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  • Writer's pictureAngel Soto


Eating well can be expensive. We found the best protein-rich foods that fit a tight budget.

For many people, eating healthy isn't an option because healthy options are often more expensive options. But there are ways to avoid this double-edged sword to make smart and healthy choices. Are you looking to increase your protein without breaking the bank? Here are some great, inexpensive proteins you can find at any supermarket, plus simple ways to incorporate them into your dishes.

It's easy to slip a little extra muscle into your meals—just make sure to keep fully stocked on these protein powerhouses.

1. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, one cup of this cooked legume provides 269 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 13 grams of fiber. They’re also brimming with vitamin A, folate, iron, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. You can purchase dried chickpeas which take a little time to cook, or a canned version which you can pop open and use immediately.

Add them over a salad, to chili or pasta dishes, or mash into your burger or meatloaf mixture before cooking.

2. Beans

Whether navy, kidney, pinto or black, beans provide an inexpensive plant-source of protein. One cup of canned or cooked black beans has about 128 calories and 15 grams of protein. They’re also an excellent source of fiber and provide hefty doses of calcium, zinc, and iron.

Add them into rice dishes, pasta dishes, soups, stews, chili, or over a salad. You can even blend a can into your brownie mix.

3. Cottage Cheese

This cheese curd is made from cow’s milk that’s been washed to remove some of the natural acidity. The result is a mild flavored cheese to go along with its creamy texture and mild flavor which pairs beautifully with both sweet and savory foods. One half cup of low-fat cottage cheese provides 90 calories, 1 gram of fat, and whopping 16 grams of protein.

Add them into smoothies, over pancakes or waffles, or blend it to replace higher fat ingredients in dips and dressings.

4. Pistachios

Looking for an unexpected, inexpensive source of protein? Reach for a handful of pistachios! One of the highest-protein snack nuts out there, pistachios are a good source of protein. In fact, a 1-ounce serving provides 6 grams of filling protein! One of my favorite ways to eat pistachios is in oatmeal.

Add them over salad, Greek yogurt, oatmeal, vegetable, or rice sides.

5. Pumpkin Seeds

One ounce of roasted pumpkin seeds contains 146 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 9 grams of protein. They also provide a boatload of vitamins and minerals include 17% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K, and between one-quarter to one-third the recommended daily amounts of iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. There are so many ways to use them in both sweet and savory dishes.

Add them to muffin batter, or sprinkle over waffles, pancakes, Greek yogurt, hot cereal, or a salad. Use them in pesto, trail mix, or in brittle.

6. Hemp Hearts

Underneath the shell of the seed are hemp hearts, the tender part of the seed. A 3 tablespoon serving of shelled hemp seeds (AKA hemp hearts) packs 170 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 10 grams of protein. These babies are also brimming with omega-3 fats and many vitamins and minerals including magnesium, iron, thiamin, phosphorus, and manganese.

Add them over salads, cereals, or yogurt, or blend into a smoothie. You can also sprinkle them into pasta and rice dishes, lasagna, hamburger and meatballs. My favorite? Over pasta!

7. Edamame

These baby soybeans are packed with protein and can be added to many dishes. Two-thirds cup of shelled edamame provides 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and 9 grams of carbs. It also contains 4 grams of satisfying fiber, 25% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, and 10% of the recommended amount of both iron and calcium.

Add them to salads, soups, chili, pasta or rice dishes, stir-frys, or stews. Delicious!

8. Rotisserie Chicken

For between 4 to 7 dollars, you can pick up a rotisserie any night of the week. One ounce of thigh meat (without the skin) provides 55 calories, almost 7 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fat along with many energy boosting B-vitamins. You can opt to eat the cooked meat as is, or use it in an array of dishes. 

Add them to soups, sandwiches or wraps, salads, chili, pasta dishes, or even lasagna or mac and cheese.

9. Plain Greek Yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt without added sugar can add twice the amount of protein compared to traditional yogurt. A 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt has about 100 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 7 grams of carbs. It also provides 20% of the recommended daily amount of calcium. Greek yogurt can boost the protein in both savory and sweet dishes.

Add them to smoothies, to top waffles, pancakes, or baked potato, baked goods instead of butter, ice pops, cheese mixtures, dips, and marinades.

10. Peanut Butter

One tablespoon of crunchy or smooth peanut butter has approximately 90 to 100 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat. The majority of the fat is heart healthy unsaturated fat. Peanut butter is also brimming with the niacin and the antioxidant vitamin E and resveratrol (also found in red wine). Smooth peanut butter can be swirled into so many dishes to up the protein.

Add them to smoothies, muffin, pancake, waffle, or cookie batters, soups, yogurt, dressings, and dips.

Give these a try, comment below and let us know what you think!

Angel Soto

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