Protein is a key part of staying healthy, and dairy is an ultra convenient way to get plenty of it in your diet. But dairy doesn’t work for everyone. So what are the best high-protein dairy-free snacks?
As mammals, milk is an important part of our lives from the very beginning. But many people develop an intolerance to dairy (and particularly lactose) as they age. Others still choose to cut out dairy for ethical reasons.
Today we will examine how you can improve your protein intake without the help of dairy. And to do that, we’ll take a look at some simple dairy-free protein snacks.
Before we get into our list, let’s take a look at the benefits of protein without dairy – including easy ways to incorporate it into your diet.
What high-protein dairy-free snacks can help with
Everyone can benefit from high-protein dairy-free snacks, since adding more diverse sources of protein to your diet exposes you to a larger range of macro- and micro-nutrients. And while dairy is great at helping toddlers and children grow, it can have a different impact on adults.
On the one hand, dairy in moderation can help improve brain health in older adults, and its effects on bone health have been well-known for years.
On the other hand, though, milk over-consumption can lead to heart disease, digestive problems, and type 2 diabetes.
The long-term and short-term problems dairy can cause can lead many different people to reduce or remove dairy from their diets. And while anyone can choose to go dairy-free, here are a few of the things high-protein dairy-free snacks can help with:
When you’re looking to lose weight, protein in general can help you meet your goal. Any kind of protein can make you feel fuller for longer, as well as helping your body process any carbohydrates or dairy you consume with your snacks.
Dairy-free protein opens a whole world of protein sources and, as a result, ensures you’re getting every amino acid possible in your diet. High-protein dairy-free snacks can also help you get much needed nutrients like iron or fiber, and often with fewer calories than milk.
These things mean that an overall dairy-free diet improves weight, insulin resistance, and overall body composition.
When you’re looking to gain muscle, you need help with two things: building muscle tissue and injury prevention. Incorporating more high-protein dairy-free snacks can do both. Ensuring you have a wide variety of amino acids in your diet will help your body build muscle more quickly and effectively.
Your muscles and ligaments are made up of different proteins, and incorporating different amino acids in your diet helps your body to build them. You especially need the nine essential amino acids. These are the compounds your body can’t make on its own and needs to obtain through food.
While a few plant-based proteins have all nine amino acids, most of them have an uneven balance of them. Pea protein, for instance, is high in arginine – which supports blood flow – but extremely low in methionine – which is the amino acid responsible for muscle repair.
The good news? High-protein dairy-free snacks that still include other animal products like eggs, meat, or fish are rich in methionine.
Managing allergies and lactose intolerance
As much as 65% of the adult human population is lactose intolerant, and some people don’t even realize it. Many lactose intolerant people can tolerate dairy fine when they’re still children.
As adults, they may not have linked the gassy stomach aches they occasionally get with dairy.
If you suspect you might be lactose intolerant, start by removing dairy from your diet and see what happens. High-protein dairy-free snacks can help you meet the same nutrition needs without the unpleasant side effects.
A milk allergy is not the same thing as lactose intolerance, and it is more commonly diagnosed in childhood than lactose intolerance.
Exploring a vegan lifestyle
More and more people are taking interest in a vegan lifestyle. Vegans only consume plants and plant-based foods – including protein. The need for high-protein dairy-free snacks is higher in a vegan diet, if only because it needs to be more deliberately considered.
Few plants contain protein, while every animal product is guaranteed to contain it. Ensuring you get a variety of plant-based proteins can allow you to explore new ways of eating without compromising your health.
You can also explore the vegan lifestyle without going fully vegan. Some people can’t be exclusively vegan due to certain health conditions. Animal proteins are richer than plant-based proteins in essential amino acids. And these amino acids are uniquely arranged to be easily digestible, allowing your body to access all the nutrients present.
Excluding most, but not all, animal products from your diet can allow you to access the benefits of animal proteins while getting the majority of your nourishment from plant-based foods.
So what are the best dairy-free protein snacks? Let’s take a look at 11 simple (but effective) options.
11 high-protein dairy-free snacks to try
Here are some simple high-protein dairy-free snacks to add to your routine:
Chickpeas are a powerful, versatile snack. They can be blended into hummus or roasted with any spices and flavors you like. Some companies have even made “guilt-free” cheese puffs packed with protein from chickpeas!
Chickpeas, sometimes called garbanzo beans, are high in fiber, iron, and B vitamins. These high-protein dairy-free snacks are also vegan, making them a great option for vegans who want to be sure they get enough iron in their diets!
2. Black beans
Another powerful vegan protein, black beans are great for dips or wrapping into compact burritos that pack a punch. When you’re eating black beans, make sure to include some kind of fat with your snack.
