Protein may have a rep as a total dude food, but it’s a nutrient everyone needs. Not only does it improve your mood, but it also fuels your workout, signals your body to burn fat, and keeps muscles looking toned. (Um, yes to all of the above please.)
Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp founder and star nutritionist Ariane Hundt preaches the power of protein to her clients. She recommends eating 20 grams of protein five times a day, whether you’re looking to maintain your weight, lose pounds, or gain muscle mass. “One-hundred grams of protein is an average number,” says Hundt. “It’s a moderate protein diet.”
But hitting that number is not always a piece of cake (or steak). “Vegetarians or vegans have to rely on soy, beans, grains, and protein powder to make it work,” she says. We picked Hundt’s brain to get ideas for simple, protein-packed dishes—for vegans and carnivores alike—to make it easy to hit your protein quota. —Amy Eley and Melisse Gelula
Originally posted February 1, 2013 updated May 11, 2016.
Kale & Tofu Salad (17g)
“Finding protein sources that are not from animal sources is a challenge,” admits Hundt. But it’s one you can conquer with this kale and tofu salad. It literally takes less than five minutes to throw together, making it an easy go-to during the a.m. lunch packing rush.
Raw kale (4g)
1/4 cup avocado (1g)
Diced baked tofu (9g)
Quinoa and lentils together in this dish deliver a one-two protein punch. Plus, it’s definitely Instagram-worthy.
1 cup French green lentils (18g)
1 bay leaf (less than 1g)
1 sprig of thyme (less than 1g)
1 garlic clove (less than 1g)
1/4 onion (less than 1g)
2 Tbsp coconut oil (0g)
1 shallot (0g)
1 celery rib (less than 1g)
1 carrot (1g)
1/2 cup red quinoa (4g)
1 cup vegetable stock (5g)
1 lb cauliflower (8g)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (less than 1g)
1/3 chopped Marcona almonds (6g)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Plant-Protein Smoothie (16g)
1 handful of spinach (1g)
1/2 cup blueberries (0g)
1 scoop of Vega One Protein Powder (15g)
Lentils are packed with protein, and cauliflower amps it up even more. This salad is simple—but will fill you up.
Roasted cauliflower steak (7g)
5 kale leaves, washed and shredded (4g)
1/2 red onion, skin on, cut into wedges (less than 1g)
7oz (almost one full cup) cherry tomatoes on the vine (1g)
1 cup puy lentils, cooked (12g)
3 Tbsp olive oil (0g)
Juice of 1/2 lemon (0g)
1 clove of garlic, minced (0g)
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme (0g)
Sea salt (0g)
Freshly ground black pepper (0g)
Grilled Salmon with Broccoli (22g)
To hit 20gs, Hundt recommends choosing a piece of fish that’s the size and thickness of your palm. And bonus: This duo is easy enough to prepare on a busy weekday night.
3-4 oz. grilled Salmon (19g)
1 cup broccoli (3g)
Tuna Sashimi (21g)
Eating out? Skip the flimsy carbohydrates from white rice in your maki rolls and order the sashimi at your fave sushi place.
Three 1-oz pieces of tuna sashimi (21g)
Oatmeal with Blueberries (22.5g)
Oatmeal and almond milk are enough to hit your protein goal, and fresh blueberries add a delicious sweetness. But FYI, Hunt recommends no more than 10 blueberries to moderate sugar intake.
2/3 cup of steel-cut oats (19g)
10 blueberries (1g)
1/2 cup of almond milk (2.5g)
Egg Salad (37.5g)
Instead of mayo in your egg salad, this recipe uses Greek yogurt for a healthy (yet tangy) higher protein lunch.
4 hard boiled eggs, shell removed (24g)
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (4.5g)
1/3 cup white onion, minced (1g)
2 celery stalks, chopped fine (less that 1g)
1 Tbsp dijon mustard (0g)
1/4 tsp minced garlic (less than 1g)
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped (1g)
1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste) (0g)
Pepper (less than 1g)
4 large romaine leaves (4g)
In this sandwich wrap, collard greens serve as your “tortilla.” Spread your favorite hummus over the greens and roll it up.
Collard greens (4g)
2 Tbsp roasted red pepper hummus (2g)
1 handful of shredded carrots (0g)
1/4 sliced green pepper (less than 1g)
1/4 sliced avocado (less than 1g)
5 cherry tomatoes (less than 1g)
3 oz chicken breast (24g)
Pinto beans are packed with protein. Sprinkle an ounce of grated Parmesan (1g) on this dish for a little extra protein pow.
2 cups pinto beans (30g)
1/4 chopped red onion (less than 1g)
1/2 poblano pepper, cut lengthwise and then cut in half (less than 1g)
1 Anaheim pepper, cut lengthwise and then cut in half (2g)
1 red jalapeno pepper, seeded, cut lengthwise and cut in half (less than 1g)
3 stems of green curly kale, roughly chopped (9g)
6 cups water (0g)
4 Tbsp spicy chorizo (0g)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (0g)
1 Tbsp salt (0g)
1/2 tsp cumin (1g)
Hundt suggests choosing low-sodium, low-fat cottage cheese for this easy protein breakfast.
3/4 cup small curd cottage cheese (20g)
Sliced apples (0g)
Dash of cinnamon (0g)
This recipe uses protein-rich white beans, kale, and cheese to totally transform the classic quesadillas you’re used to. And the BBQ dip adds a nice kick without being spicy. The below recipe is for two servings, but you’ll meet that protein goal easily with one.
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (0g)
1 shallot, minced (less than 1g)
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (6g)
5 leaves Tuscan kale, stems removed and cut into thin strips (3g)
2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (66g)
2 whole wheat 10 inch tortillas (14g)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (3g)
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce (less than 1g)
This one is perfect on a hot day, when the last thing you want to do is heat up the kitchen. Bonus: It only takes 15 minutes to make.
For the Collard Wraps:
1 large sweet potato, roasted and mashed (2g)
2 cups cauliflower rice of choice (5g)
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced (1g)
4 collard leaves, trimmed and shaved (8g)
Ginger Almond Butter Sauce:
1/4 cup creamy almond butter (13g)
2 tsp pure maple syrup (0g)
1 1/3 cup +Tbsp light coconut milk (6g)
1 Tbsp lime juice (less than 1g)
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated (less than 1g)
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