8 Healthy Proteins (Slideshow)

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From lean meats to legumes and eggs, healthy proteins are an essential part of a balanced diet

Beans

As with most food groups, some are better than others. Keri Gans suggests black beans if you want a real protein boost. Gans says “A cup of black beans has eight grams of protein, more than lentils.”

Recipe Ideas: Warm up during the cold months with a bowl of black bean soup. Start with vegetable broth and a can of crushed tomatoes, then add the beans, carrots, and other veggies.

Chicken

Chicken is, of course, a well-known healthy protein, and sometimes known as boring. “But chicken doesn’t have to be bland,” says our health expert, Keri Gans. She says “just to make sure not to fry chicken, and if you must bread your cutlets, to bake them. Most of the unhealthy fat in chicken comes from the skin.”

Recipe Ideas: Add some flavor to chicken with a toss of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and top with mushrooms.  

Eggs

Eggs are one of the world’s wonder foods. Known to be a healthy fat and protein, Shemek and Gans praise its versatility from scrambled to hard-boiled. “Make sure to eat the whole egg—yolk and all—to get the full protein benefits,” says Gans.

Recipe Idea: Dress up the traditional deviled egg with a shrimp filling.


Edamame

One half a cup of edamame actually contains eleven grams of protein. This Japanese peanut or soybean is also high in fiber. All soybeans actually contain a plethora of healthy components like carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin K.

Recipe Ideas: Mostly used a side dish at Japanese restaurants or as a snack, make edamame center stage at lunch with a salad. Mix in corn, onions, a sprinkling of feta cheese, garlic, and olive oil to create a colorful and sustaining lunch.

Lean Beef

“Contrary to popular belief, red meat is not unhealthy — it just has more saturated fats than a lot of other proteins,” said Keri Gans. Stick to lean cuts of beef like sirloin, filet mignon, and flank steak. Shemek adds that lean beef can actual promote a healthy heart, and to remember to keep all red meat intake in moderation.

Recipe Ideas: Forgo the heavy burger and grill up some steak and bell pepper tacos. 

Quinoa

It may be a trendy grain, but according to Lori Shemek, “Quinoa is actually a grain loaded with protein, fiber and magnesium.” Make a main dish by throwing in some sautéed chicken, or use it in place of rice or pasta as a side dish.

Recipe Ideas: It may be the time of the year, but soups just seem so appealing at the moment! Make an unusual chicken-quinoa soup using chicken broth, broccoli, shredded rotisserie chicken, and add some Cajun seasoning for a little more heat.

Turkey

We tend to only think of turkey during the month of November, but Shemek says she likes to eat this bird all year. “Turkey is a super food, and shouldn’t cause any diet problems, so unless you have excess carbs in your diet, we’re good to go,” said Shemek.

Recipe Ideas: Turkey is a great substitute for fattier beef, and ground turkey can be used to make meatloaf, chili, and even the well-known turkey burger. 

Fish

Fish is a great place to start for healthy proteins, packed with those Omega 3’s. Keri Gans, nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet says that her favorite varieties are salmon and shrimp. Shrimp is low in calories and therefore can be consumed in larger portions. Shemek said “an underrated fish is Arctic char, a salmon-like fish extremely high in protein.”

Recipe Ideas: Add some zest to a plain fish like Arctic char with spices like rosemary, garlic, and lemon