I know I don’t eat enough protein. While carbs most definitely are tasty, I find the reason I turn to bread, potatoes and chocolate is because it’s easy and convenient – and it tastes good. And even when I look at a menu, I find vegetarian options have more flavour than the proteins listed. But after learning about how protein affects the body and monitoring my protein rate on my fitness tracker, I knew I had to rethink how I eat. But googling recipes and counting macros aren’t my thing. Instead, I want to learn how to meal prep for high protein recipes that are more exciting and less about eating the same thing over and over again. I reached out to a few Canadian chefs to find out how they use ingredients that are high in protein in their kitchen.
How to meal prep for high protein
Anchor a meal around protein
Think of protein as the base of the meal for balance. Choose your protein, whether it’s beef, chicken, fish or even beans. The last of which the a fave of Renée Lavallée, a.k.a. @feistychef, judge on Wall of Chefs and owner of The Canteen on Portland in Dartmouth, N.S.
“I like to serve balanced meals at home for my family and at my restaurant, which includes incorporating a source of protein for every meal,” says Lavallée, also a spokesperson for Pulse Canada, a bean growers, traders and processors association. “The majority of beans found on store shelves are grown sustainably in Canada by local Canadian farmers, including white beans, black beans, cranberry beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and great northern beans.”
Try Lavallée’s recipe Protein-Packed White Bean, Halloumi & Roasted Tomato Toast.
Protein that’s not boring – don’t get stuck in a routine
Listen, we all have our go-tos. But that doesn’t mean meal prep has to be boring. Recipe developer Cara Tegler starts with choosing the protein. “Once decided, the creativity and dish type is up to us and we get really excited about that,” says Tegler about planning meals at Chefs Plate. “We’re fixated on offering an exciting range of cuisines, using seasonal vegetables that complement the protein.
Try Tegler’s recipe Protein-Loaded Salad: Maple-Glazed Salmon With Vibrant Zucchini Ribbons & Veggies.
Think about quality, think about sourcing
Food companies are sharing more and more about the sustainable practices in sourcing food. “For me, protein is the most important factor when meal planning,” says Josh Broun, co-Founder of Impact Kitchen, which is available from Kitchen Hub Food Hall. “High-quality protein is a must,” says Broun. “All conversations around adding a protein to our offerings start with the quality and where it is sourced from. As a result, I love the variety of proteins we have available on our menu from our grass-fed steak and beef to our free-run chicken and eggs to our sustainably farmed salmon.” As for plant-based protein, sourcing still matters, says Broun, listing organic tempeh, raw falafel and our wide use of nuts and seeds as options. “With so many delicious options, you can include high-quality protein in your diet while also having something different every day of the week.”
Try Broun’s recipe for High-Protein Turkey Chili From Impact Kitchen.
Don’t skimp on flavour
The reason chefs and foodies love protein as a base for a meal is the ability to play with flavour. “We create recipes that will enhance the protein’s natural flavours, without completely overpowering it,” says Steve Gill, founder of Quesada Burritos & Tacos. Beef can handle generous spices to create beef barbacoa. For pork, cook with sweet and savoury flavours, using adobo spices (including garlic, oregano, black pepper and turmeric) ancho and pasilla peppers, and cinnamon and cloves.
Another way to amplify flavor, make it slow food. “Slow cooking is one of my favourite ways to cook a protein, like beef, making it super tender and juicy. Then again, grilled chicken breast with just a bit of seasoning has a naturally subtle flavour that works great as a base.” But an easy way to boost taste is with hot sauce, adds Gill.
Try Gill’s recipe for A Simple Spicy Chipotle Chicken Recipe For Your Next Protein Bowl, Tacos & More.
Not all meals can be planned, and that’s okay
For those days when meal prep isn’t always possible, remember that protein can be a cinch to cook. Tegler offers her favourite ways to cook and eat protein:
- “For salmon, I love to roast it in the oven. You can season it, add a sauce, pop it on a baking sheet and cook it to tender perfection without worrying about flipping it, falling apart or overcooking it.”
- “For other proteins like chicken or steak, I love to use a pan as well as the oven. A quick sear on the pan to brown all sides helps to maximize the flavour, too. Followed by, transferring the protein to the oven to finish cooking.”
- “There are so many sources of plant-based protein I love to include in my diet. Some of my favourites are chickpeas, lentils, black beans and tofu. … You can create a myriad of things such as black bean enchiladas, crispy lentil tacos, chickpea cobb salads and so on. At Chefs Plate, we love roasting chickpeas until nice and crispy and adding them on top of salads or buddha bowls.”