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Surprising Swaps for Your Go-to Protein Sources

Why You Should Try Less Common Proteins

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Chicken breasts, salmon, and tofu are great, but no matter how many different way's you cook them, it's easy to get tired of the same sources of protein when you eat them over and over again. Luckily, lesser-known meats, seafood, and vegetarian proteins are gaining popularity, giving home cooks plenty of healthy options. Some of them are more sustainable, others are more affordable, and all of them change up the flavor, giving you some much-needed variety. We're sharing some great swaps based on your favorite protein staples. Go ahead, try something new!

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Like Salon? Try Arctic Char

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Healthy eaters love salmon because it's full of protein, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and necessary vitamins like B12. Arctic char is also packed with heart-healthy fats, and has a similar flavor profile, says Stephen Callahan, a global seafood buyer for Whole Foods Market. Like salmon, you can cook it on the grill, in the oven, or in a pan.

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Like Quinoa? Try Amaranth

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Quinoa has a reputation for being super high in protein, but it's not the only ancient grain with this nutrition benefit says Daphne Cheng, executive chef at Mother of Pearl in New York City. Cup for cup, amaranth actually has more protein than quinoa and is just as tasty. Cook it the same way you would quinoa, says Cheng. (And then try the rest of these 10 Ancient Grains to Switch Up Your Healthy Carbs.)

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Like Filet Mignon? Try Bavette

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This less-common cut of beef has lots of flavor and great texture, but is much more affordable than filet, says chef Ryan Bartlow of Quality Eats in New York City. It's also a little more forgiving when you cook it under the broiler—good news for home cooks.

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Like Halibut? Try Paiche

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This South American meaty white fish has a similar flavor to halibut and black cod, but is much less expensive, says Jason Hedlund, a global seafood buyer at Whole Foods Market. It's a great option for novice cooks since it's hard to burn or dry out. Try it in fish tacos or on a sandwich. We love these 15 Delicious Fish Tacos from Food Bloggers.

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Like Nuts and Seeds? Try Hemp Seeds

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Like nuts, hemp seeds add crunch to your salads, and like cheese, they add a hint of creamy texture, says Cheng. Add them to your salad raw, or toast them first in a pan on the stove. (You'll know they're done when you can smell their nutty aroma.) A three-tablespoon serving has 10 grams of protein! (Read more about the hemp seed hype.)

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Like Ground Beef? Try Ground Bison

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Whether it's burger night, taco night, or chili night, bison can stand in for beef with more protein and less fat, says Theo Wheening, a global meat buyer for Whole Foods Market.

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Like Beans? Try Fresh Peas

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Vegetarians and vegans are constantly turning to beans, since they're a great source of plant protein. But simple, easy-to-cook green peas are also a great source, says Cheng. To get extra creative, she recommends checking out fresh peas, or fresh green chickpeas.

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Like Chicken? Try Quail

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With a delicate texture and flavor, quail is great for entertaining, says Wheening. It's pretty easy to prepare but is still exciting and unexpected. Plus, it has more iron than chicken.

Photo: Corbis Images

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