Protein keeps us fuller longer, speeds up the metabolism, and helps the body build and maintain muscle. Protein helps your body repair and is also essential as an energy source – which is why it’s critical that we get enough protein from high-quality food sources. Muscle mass declines as we age — and recent studies have shown that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 50 don’t get enough protein.
The good news is: There are lots of simple ways to increase your protein intake without changing your diet drastically. Protein isn’t just found in meat, seafood, eggs, legumes, and dairy products. Protein is also found, in smaller amounts, in some fruits (bananas, guava, avocado, blackberries, kiwi); vegetables (corn, asparagus, mushrooms, kale); and whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta).
Once you decide to incorporate more protein into your diet, it can be difficult to find the desire or motivation to cook. But home-cooking is generally the healthier alternative compared to take-out or restaurant dining. In honor of March being Nutrition Month, here are two easy recipes to make in your own kitchen, perfect for lunch (or anytime) – which are packed with protein.
Veggie and Hummus Sandwich
- 2 slices whole grain bread
- 3 teaspoons prepared hummus
- ¼ ripe avocado, mashed
- ½ cup salad greens
- ¼ medium red bell pepper, sliced
- ¼ cup sliced cucumber
- ¼ cup shredded carrots
- Optional: Boost the protein by adding sliced turkey or chicken.
Spread one slice of bread with hummus and the other with avocado. Fill the sandwich with greens, bell pepper, cucumber and carrot. Slice in half and serve.
Serving Size: 1 sandwich
Per Serving: 325 calories; protein 12.8g; carbohydrates 39.7g; dietary fiber 12.1g; sugars 6.8g; fat 14.3g; saturated fat 2.2g; vitamin A 6388.1IU; vitamin c 49.8mg; folate 171.1mcg; calcium 107.8mg; iron 3.4mg; magnesium 105.3mg; potassium 746.3mg; sodium 407mg; thiamin 0.3mg; added sugar 2g.
Chopped Salad with Chickpeas, Olives, and Feta
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 15 ounce can of no-salt-added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup diced cucumber
- 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
- ¼ cup halved and pitted Kalamata olives
- ¼ cup crumbled feta
- Optional: Boost the protein by topping with shredded chicken.
Whisk oil, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, onion, olives, and feta; toss to coat.
Serving Size: about 1 cup
Per Serving: 256 calories; fat 14g; cholesterol 8mg; sodium 495mg; carbohydrates 24g; dietary fiber 5g; protein 9g; sugars 3g; niacin equivalents 1mg; saturated fat 3g; vitamin A 808IU; potassium 372mg.