For everyday lunching, whatever amount of protein you're getting is probably fine. But if you're trying to build muscle, or if you want to keep your protein intake high while losing weight, it can be hard to work enough of the stuff into your diet without chugging down gross smoothies. Don't worry, I'm here to help.
Photo by libsciterp.
Protein isn't hard to find; the trick is finding dishes that are high in protein without being high in all your other nutrients as well. A bowl of quinoa, for example, has a good amount of protein but also tons of carbs. So the items on this list are all mostly protein and you can combine them with other foods as you like.
Sous Vide Chicken Breasts
I'm sorry to everyone out there who doesn't have an immersion circulator, because this is the best way to cram a ton of protein down your gullet while feeling like you're eating a gourmet meal (because you are).
Frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts may not be the sexiest piece of meat on the market, but there's no denying their convenience and affordability. Though they lack pizzazz on their own, you can jazz 'em up without too much trouble. Honestly, my biggest chicken challenge was never getting them to taste good, but remembering to take them out of the freezer the night before I intended to cook them.
Here's my recipe: I stick a bunch of frozen breasts in a baggie with olive oil, some chopped garlic, a generous sprinkling of salt and any optional seasonings that strike my fancy. I cook it at 60°C for two hours, and then I've got a supply of succulent chicken for the week. I either eat it straight, or use the slices in sandwiches, salads, or rice bowls.
Protein Drinks That Aren't Milkshakes
You can definitely throw a few scoops of protein powder into a giant milkshake style smoothie with yoghurt, juice, fruit, honey, peanut butter and everything else in your kitchen that's delicious. But then you're eating a meal, or often more accurately, a dessert.
On the flip side, some people will just mix protein powder with water, and if you enjoy that (or can choke it down), more power to you. I can't. So I do one of these:
- Make protein milk. Skim milk is the perfect vehicle for whey powder, either unflavored (my preference) or chocolate or vanilla. An 220g cup of skim milk contains 9g of protein and 12g of carbs, so you get a protein boost without adding too much else.
- Try collagen tea. Collagen powder isn't any better for your skin or nails than regular protein powders (sorry), so there's no need to rush out and buy some. But it mixes invisibly into drinks, including coffee and tea. Take a sip and you don't really detect any difference in taste or texture; you're just drinking a cup of good tea that happens to have 20g of protein in it. (Pro tip: this works with any drink, including alcoholic ones. My can of collagen powder came with a recipe for collagen martinis.)
Plant-based foods aren't as protein dense as some of their animal-derived counterparts, but I'm not going to forget my vegetarian and vegan friends here. Legumes are great sources of protein, including soybeans and their most famous brick-shaped by-product, tofu.
I buy the firmest tofu I can find, and sometimes I'll also press the moisture out first. Then I heat up some oil in a pan while I slice the tofu into little blocks or strips.
For many recipes, firm tofu requires pressure to squeeze out the moisture. Pouring boiled salt water over the tofu gives you similar results in a fraction of the time.
Fry the strips on both sides, and you'll have beautifully crispy little nuggets that you can dip into any sauce you like.
Chickpeas Two Ways
There are about 25g of protein in a can of chickpeas and if you have the right recipe you can eat the whole can at once. (Do you like chickpeas? I like chickpeas. These recipes may not be appropriate for people who do not like chickpeas.)
For a quick chickpea salad, combine drained chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and a hefty sprinkle of Parmesan cheese (or if you're keeping this vegan, try nutritional yeast.) If you want a lower fat dish, keep the oil and cheese to a minimum.
Or, roast the chickpeas instead: toss them with a smidge of oil plus some salt and seasoning (21 seasoning is great again here, or try a little cumin and cayenne.) Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200°C and you'll have a crispy protein snack.