Black beans are high in fat-soluble vitamins, which means unlocking their full potential is as simple as including some avocado, olives, or oil in your recipes. Like chickpeas, black beans are high in fiber for gut health and blood sugar regulation.
Seeds are great high-protein dairy-free snacks in small quantities. There are many kinds of seeds, with sunflower and pumpkin seeds being the best for on-the-go snacks.
Different seeds are often high in different nutrients, but they’re all easy protein sources compact enough to fit in your pocket.
Seeds are also high in calories, so you’ll want to make sure you don’t eat more than a handful or so a day to stay on track with your fitness goals.
Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts…the list goes on and on. Nuts provide so many different options for dairy-free protein snacks, but, like seeds, they tend to be high in calories.
Nuts are great for giving you a quick boost, or eating alongside foods like fruits and veggies to add protein without making a meal of your snack.
With nuts and seeds, you’ll want to keep an eye on the sugar and sodium. Many brands add sugars and salts for flavor, which means even a small serving can have a shockingly high sugar or sodium content.
5. Dairy-free protein shakes
Giving up dairy doesn’t mean giving up the convenience of a protein shake! Dairy-free protein shakes can be made with any protein – not just whey protein. Soy, pea, and collagen protein are popular choices for dairy-free protein.
With soy and pea proteins, though, it’s important to remember that they’re missing or low in key amino acids that are plentiful in meats and fish. Use collagen protein to get all the animal protein benefits that vegan sources are missing.
You can also make sure to include animal proteins in other high-protein dairy-free snacks throughout your day, instead.
Tuna pouches don’t need refrigeration and, unlike nuts or seeds, are relatively low-calorie. Tuna is high in vitamin B12 and vitamin D, as well as a whole host of other vitamins and nutrients.
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to be concerned about the mercury content of tuna. While pregnant people and small children should limit consumption of tuna in any form, canned tuna is much lower in mercury than fresh tuna.
For the average person, a normal serving of tuna 1-2 times a week is completely safe.
7. Smoked salmon
Unlike most of the other options we’ve discussed so far, smoked salmon is one of the high-protein dairy-free snacks that typically requires refrigeration. This makes it great for people who work from home, since it’s still simple to prepare in between tasks.
Salmon is high in potassium and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a powerful support for heart and circulatory health.
Jerky is a great way to go when looking for high-protein dairy-free snacks. You can get jerky made of beef, chicken, and even fish, leaving plenty of room for variety.
Jerky can pack plenty of protein but is also very high in sodium, making it best as an occasional snack rather than an everyday one. However, jerky’s easy availability and relatively low cost make it a great snack when you’re in a pinch.
Eggs are incredibly cost-effective and can be cooked in many different ways, though hard boiled is by far the easiest way to keep a supply of eggs available for swift snacks. Eggs contain all of the amino acids, even ones that other sources of protein can be low in.
While eggs do require refrigeration, you can also use them in baked goods alongside other sources of protein to make them more portable.
10. Deli meats
Deli meats can often function as part of a snack or a meal, and they’re easy to keep on hand. Cured meats like pepperoni or summer sausage may not even need refrigeration.
However, these snacks are always very high in sodium and often contain other added ingredients. You’ll want to read labels on any meats you plan to incorporate into your regular snack rotation.
11. Collagen protein shots
Collagen protein powder is great for mixing into other snacks, but when it comes to snacks on the go, a liquid collagen protein shot is one of the best high-protein dairy-free snacks out there.
Frog Fuel’s collagen protein shots are true powerhouses of nutrition, allowing you to get all the essential amino acids you need to perform at your best, as well as a boost of natural energy, all with 0 sugar and only 60 calories.
Making high-protein snacks easy
No matter what kind of protein you choose for your high-protein dairy-free snacks, there’s one thing they should all have in common: Your snacks should involve little to no prep.
One of the easiest things about dairy protein is how simple it is to snack on. Cheese, yogurt, and even whey protein mean that dairy is always close at hand.
For many people, though, dairy protein is simply not worth it. If your health and fitness journey includes cutting out dairy, you still have options. You can access the benefits of animal protein without dairy’s more unpleasant side effects.
To be successful at switching to dairy-free snacks, make sure that your chosen snack is easy to incorporate into your routine. If you’re used to cutting cheese into cubes or shaking up a protein shake, find dairy-free alternatives that are just as simple.
Or even better, find snacks that you can slip into your duffle bag for before or after a workout with no prep needed at all.
Frog Fuel’s liquid protein shots make a great high-protein dairy-free snack. The single-serve pouches allow you to take them on the go, and you don’t need to mix them with anything to enjoy them.
With your simple dairy-free protein snacks planned, you’ll be ready to maintain (or even boost) your protein intake in a way that works for your body.