30 Cheap Protein Sources You Need in Your Alpha-gal Diet

A carton containing six brown eggs is placed on a weathered wooden surface.

Do you struggle to find cheap protein sources that work with your alpha-gal diet? I've got the lowdown on budget-friendly, protein-packed options that will keep you strong and satisfied.

The information provided on this site is based on my personal experience living with alpha-gal syndrome. I consistently cite and link to expert sources, but nothing published on this site should be perceived as medical advice.

Alpha-gal sensitivities vary by person. You should understand your dietary restrictions, making any adjustments needed, and directing any questions to your physician.

When I was first diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome, my doctor advised me to immediately cut all mammalian products from my diet, including dairy. My protein levels plummeted like a pebble tossed into the Grand Canyon. My hair started falling out by the handfuls, and I needed a two-hour nap after walking up a flight of stairs. I felt like a smartphone with 1% battery life, constantly on the verge of shutting down.

Thankfully, my doctor ran some blood tests to identify the problem. Now, I know how crucial it is to keep an eye on protein intake. Not only does it help you feel full and energized, but it’s a necessary part of a healthy diet.

But let’s face it — food is expensive. It feels like everything is more expensive every time I go to the grocery store! And we alpha gals have much fewer options than the average omnivorous American. Fortunately, there are many cheap protein sources that you can enjoy on an alpha-gal diet.

Eggs in a carton, legumes including red and green options, a jar of mixed nuts, and a scoop of protein powder arranged to illustrate cheap protein sources.

    

In This Article

Two hands holding a green bowl filled with several brown eggs.
Photo Credit: Louis Hansel via Unsplash.

Eggs

Eggs are like friends who always show up when you need them—reliable, versatile, and packed with goodness. They’re loaded with essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and choline, which support everything from your bones to your brain.

You can add eggs to your alpha-gal diet in several ways: scrambled for breakfast, boiled for a snack, poached on a salad, or baked into a quiche. You can also add eggs into casseroles, muffins, and stir-fries for added protein and flavor. “You can easily add egg whites to oatmeal or baked goods. And, they are more protein-dense than eggs themselves,” shares Shelby from Fit As A Mama Bear.

A wooden table holds an assortment of bread, pasta, grains, and flour, with wheat stalks in the background. A banner below reads "Cheap Protein Sources.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are budget-friendly and packed with nutrition. They are an affordable source of fiber and protein which helps you feel full longer. Quinoa is one of my favorites because it’s a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids your body needs. It’s the superfood equivalent of a guy named “Tiny” who turns out ot be 6’5” tall! Quinoa is great in salads, breakfast dishes, and even desserts.

Oats keep your heart happy with soluble fiber, while buckwheat (despite its misleading name) is gluten-free and rich in protein and antioxidants. Barley and brown rice are fantastic for sustained energy, and bulgur wheat is a quick-cooking gem for hearty meals. Incorporating these grains can help with weight management and digestive health.

Assortment of Legumes -- Beans and Lentils
Photo Credit: Canva.

Legumes

Legumes are a nutritious and versatile choice. They offer plant-based protein that’s also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also economical, making them one of the most inexpensive sources of protein for any diet.

Lentils are incredibly affordable and don’t require soaking, making them super convenient. They come in various colors like green, brown, and red, each with unique flavors and cooking times. Lentils contain protein, fiber, and essential vitamins like folate and iron. Split peas are great for soups and are a mainstay in Indian cuisine, adding texture and flavor to dishes like dal.

Beans are a staple worldwide, known for their versatility, protein, fiber content, and long shelf life. At our house, black beans can step up to just about any culinary challenge. They are a fantastic addition to salads, soups, and alpha-gal friendly tacos. They are the Swiss Army knife of the bean world.

Chickpeas are another excellent choice in this category. “Chickpeas are an extremely versatile and cheap protein source, especially when you buy them dry and in bulk,” explains Shruthi Baskaran-Makanju of Urban Farmie. “You can find chickpeas in every cuisine and make anything from falafels to curries, or even roast them and use them instead of croutons on a salad.” Aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas, can be used as a vegan egg substitute in baking. Moreover, legumes provide heart health benefits due to their high fiber content, which helps lower cholesterol levels.

Assortment of Nuts
Photo Credit: Canva.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are cheap protein sources that are nutrient-dense and provide a convenient source of essential nutrients to enhance various dishes. Peanuts, peanut butter, almond butter, and other nut butters are high in protein and healthy fats, perfect for spreading on toast or adding to smoothies.

Chia and flaxseeds, rich in omega-3s, can be used in baking or as toppings. Pumpkin seeds, loaded with protein, magnesium, and zinc, are perfect roasted for salads or snacks. Their nutrients are crucial in immune function, muscle health, and energy production. Hemp seeds are another powerhouse, packed with protein, omega-3s, and minerals, making them a great addition to smoothies, salads, or yogurt.

Nut and seed milk, like almond and flaxseed, are great dairy substitutes in smoothies and cereals. Seed flours can replace grain flours in baking and thicken soups and sauces, though recipes may need liquid adjustments. Incorporating a variety of nuts and seeds into your diet can provide essential vitamins and minerals that support overall health and well-being.

Sage Advice: Do you have a nut allergy on top of alpha-gal? Talk about a double whammy! Why don’t you give sunflower seeds a try? You can add them to a smoothie for extra protein or sprinkle them on salads for added crunch. You can even make or buy sunflower seed butter as an alternative to peanut or almond butter.

A selection of budget-friendly protein sources, including soybeans, tofu, soy milk, edamame, and soy sauce on a wooden table. Text reads "Cheap Protein Sources.

