6 foods that have as much protein as beef and much less of an environmental impact

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Hey everyone! How’s it going?

This is sort of a follow up post from my other one that explains how consuming beef is correlated with global warming, and therefore, enabling climate change.

Ever since I stopped eating beef (or I should say deciding to purchase in any way) I’ve naturally been exposed to new forms of protein. I wouldn’t say that I’m a body builder however I do typically work out 2-3x a week. My boyfriend on the other hand, is one who I would say, is more of a body builder and counts his protein intake religiously. He is so good at planning out his meals and weighing his food intake to attain certain personal, physical and fitness goals.

It’s challenging for sure to think about the idea of (large amounts anyway) protein coming from anywhere other than animals.

We’re taught growing up that chicken and beef are typically main sources of protein and that’s kind of why we should continue eating them. And they taste good.

But after reading the China Study, I actually learned a few things. When looking at your overall health, plant-based sources of protein are actually considered better for you and your health.


For one, studies from the China Study also show that animal proteins promote the growth of cancer. The author even says,

“There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods, that are not better provided by plants.” 

Plant-based sources of protein also have one thing that animal-proteins don’t. And can’t. And that’s fiber.

Fiber is so important for our digestive health and lowers our cholesterol.

It’s also tough because protein rich foods can emit the most carbon. Here is a chart from Our World In Data to put this in perspective – the carbon footprint graphed between each protein rich foods. We can see clearly that beef emits the most greenhouse gases.

Chart that shows beef has the biggest carbon footprint followed by lamb and farmed shrimp.
Farmed Shrimp surprised me. It's largely because we import most of our shrimp and mangrove trees are typically cut to build new shrimp farms. Mangroves are some of the most powerful trees that absorb carbon for hundreds of years. When cut down, all of that carbon gets released back into our atmosphere, warming it.

So what do we do? We can find the BEST alternatives with the lowest environmental impact while still getting the valuable protein that our bodies need.

Here are some alternative sources that will leave SO much less of a carbon footprint and give you MORE or the same amount of protein than eating a burger (which has 20 grams of protein).


25 Grams of protein in 1 cup

Cooking Recommendations: Amazing with homemade pesto. Make sure to not overcook and drain immediately or else they will stick together. 

Ways to Purchase: Whole Foods, Mom’s Organic, Amazon


20 Grams of Protein in 1 Cup

Cooking Recommendations: Usually make this with traditional marinara, as normal pasta. Try making with a creamy homemade Alfredo sauce, too. 

Ways to Purchase: Whole Foods, Mom’s Organic, Amazon


23 Grams of Protein in 1 Fillet

Cooking Recommendations: First I begin by coating the fillets with a little olive oil, seasoning them with italian spices and then some flour and bread crumbs. I then trasnfer to a hot cast iron skillet coated with olive oil (or coconut oil) for cooking. I then add sliced lemons to each cooked side and capers for taste. It doesn’t take long to cook each side (maybe 3-5 minutes) until finished. PS: this taste great over the edamame pasta with alfredo!

Ways to Purchase: Whole Foods, Grocery Stores


40 Grams of Protein in 1/2 of a fillet

Cooking Recommendations: If you’re not familiar with cooking salmon, it is sooo easy. I just coat the fillet with olive oil or coconut oil, add italian seasonings to the top, squeeze some fresh lemon juice and pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. I usually serve alongside roasted asparagus or other veggies. 

Ways to Purchase: Grocery Stores


20 Grams of Protein in 1 Burger

Cooking Recommendations: I have a full guide on “How to make the perfect Beyond Burger” you can check out by clicking on this link!

These are seriously my favorite. I’ve learned through a few trials to make these either on the grill (which can be limited for us city peeps) or on a cast iron skillet in coconut oil. The coconut oil does not impact the taste and make it crispier. It is also key to cover the patty while it is cooking on each side. 

I always serve with ketchup sweetened by honey and/or Sir Kensington’s special sauce. 

Ways to Purchase: Whole Foods, other select grocery stores

the perfect beyond burger


21 Grams of Protein in 1/2 cup

Cooking Recommendations: Vegetarian chili, with any rice dish, or with quinoa

Ways to Purchase: Any grocery store, canned

I hope these are helpful as you think about what to buy on your next grocery trip or new recipes to think about! 

Where do you like to get your plant-based protein from?

with lots of love for the planet,

the sustennial

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