying crunch. Add something like edamame, beans, legumes, chickpeas, black beans, or lentils to create a protein power bowl.
Seitan and Tempeh
Although similar to tofu, seitan and tempeh are not based on soybeans, they are a great vegetarian substitute for protein that has a “meaty” texture, so it resembles chicken or turkey cubes and makes this salad more hearty. Just be sure to read labels on products to find brands that have lower sodium options with healthier ingredients.
Beans and legumes
Black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils are all examples of beans and legumes that are high in fiber to promote digestion, gut health and fullness, as well as protein to help with muscle repair and additional satiety.
You can use a combination of them, such as black beans with chickpeas, or you can pair one with the grains. You can also roast them with spices for a delicious crunch – think of toasted chickpeas as if they were croutons but are healthy and full of protein – and depending on who you ask, it’s much tastier than dried bread!
Egg and seafood substitutes
There are more egg alternatives on the market, such as Just Egg, which offers video morsels (which it warms up), or Just Folded, which is a ready-made, folded “egg” that can be used as a salad wrap or stuffed with bread or rolls for an easy breakfast sandwich on the go.
There are also more fish alternatives that have also appeared, like Fishless Tuna or Banana Blossom from Good Catch, which you can buy and cook to get that real fishy texture and taste.
Nuts and seeds
Although protein is not high, combining nuts and seeds together can help you reach your desired protein count. You can pair hemp seeds with pistachios or almonds with pumpkin seeds, for example. You can also add nuts or seeds as a bonus along with one of the higher protein plant options listed above – the salad will give a little extra protein!