Protein Food Alternatives

Recently, foods that might once have been frowned upon due to their high carbohydrate content are now being celebrated for their high protein content. Some products that have been promoted like this on social media include pastas, pancakes, and cereals.

Carbohydrates are essential for the human body as they provide the body with the essential energy needed to carry out bodily functions! Protein is another macronutrient essential for the body, which maintains and repairs our bones, muscles, skin, and all the other cells and tissues. Protein is made up of amino acids. Some amino acids are made naturally in the body and 9 others must be obtained from the food we eat because our bodies do not make them.

Every person requires a different amount of protein for a balanced diet that will support them and their body. Foods that naturally contain protein include dairy, eggs, lean meats, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish, and tofu. Some of these foods you may already include in your daily diet. The sources of protein that come from animal sources contain the 9 essential amino acids whereas the plant-based sources do not. In this case, it is best to combine a few plant-based sources to cover the gaps.  If you’re not able to get enough protein in those foods, then protein-packed alternatives may be helpful if you are struggling to eat the amount of protein that is right for you. If you are getting enough protein to support your body, adding these alternatives into your diet most likely is not necessary!


Everyone’s favorite mealtime staple, pasta, has needed to evolve to fit the new needs of consumers. The addition of legumes adds a plant-based protein source, which boosts or replaces the naturally occurring protein provided by the durum wheat regularly used to make pasta. There is a line of ‘Protein +’ pasta, in many pasta variations, which combines wheat and legumes. There are also pastas which are only made with lentils, which is a high protein gluten-free alternative to conventional wheat-based pasta.  Other brands use chickpeas or beans instead of lentils as the base of the pasta. Plain old pasta is delicious and should not be forgotten, but these pastas provide you the opportunity to boost the nutrients in your meal and experiment with new recipes!


You may have heard of brands such as Kodiak and Birchbenders, both brands have rethought conventional pancake and waffle mix. Kodiak Power Cakes and Birch Benders pancakes are different from conventional pancake mixes because they contain whey protein. By adding whey to the mix, these products contain more protein than conventional pancake mixes creating a more nutrient-dense breakfast. Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk and is easily digested by the body.  Even though these pancake mixes provide some extra protein, it is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with regular pancakes, they are delicious!


              Cereal is another breakfast category which has products now being made with added protein. Magic Spoon is one brand of cereal which is popular on social media due to the ‘High-Protein, Low-Carb’ claim. This cereal comes in multiple flavors, many of which replicate classic sugary, high-calorie favorites. Magic Spoon is made with the added protein derived from cow’s milk, Casein and Whey. This is a popular trendy option but does come at a higher price point than regular cereal. A more affordable and common option is the Special K Protein Cereal. This cereal is the re-vamped version of the regular Special K cereal. The added protein in this cereal comes from soy protein, which is a plant-based protein source.  As this cereal is made with plant-based protein, this is a great option if you prefer to avoid protein from animal sources.

These options can provide you the opportunity to add in some extra protein if you find yourself struggling to eat the right amount of protein for your body. It is important to make sure you are getting enough protein to support your body so you can take part in your favorite activities and feel good while doing them!


-Nutrition Student Olivia