Not a Meat-Lover? Hit Your Protein Goals with Beans

tuscan white bean salad

A few months ago, I started using a food tracker app called My Fitness Pal. One of my favorite things about this app is that it looks at the full nutritional value of food and drinks, not just the calorie count. So rather than just shooting for a specific calorie range, it lets me see what areas I need to work on. Do I need more protein? Less carbohydrates and fat?

As someone who doesn’t eat much meat, it became immediately clear that I wasn’t getting enough protein.  I love seafood, which is often a good source of protein, but it’s too expensive for day-to-day lunches and dinners. Since beans are a more affordable protein alternative, I decided to give them a try.

I went to the grocery store and grabbed cans of every type of bean I saw. I opted for canned beans since I’m often in a time crunch when preparing meals. If you plan your meals ahead of time, purchasing dried beans is a great way to save money.

Like dried beans, canned beans are excellent sources of protein, fiber, B vitamins and iron. While canned beans can be high in sodium, you can remove 40% of the sodium by rinsing and draining the beans.  If you’re concerned with BPA, a controversial chemical found in metal canned foods, look for Eden Organic’s “BPA-free” cans.

The best thing about canned beans is they’re already cooked. For a quick, low-fat, high protein meal you can just heat them up – on the stove or in the microwave – and throw them on a bed of brown rice with some seasoning. They have a shelf life of about 5 years, making them a perfect go-to meal for those nights that you don’t make it to the grocery store.

Of course, you can also get creative with beans:

  • Kidney beans are great in chili, and lima beans are great for sautés.
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) are good for hummus or salads
  • Edemame is perfect for stir-fry or a snack.
  • Black beans taste great in stews and rice dishes with smoky flavors, like chipotle.
  • Pinto beans are good for dips, spreads and burritos.
  • Have a sweet tooth? Try these cookies made with white beans.

Want more tips on healthy ways to incorporate protein into your diet? Read this article on lean protein sources, including options for vegetarians and vegans.

Photo Credit: Elana’s Pantry

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