With the shorter days and cooler temperatures of fall, many people naturally gravitate toward comforting carbs. But some carbs can leave you feeling tired and bloated, more likely to curl up on the couch than crush your workout. 

This autumn, why not challenge yourself by exploring lighter, healthy options that are delicious, satisfying and pack plenty of protein? 

A couple of meals a week, why not forego a steak, chicken breast or salmon fillet, to make room for some protein-rich grains, veggies, legumes and nuts? 

Protein is one of the three main building blocks of a healthy diet, along with carbohydrates and fats. Just about every part of your body needs it. 

Protein is made up of essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body, which means that you always get them from your food. About 10% to 35% of your daily calories should come from protein. 

Check out these high protein grains, veggies and legumes that can be included in sides, salads, smoothies or eaten on their own. Here are some creative recipes to help you incorporate each one in your diet. 


Amaranth – 19% of your daily value (DV) of protein intake is found in 1 cup of this grain. There’s nothing like a warm breakfast to get you going on cold mornings – so change up your oatmeal with an easy, gluten-free amaranth porridge (which has almond milk too!). 

Brown rice – 11% DV in 1 cup, and a healthy substitute for white rice.  For something really different, try ochazuke, which is a simple Japanese dish made with rice and savory ingredients steeped in green tea. 

Buckwheat – 45% DV in 1 cup. For an elegant supper, try a twist on mushroom risotto with this mushroom buckwheat risotto recipe.  

Bulgur – 11% DV in 1 cup. Try it in a Lebanese bulgur pilaf, which has the added benefit of chickpeas. 

Couscous – 12% DV in 1 cup. A burger made from couscous? You bet! Try this couscous burger with garlic coconut sauce. 

Farro – 14% DV in just ¼ cup. For a colourful workday lunch with a Middle Eastern twist, try a vegan farro salad bowl.  It’s got veggies, fruit, spices, nuts and lentils! 

Kamut – this ancient, but now fashionable, grain has 20% DV in 1 cup. Warm up with this soup that has kamut, lentils and chickpeas, is big on flavour, and has 15.2 grams of protein per serving (swap out the chicken broth for vegetable to make it vegetarian). 

Millet – 12% DV in 1 cup. Try any of these delicious recipes ranging from breakfast through dinner and everything in between. They are packed with flavour and nutrients. 

Oats – 12% DV in 1 cup of cooked oatmeal. Swap a sweet oatmeal breakfast for a savory one with this goat cheese and cremini oatmeal to start the day. 

Quinoa – 16% DV in 1 cup. Satisfy your sweet tooth with dark chocolate quinoa cupcakes (which also have chia seeds!) 

Spelt – 21% DV in 1 cup. Try this trendy ancient grain (gluten free!) in a vegan banana apple bread, with the fall flavours of pumpkin pie spice and apples.  

Teff – 20% DV in 1 cup. This sweet-tasting grain is versatile and quick to cook. If you’re planning a Thanksgiving dinner, why not try teff stuffing? 

Wild rice – 13% DV in 1 cup. Its earthy, nutty quality is great for autumn meals. Pop this vegetable wild rice soup into a Thermos for a warm lunch at the office.  

Vegetables and legumes 

Artichokes – One medium artichoke has 8% DV of protein. A warm and gooey spinach and artichoke dip hits the spot on a cold day. And the Greek yogurt ups the protein value even more!  

Asparagus – 9% DV in 1 cup. For a healthy but filling lunch or dinner, try lemon orzo with asparagus. 

Broccoli – 7% DV in 1 cup. For a quick weeknight pasta dish, try this sesame soba noodles with broccoli dinner.  

Brussels sprouts – 8% DV in 1 cup. Opt for brussels sprout chips when you’re craving a crunchy snack. 

Green peas – 17% DV in 1 cup. Ever had peas for breakfast? Try mashed peas on breakfast toast 

Lima beans – 23% DV in 1 cup. Pair them with satisfying tomato sauce in this Greek baked dish 

Mushrooms – 8% DV in 1 cup. Try a squash and mushroom Buddha bowl (it’s vegan!).  

Spinach – 11% DV in 1 cup. For a double protein punch, serve up cannellini beans with spinach as a side or main dish.    

Chickpeas – 19% DV in 1 cup. For a hearty dinner, try an easy chickpea curry on brown basmati rice with coconut milk (which has 9% DV of protein in 1 cup). 

Edamame – 87% DV in 1 cup. When you’re feeling peckish at work, spicy roasted edamame makes a great snack.  

Lentils – 36% DV in 1 cup. Lentils aren’t just for soups – expand your horizons with zucchini-lentil fritters dipped in lemony yogurt.  

Split peas – 33% DV in 1 cup. Not just for soups either – try these crispy split peas that can be seasoned with spices of your choice for a crunchy snack.  

Nuts and seeds 

Almonds – 12% DV in 1 ounce. For a great pick-me-up when you’re on the go, try cranberry almond granola bars (which have the added benefits of pumpkin seeds and oats).  

Cashews – 10% DV in 1 ounce. So versatile, you can even use them to make a great vegan Caesar salad dressing 

Chia seeds – 9% DV in 1 ounce. For a delicious snack, try grapefruit and ginger chia seed pudding. 

Flax seeds – 10% DV in 1 ounce. Who needs meat for meatballs? Try this spicy vegan version that not only has flax, but chickpeas, farro and oats that is anything but boring! 

Hemp seeds – 18% in 1 ounce. For an upgraded twist on a classic fruit salad, this easy recipe has not just hemp, but pumpkin seeds and slivered almonds for a satisfying crunch.  

Pistachios – 11% DV in 1 ounce. These nuts are wonderful for adding a crispy topping to many dishes, even chocolate cake 

Some vegetarian protein options include cheese, eggs and yogurt, which also contain calcium and vitamin D. And don’t forget about local growers. Farmers markets have the freshest produce, which provides more nutrients to you while supporting your local economy. Make this fall your healthiest yet!