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Eat less meat: protein alternatives

Siski Green / 20 July 2016

If you're worried about eating meat or just want to cut down, try these delicious protein alternatives.

Fried tofu
Tofu is a versatile ingredient, just add the flavours you want it to have.

So you’re not keen on meat. Or maybe you love animals too much to eat them. Or perhaps you love meat but you think you need to cut down or even cut it out completely.

Or maybe you’re just looking for alternatives to the usual meat-and-two-veg combination you’ve been enjoying for the last 50-odd years.

Here are some great-tasting and high-protein alternatives you may not have thought of trying yet.

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This one tops the list because it not only contains a good amount of protein per 100g (14g when uncooked, falling to around 4g when cooked), it’s also a ‘complete protein.’ That means that unlike some other protein sources, it contains all nine amino acids that your body needs to perform well. It’s also a good source of magnesium and potassium, among others.

What does quinoa taste like? It’s fluffy when cooked properly, rather like couscous, with a nutty flavor.

How to eat quinoa: You can add it to all sorts of dishes including savoury muffins (egg, cheese, vegetable of your choice, quinoa and a dash of milk), in a vegetable stirfry, salads (with fresh herbs, cucumber, tomato, avocado and dressing, for example) or as an alternative to pasta or potatoes in your meals.

How to cook quinoa

Mediterranean quinoa salad

Edamame (soy beans)

With 11g per 100g (the beans without their pods), these provide a lot of protein and they taste just delicious steamed with a little salt sprinkled on.

What do edemame beans taste like? A kind of nutty tastier version of a broad bean. 

How to eat edemame beans: Delicious in salads, as a side with egg-based or cheese-based dishes, or with a little salt sprinkled on top just as a tasty snack.

Diana Henry’s Japanese chicken with edemame beans and radishes


Don’t let lentils’ reputation fool you – they were once considered only fit for commune-living hippies – not only are they full of protein (9g per 100g), they’re an ideal food for anyone looking to get a fitter heart and build muscle.

What do lentils taste like? Another nutty flavour here with a texture to match. 

How to eat lentils: If you’re not keen on the texture, blend cooked lentils and add it to soup to thicken it up adding valuable protein at the same time. Or add the blended lentils to a mix of onions, Indian spices, and tomatoes for a delicious curry.

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Sambar – aromatic vegetable and lentil soup

One-pot masala dhal

Warm lentil salad

Tempeh or soy

The classic go-tos for vegetarians are classics for good reason – they contain high amounts of protein with 19g per 100g for tempeh, and 8g for tofu, but are low in fat and incredibly versatile.

What do tempeh and tofu taste like? Tempeh is a slightly firmer version of tofu. Tofu, depending on how it’s cooked, can range from having a texture almost like jelly or a set pudding, to being slightly chewy.

If you prefer tofu on the crispier, chewier side of things then you’ll like tempeh.

Neither tempeh nor tofu have much flavour to speak of which is why they’re so versatile.

How to use tofu and tempeh: Simply add the flavours you want it to have, be it smoky barbecue flavour, Thai spice or even sugar and cinnamon. It all works!

Tofu: how to add this superfood to your diet

Supergreen vegetable stir-fry with marinated tofu

Greek yogurt

Stop thinking of yogurt as something that only comes in fruit-flavoured pots and you’ll do your body a favour because Greek yogurt, for example, is high in protein (up to 10g per 100g), low in calories and is a great way to add richness to some dishes.

What does Greek yogurt taste like? A creamier version of set yogurt, this can be used to replace sour cream in a fajita or in your tomato soup to add creaminess. 

How to use Greek yogurt: You can also use it instead of mayonnaise (or as well as) to reduce the fat content of a salad. And you can even use it when you’re making American-style thicker pancakes for a moister finish, as well as in muffins. 

Greek yogurt pancakes with honey and raisin sauce

Strawberries dipped in yogurt and crushed hazelnuts


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.