Are you looking for high-protein recipe ideas that are easy and delicious but align with your health goals?
As a dietitian nutritionist, I am always on the lookout for new recipes to try in my own life as well as to help my clients!
Protein supports your hormonal and metabolic health, promoting weight loss and improving insulin resistance.
So, in today’s blog, I will bring you the benefits of protein and why I search for high-protein recipes as a women’s health dietitian. I also include 10 of my favorite high-protein recipe ideas!
Pst… if you want to use real foods and a functional medicine approach to support your long-term health, I would love to connect with you. Book a free strategy call so we can explore whether private coaching is a good fit for you!
What is Protein?
Protein is an integral part of pretty much every system in your body. It is used to make hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and your muscles, and it is even in your hair and skin.
Protein is made up of amino acids, which come together to form a string making up the protein molecule.
There are 20 unique types of amino acids in two different forms.
- Essential amino acids: These are not made by the body and must be eaten in your diet.
- Non Essential amino acids: These your body can make on its own.
Because of the two different types of amino acids, a protein is either considered complete or incomplete. Complete proteins contain all of your essential amino acids, while incomplete only contain some.
What Foods Contain Protein?
A variety of foods contain protein. Most of the complete sources of protein are found in animal products, including:
- Dairy products
There are also protein sources readily available for vegans or vegetarians, known as plant-based proteins. These protein sources contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids, so they are considered incomplete proteins.
These foods include:
Since plant-based protein options are not complete proteins, it is important for vegans or vegetarians to eat complementary proteins. This means that when eaten together, the two food sources create a complete protein source.
Examples include grains and legumes and nuts and seeds.
What’s the Big Deal with Protein?
As mentioned, protein has many crucial roles in your body. The most common role is for muscle development. Protein is used to rebuild muscle tissue in the body after the fibers are broken during a workout.
But, the need for protein extends far past muscle repair. Here are a few ways protein is used in your body:
- Building. Not only does protein work to build muscle tissue, but it also works to strengthen bones, cartilage, skin, and hair. Collagen, the popular supplement for skin and hair health, is a protein! The building capabilities of protein make its consumption essential during youth developmental phases as well as throughout life to lower risk for conditions like osteoporosis.
- Oxygenate. A protein called hemoglobin in red blood cells carries oxygen through the blood throughout the body. This also allows nutrients to travel throughout your entire body to get what it needs. Protein foods are also usually high in iron, which helps move the blood and oxygenation.
- Digest. Protein powers up pancreatic enzymes. These enzymes break your food into small pieces so your intestine is able to absorb all the nutrients. If you are not eating enough protein to make these enzymes, your body will also not be able to absorb nutrients from your food leading to deficiencies.
- Regulate. Protein is the building block for hormonal production. If you struggle with hormonal imbalances, eating adequate protein is crucial to help balance your hormone production and blood sugar.
- Blood sugar plays a large role in hormonal balance through the pancreatic hormone insulin. Too much insulin can lead to insulin resistance (when your body no longer responds appropriately to insulin’s messages), causing weight gain and a cascade of sex hormone imbalances.
How much protein do I need?
Protein requirements can be a very controversial subject in the nutrition world. This is because the amount of protein your body needs to survive is much different than what it needs to function optimally.
The Dietary Recommended Allowance (RDA) says women need around 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight.
However, I typically recommend more to support optimal functioning, promote weight loss, and improve insulin resistance.
While everyone’s protein needs vary based on factors such as activity level, age, current health situation, and stress levels, I usually recommend about 0.7 – 1 g of protein per pound of body weight to my clients.
This number may increase for more active or stressed individuals, but for the average gal, this amount of protein is sufficient. If you need more help figuring out your protein requirements, head over to my services page!
Dietitian-Approved High-Protein Recipes
Now I am going to share a few of my favorite high-protein summer recipe ideas. Give these a try to increase the protein in your diet in an easy way!
- Avocado Tuna Wraps. These wraps are quick, easy, and perfect for meal prep or on the go. Simply prep the avocado and tuna salad, wrap, and enjoy your high-protein lunch in less than 5 minutes. I love using Siete Tortillas wraps to make these.
- Greek Salmon Quinoa Bowls. Salmon is one of my favorite ways to get protein in because it is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for hormone health and inflammation. Salmon atop this Greek quinoa bowl with homemade tzatziki sauce is the perfect summer dinner.
- Shrimp and Black Bean Salad. If you have never had black bean, corn, and bell pepper salad, then you need to try this! Topping this dish with shrimp is the perfect way to add some protein to this high-fiber meal.
- Superfood Smoothie. Nothing is better in the summer than a light and refreshing smoothie. Using Greek yogurt in your smoothies increases the protein and adds a creamy texture.
- Lemon Orzo Salad with Grilled Chicken. Chicken topped upon a creamy lemon orzo salad bed, increasing protein and deliciousness!
- Parmesan Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts: This cozy meal is perfect for fall!
- Chia Seed Pudding. Preparing my breakfast ahead of time is a huge lifesaver. This chia seed pudding with Greek yogurt and berries is the perfect way to start your morning with fiber and protein.
- Slow Cooker Turkey Chili. Ground turkey and canned beans combine in this easy slow-cooker turkey chili. Serve alone or over cauliflower rice for extra fiber!
- Chicken & Cucumber Lettuce Wraps with Peanut Sauce: Always a crowd pleaser, These make an easy weeknight meal and are fun to eat!
- Cottage Cheese Ice Cream. My list would not be complete without a dessert! This viral blended cottage cheese ice cream trend is my new favorite way to end a day!
There is a lot of hype around protein on social media right now. While it is very important to eat enough protein for your needs, the quality of the protein is also important.
Ensure you get your protein from whole food sources, like grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised dairy products, and whole plant sources. This means limiting the amount of protein powders, bars, and other supplemental proteins you are eating.
While these products are convenient in moderation and are labeled as “high in protein,” they are also usually high in artificial sugars, inflammatory oils, and many other processed ingredients that can further damage your gut and health.
Stick to whole protein sources like the ones mentioned in my recipes above! Your body will thank you later.
Looking for more nutrition content? Head to my article on mindful eating next!