A couple of years ago, I could never have imagined a life without meat. However, after watching a few too many food documentaries, cutting meat entirely from my diet wasn't too difficult of an endeavor, especially after knowing how much better for the planet and healthier for your body a plant-based diet is.

I've been a vegetarian for almost a year now and couldn't be happier with my decision to go completely meat-free. However, living in Mexico for five months as a vegetarian was a real challenge. No one seemed to understand the concept. Even if you'd ask for your food sin carne, or without meat, there would always still be a chunk or two of chicken in it, which drove me absolutely nuts, especially while traveling when cooking for myself wasn't an option.

That being said, cooking your own food makes vegetarianism a whole lot easier with an array of protein-rich plants to choose from. Below is a list of the best plant protein sources you can always feel good about eating if you're trying to cut back on meat. 

1. Lentils

Tara Shooshani

A member of the legume family, lentils are a low-fat source of protein, and also a good source of fiber and potassium. 26 percent of lentils' calories come from protein. One cup of cooked lentils has about 18 grams of protein in it, which is about as much protein as a burger.

Lentils may not seem like the most exciting food to eat, but there are plenty of ways to spice up your lentil intake and fill your body with the protein it needs to function. Its high protein levels and other great nutritional benefits make for the perfect vegetarian-friendly dinner for just about anyone. 

2. Black Beans

Angela Kerndl

Black beans are another high-protein food. Not only are they full of protein, but they also contain iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc, which all contribute to the maintenance of healthy bones. There are so many ways to eat this mighty bean;among them is my favorite black bean veggie burger of all time created by yours truly. This black bean burger packs quinoa (another protein-rich plant source on the list), sweet potatoes, and black beans all in between two buns for a delicious vegan dinner. There are about 15 grams of protein per one cup of cooked black beans. 

3. Chickpeas

Angela Kerndl

That's right, hummus AKA the love of my life, is made from this protein-rich plant source. One cup of chickpeas contains a whole 14.5 grams of protein. Originally grown in the Mediterranean and Middle East, this bean is gaining popularity all over the world for its numerous health benefits. Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are an excellent source of fiber and carbohydrates. Potential health benefits include helping maintain low blood pressure, support heart health, and promote healthy digestion

4. Hemp Seeds

Alina Yu

Hemp seeds may be small, but their health benefits are incredible. Each serving contains about 9 grams of protein. Hemp seeds aid in digestion, may reduce symptoms of PMS, help keep the heart healthy, relieve stress, and can even improve skin. Hemp seeds are super easy to throw in a smoothie or yogurt to add an extra kick. 

5. Quinoa 

Julie Goldstein

Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that contains all nine essential amino acids.There is about 8 grams of protein per serving. Not only is it high in protein, but it also contains tons of fiber, magnesium, B-vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants. You can enjoy this nutrient-loaded grain in a salad, stew, or just on its own.

6. Tofu

Judy Holtz

I'll be honest, I've never actually tried tofu because it always sort of freaked me out, but there certainly plenty of recipes to help you get over your fear of eating this nutrient-packed block of soy. Tofu contains about 8 grams of protein per serving. This versatile food is also a great source of amino acids, iron, calcium, and other micro-nutrients

7. Peanuts/ Peanut butter

Angela Kerndl

The middle school PB&J I ate every day that makes me sick to think about now was actually pretty beneficial to my health. Luckily there are plenty more ways to eat peanut butter that won't bore you to death. Peanut butter has 7 grams of protein per serving.

8. Almonds

Angela Kerndl

Almonds are a pretty high-calorie snack, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Every serving (about 3 tablespoons), contains about 6 grams of protein. They're also loaded with healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, and Vitamin E.

Munch on them plain or add them to some trail mix. Either way, eating almonds can reduce your hunger and lead to an overall lower calorie intake and have been found to be effective for weight loss.

9. Steel Cut Oats

Angela Kerndl

Steel cut oats are rich in protein, fiber, and iron. Steel cut oats contain 5 grams of protein per serving. There are an endless amount of oatmeal recipes to try with these oats.

10. Chia Seeds

Kristine Mahan

Chia seeds are another thing I'm obsessed with. No matter what I eat for breakfast, whether it's a smoothie or a yogurt parfait or overnight oats, a few spoonfuls of chia seeds always make their way into my diet. They're another protein rich food with just over 4 grams of protein per serving. They're also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants and have been shown to lower blood pressure and aid in weight loss

Being a vegetarian no longer has to be an impossible feat, with all the protein-rich plants available. By cutting back on meat, you'll be reducing your carbon footprint all while improving your health.