5 Protein Trends to Watch in 2017

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

The benefits of protein cannot be overstated.

As WebMD explains, protein is a key component of every cell in your body. Protein helps build and repair tissues. It’s used to make enzymes, hormones and other chemicals in your body. Our bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood also rely heavily on protein.

Protein-rich sardine toast with parsley and dill

Given protein’s all-important status, your body can’t run without it, just like a car can’t run without fuel.

So in the quest for protein-rich foods, we sometimes crave alternatives beyond the tried-and-true options like milk, yogurt, eggs, chicken, turkey and nuts. Well, we’ve come to the rescue if you’re hoping to get out of your protein rut. Here are five protein trends to watch – and try – in 2017 (or even right now).

1. Sardines

These tiny fish pack a big protein punch. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 3.75 ounces of Atlantic sardine canned in oil delivers a whopping 23 grams of protein.

“Consumers continue to fish for protein-rich snacks. Recent interest in Basque cuisine and the rise of Portugal as the newest destination for culinary and global exploration will drive sardines to the forefront,” Sterling-Rice Group, an advertising agency, says in its forecast of culinary trends for 2017.

Sterling-Rice Group says sardines served on toast with lemon, garlic and aioli “make for an uncomplicated yet elegant addition to any snacking situation.”

2. Goat

Sterling-Rice Group suggests banishing the bone broth in favor of goat, which supplies a high level of interstitial collagen, the same beneficial stuff you find in bone broth. The USDA says 3 ounces of roasted goat serves up 23 grams of protein – protein that Sterling-Rice Group points out is low in calories, fat and cholesterol.

“There’s a reason that 63 percent of the world is gaga for goat – it makes a great foundation for spicy and sour preparations, can be kosher and halal, and is sustainable to raise,” Sterling-Rice Group says.

3. Bean- and lentil-based pasta

Registered dietitian nutritionist Lauren Harris-Pincus, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com, says bean- and lentil-based pastas are “huge.”

“Not only are they gluten-free, but contain significantly more protein and fiber than whole wheat pasta with the cholesterol-lowering benefits of beans,” Harris-Pincus says.

One cup of cooked bean-based pasta, for instance, provides 20 to 25 grams of protein, compared with 2 to 3 grams of protein in one-third of a cup of cooked grain-based pasta, according to Perfectly Produce, which sells weight loss and lifestyle programs.

4. Tempeh

Never heard of it? It’s a soy-based protein in the same family as tofu.

Claire Siegel, lead registered dietitian at Snap Kitchen, an Austin, Texas-based chain of shops that prepare healthy ready-to-go meals, emphasizes the benefits of tempeh.

Siegel says tempeh “seamlessly” substitutes for chicken, thanks to its hearty texture and savory flavor. A 3-ounce serving features 16 grams of protein, she says.

“Because it’s fermented, it’s higher in protein, vitamins and fiber than its tofu cousin,” Siegel says.

5. Venison

Capitalizing on a growing interest in venison – otherwise known as deer meat – the Arby’s fast-food chain has rolled out a limited-time line of venison sandwiches being sold at 17 restaurants in six deer-hunting states.

“We’re a brand that’s not afraid to take risks and while the venison sandwich is probably the biggest stretch for us yet, it’s incredibly delicious and we can’t wait to get it in the hands of our guests,” Rob Lynch, chief marketing officer at Arby’s, said in an Oct. 26 announcement.

Kim Brauer, a chef at Marx Foods, an artisanal grocer in Seattle, says she’s seen an uptick in sales of venison, as people hunt for new sources of healthy protein. The USDA says 3 ounces of roasted venison contains 26 grams of protein.

“In the U.S., many of us have eaten gamey and poorly prepared wild-shot venison,” Brauer says. “As folks try the milder and tastier farm-raised version, they’re sticking with it and really enjoying it.”