When you think protein foods, I bet you are picturing a big juicy steak, boneless/skinless chicken breast or a tasty pork chop. But be careful not to forget the very healthy and very affordable plant sources of protein. Beans, peas, nuts and seeds are lower in saturated fat (the kind that raises our “bad” cholesterol and risk for heart disease) and cholesterol than animal sources of protein. And these protein foods are better for our wallet, too. Compare the price per ounce of dried beans to the cheapest meat in the store. You’ll be shocked at the difference and probably be ready to eat more meatless meals.
Beans and Peas
There is a huge variety of beans and peas available- black beans, white beans, red beans, green lentils, etc. Beans and peas are great in soups, in salads, in casseroles or in dips. Try these great recipes to easily eat more plant-powered protein.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients, including healthy fat, protein and vitamins and minerals. Because of their higher fat content, portion control is a must with nuts and seeds, which pack in quite a few calories in small amounts. You can eat nuts and seeds as snacks, in trail mix, as a topping for salads, cereal or yogurt and as nut butters for sandwiches or smoothies.
Cooking Dry Beans
Dried beans are by far the most economical source of protein you can buy. But not everyone feels confident in how to cook dried beans the best way. Use these steps to get perfectly cooked dried beans and start stocking up on plant-powered protein today.
3 Easy Steps to the PERFECT Bean
- Soak and Rinse – Spread beans out on a clean kitchen towel or baking sheet. Throw away any beans that are discolored or shriveled. Pour the good beans into a colander or bowl and rinse well with cold clean water. Drain.
- Soak – Most dry beans, except lentils and split peas, need to be soaked before cooking them. There are 2 ways to soak beans.
- Short soak – Place beans in a large cooking pot with lid. Cover the beans with a 3 inch layer of water (or about 4 to 5 cups of water per 1 cup of beans). Bring to a boil. Continue boiling for 3 minutes. Cover the pot, and set aside for 2 to 4 hours. Drain and throw away the water. Rinse beans before cooking.
- Long soak – Place beans in a large cooking pot with lid. Cover the beans with a 3 inch layer of water (or about 4 to 5 cups of water per 1 cup of beans). Cover the pot and soak beans for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and throw away the water. Rinse beans well before cooking.
- Cook – Cook beans in fresh water (if you want to season your beans while they cook, see below for more information), using a large cooking pot with lid. Use about 3 to 4 cups of water for each cup of beans (or enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch). Bring beans to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until tender. Stir occasionally. Check the directions on the package for more information on cooking times for each type of bean, legume, or pea.
NOTE: seasoning beans
To add more flavor to your beans, try adding these spices to the cooking water: chopped onion, garlic, and/or bay leaves. Add all other spices and seasonings 30 minutes before the beans are finished cooking. Do not add salt, sugar, tomatoes, vinegar, wine, or lemon juice until after the beans are completely cooked.
And there you have it, all you need to get started with plant-powered protein. What are your favorite meatless meals that are powered by plant protein?