Soy Products

Soy products are high-protein, budget-friendly choices that can easily replace meat and dairy in many recipes. Tofu, known for its ability to soak up flavors, is incredibly versatile — pan-fry, bake, or scramble it. Tofu is like a blank canvas for your alpha-gal friendly culinary masterpiece.

Tempeh, made from fermented soybeans, has a nutty taste and firm texture. It’s excellent pan-fried, tossed into stir-fries, or stuffed into sandwiches. Soy milk is full of protein and other nutrients, working well in smoothies, cereal, or as a dairy substitute for baking. Edamame, fresh soybeans, are perfect when steamed, eaten as a snack, or added to salads and bowls. Incorporating soy products into your diet can provide a fantastic source of plant-based protein, which benefits alpha gals, vegetarians, and vegans.

A close-up of a partially sliced jackfruit showing its yellow flesh and seeds. Below is a banner that reads "Cheap Protein Sources" with a heart symbol.

Plant-Based Alternatives

In addition to soy products, other plant-based protein alternatives are affordable and nutritious. Seitan is a high-protein meat substitute made from wheat gluten. Because its texture is similar to meat, it’s a great meatless option for stir-fries, sandwiches, or grilling.

Jackfruit is another plant-based option that, while not high in protein, has a texture similar to pulled pork and can be used in various savory dishes. It’s a versatile fruit that can be seasoned to mimic the flavors of meat.

Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, is a superfood incredibly rich in protein and other essential nutrients. For an extra nutrient boost, add it to smoothies and juices or sprinkle it on salads.

Incorporating a variety of plant-based alternatives into your diet can provide a diverse range of nutrients and add exciting new flavors and textures to your meals.

A woman pouring a scoop of protein powder into a shaker
Photo Credit: Canva.

Protein Powder

If you’re an alpha-gal who can tolerate dairy, whey protein powder is a top choice for muscle recovery after a workout. It gets into your system quickly, making it perfect for right after exercise. If you can’t consume whey, don’t worry! There are plenty of plant-based options.

Soy protein is a solid pick for alpha-gals, vegetarians, and vegans because it’s a complete protein source, it’s heart healthy and helps you maintain muscle mass. Pea protein is another excellent option, offering a protein boost without the dairy. My favorite? The line of plant-based protein from Orgain.

I like to add a scoop of it to everything from my morning oatmeal to a batch of cookies for an extra dose of protein. For snacks, protein powder is perfect for making energy bites or bars. Blending it into your coffee or smoothies can also keep you full longer. Protein powders offer a convenient and versatile way to meet your daily protein needs, especially for those with busy lifestyles.

Raw Chicken Breast on Cutting Board
Photo Credit: Canva.

Poultry

Poultry is an excellent source of lean protein that we alpha gals know well. Chicken thighs are juicy and versatile, perfect for grilling, baking, or adding to stews. My go-to substitute for ground beef is ground chicken. This lean protein is great for burgers, casseroles, and meatloaf.

Turkey is another fabulous, affordable protein. Ground turkey is a low-fat alternative to beef-based burgers and meatballs (although I prefer ground chicken because it tastes less gamey.) The richer flavor of turkey makes turkey drumsticks great for slow cooking or roasting.

Fish and Seafood
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Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood are often overlooked as budget-friendly protein sources — especially if you live in one of the most landlocked states in the country, like I do here in Kansas. Sometimes, I feel like I’m closer to the moon than I am to fresh fish and seafood. However, many affordable options are both nutritious and delicious.

Canned salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for heart health. Use this versatile, affordable protein in salads, sandwiches, or salmon patties.

Tilapia, cod, and pollock are other budget-friendly white fish options that are mild in flavor and can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried. These fish are low in fat and high in protein, making them a healthy addition to your meal rotation.

A plastic bag filled with frozen shrimp inside a freezer.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Frozen and Canned Foods

Once thawed, frozen fish is a wallet-friendly source of high-quality protein that you can bake or grill. Canned tuna is loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making it great for salads, toasts, or pasta dishes like a classic tuna noodle casserole.

Canned chicken is versatile — just look for cans without preservatives. It’s delicious in salads, casseroles, or mixed with cauliflower rice. Frozen and canned foods can be a mealtime lifesaver, ready to swoop in and save dinner at a moment’s notice without compromising flavor or nutrition.

A variety of cheeses and bottles of milk are displayed on a rustic wooden surface, with cows grazing in a green, hilly field in the background. White and yellow flowers are arranged in the foreground.
Photo Credit: YayImages.

Dairy Products

If you are an alpha-gal who can tolerate dairy foods, products like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and cheese are affordable proteins and an excellent source of bone-building calcium. Cottage cheese is rich in protein, making it a smart choice for a nutrient boost. Greek yogurt is known for its protein density and is a healthy pick. A typical serving can pack up to 15-20 grams of protein, making it a fantastic option for those looking to increase their intake. It’s often lower in sugar than regular yogurt and offers beneficial probiotics for gut health.

Cheeses like mozzarella, cheddar, and ricotta add a range of flavors to your diet without breaking the bank. You can incorporate these cheeses into a variety of dishes, from sandwiches and salads to casseroles and pasta. For a quick and nutritious snack, pair cottage cheese with fresh fruit or add Greek yogurt to your morning smoothie for an extra protein kick.

Alpha-Gal Friendly Protein on a Budget

Adding different proteins to your meals doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. This article includes some of the cheapest sources of alpha-gal friendly proteins that are both healthy and fit any budget. By incorporating these affordable protein sources into your weekly meal plan, you can ensure a balanced and varied diet that meets all your nutritional needs without straining your wallet.

What’s Your Favorite Alpha-Gal Friendly Protein?

What’s your go-to source of affordable protein? Is there anything missing from this list? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Portions of this article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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