By Isadora Baum
If there’s one thing we’ve learned about nutrition, it’s that today’s hero can easily become tomorrow’s villain. Protein is no exception. On the one hand, there’s the popularity of the Atkins diet, the Paleo lifestyle, and other high-protein ways of eating. On the other, there are studies that suggest that too much protein over a prolonged period of time may be linked to high rates of cancer and heart disease. Our two cents? Eat real foods that are high in protein throughout the day. Skip the powders and bars and focus on eating a varied diet with a mix of protein sources (i.e. not all red meat) that you consume for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Do this and you’re unlikely to under do it or over do it.
Here are 5 pantry staples that are high in protein. Add one (or more) to your grocery cart the next time you take a trip to the supermarket.
Tofu is a great plant-based protein source. It has all nine essential amino acids, plus iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. And it’s low-carb! Tofu stir fry is a quick and healthy dinner option, but we also love tofu for breakfast. “If you don’t eat scrambled eggs or are looking to change things up, try a tofu scramble,” suggests Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. “Crumble firm tofu and sauté with some garlic powder, turmeric, a squeeze of lemon and fresh herbs before pairing with your favorite fruit.” Got lunch? Try slicing tofu and filling a whole grain or grain-free wrap with the addition of some avocado, a few crunchy veggies, and some black beans.
Get a recipe: Tofu Stir Fry from Well Plated by Erin
2. Greek Yogurt
In addition to protein, Greek yogurt is a good source of probiotics for optimal gut health. Of course it’s great for breakfast, with some granola and fruit and maybe a swirl of honey, but it also makes great dips, marinades, and even baked goods.
Pro tip: If you’re dairy-free, consider Kite Hill Greek-style yogurt, which packs 13 grams of protein per serving.
3. Cottage Cheese
Getting tired of Greek yogurt? Cottage cheese is trying to have a moment, thanks to brands like Good Culture. “Cottage cheese packs in 12-13 grams of protein per half cup and is an easy vehicle for fruit and a sprinkle of your favorite granola or whole grain cereal,” says Jones. Or try a savory cottage cheese bowl, like this one from Skinnytaste.
Get a recipe: Savory Cottage Cheese Bowl from Skinnytaste
4. Smoked Salmon
“Smoked salmon is often forgotten unless you’re eating it on a bagel from a deli,” Jones says, but it makes a great, easy breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snack. Spread extra-thick Greek yogurt on whole-wheat toast and top with lox or add some smoked salmon to your avocado toast.
Buy It: Blue Circle Smoke Salmon, $14 for 8 ounces
5. Peanut Butter
There are now so many nut butter options out there, but PB is a whopping 25% protein. Two tablespoons has 8 grams. And it’s easy to get some peanut butter in any time of day. Add to your morning oats, smoothies, or muffins, smear it on carrots and celery or apples for an afternoon snack, or turn it into a dressing or sauce for a veggie- and protein-packed dinner.
Get a recipe: Healthy Thai Peanut Dressing from Ambitious Kitchen