What are your favorite high-protein, low-fat, quick and easy recipes?
January 11, 2009 6:33 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite high-protein, low-fat, quick and easy recipes?

In looking through the archives, it seems like people have given some great advice with regard to good protein bars, protein shakes, and the like - however, I haven't found much in the way of actual cooked meals. I'm trying to eat healthier and exercise about 4x a week (mostly lifting), but am finding it difficult to get the recommended daily dose of protein of 1 - 1.25 grams per pound of weight.

So - if anyone has good high-protein, low-fat, quick and easy recipes, let's hear them: ground beef, chicken, salmon, whatever you got! The best would be something that's palatable, could be cooked in large quantities and kept in the fridge for a while, and not requiring particular culinary skills. Thanks, all!
posted by Pontius Pilate to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
Can of tuna mixed with lemon juice, capers, and onions.
Egg white omelets.
Crazy-high protein lunch: a grilled burger with baked beans and cottage cheese on the side. Don't forget good tomatoes for the burger. I jazz up the baked beans with onion, mustard and ketchup.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2009

I make turkey sandwiches with lots and lots of good quality deli meat and whole wheat bread. That might not be what you were thinking of, but it fits the criteria I think. You could also make a big batch of low fat chili and keep it in the fridge and freezer to heat up.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2009

Canned beans are my staple for quick and easy protein sources. For instance, black beans with brown rice, or with canned corn as a salad. Chickpeas are also a good option to stock the pantry too.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2009

Best answer: Not sure if you've seen it yet, but I've asked pretty much exactly this question a few weeks ago. Granted, few of the answers actually involved high-protein meals :-P, but there's still lots of good information contained in there.

Here's what I've learned since:
  • Tuna salad. It's _very_ quick to prepare, high protein, and pretty tasty. Actually, if you can find canned salmon, substitute it for tuna in the recipe. It's even better for you (and has less mercury, generally, than tuna). (Here's my favorite recipe.)
  • Get a slow cooker (or crock pot, or whatever it's called in your region). You throw a huge slab of meat in on Sunday afternoon, and come Monday morning, you have all the dead animal you can stomach for a week. Usually in the form of tasty stew.
  • Do not discount the benefits of massive quantities of cold cuts. They're a little expensive, but if that's not a problem, they store well and can easily be thrown in omelettes, salads, and the like.
  • Omelets made the night before and reheated in the microwave are surprisingly palatable.
Other, unsolicited, advice. Because I'm a little bored:
  • You really shouldn't be that afraid of fat, especially consumed with lots of protein. I know people for whom the vast majority of their daily calories comes from fats. And they're lean enough to be walking anatomy lessons. That's no accident -- in the exercise regimes you're probably training in, i.e. large loads and fast aggressive movements, not so much long slow endurance exercise, your body will pretty quickly adapt to burning fat. (Of course, try avoid trans fats and the like)
  • Cool! Congrats on the goal. Assuming you're a beginner (feel free to call me a dumbass for giving you a patronizing lecture if I'm wrong...), you sound _way_ more level-headed in your approach than the person who resolves to "go use the stair master two hours everyday!" And if you are indeed a beginner, you're going to progress as such a rate that us folks that have been doing this for a while can only dream of (or take drugs to achieve). So please enjoy it while it lasts.
  • If you're wanting for more literature, I highly recommend Starting Strength or The New Rules of Lifting. All of the authors involved in those books are incredibly gifted at explaining the basic lifts.
  • Once you've been doing this for a while, you really ought to try out one of my two current sports. They're loads of fun ... promise.

posted by oostevo at 7:14 PM on January 11, 2009 [6 favorites]

I bought two pounds of chicken breasts at Safeway tonight. I threw the de-boned and skinless meat into a wok (after spraying it with Pam) on medium heat. Sear each side for a few minutes, then threw on some chopped garlic, some ginger, some Worcestershire sauce, some soy sauce... braise... flip, braise again... then threw some oyster sauce and let simmer until there was no pink flesh remaining. Oh my goodness that was good.

I had one piece for dinner, and put the rest into a zip container - for dinners for the rest of the week. Had tonight's serving with some salad and a pomegranate (while these are still in season) but I plan to have the other servings with some braised vegetables. Mmmm.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Not a complete meal but you can buy frozen bags of Edamame beans (asian supermarkets are cheaper than healthfood stores). Just boil them up for 5 minutes, salt them and you've got a popcorn alternative.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:09 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Turkey & Black Bean Chili... tons of protein and low fat:

1 lb. 99% lean ground turkey
1 package low sodium chili seasoning
1 can black beans
1 can diced tomatoes (with habaneros peppers is a +!!)

Brown the turkey - a little bit of EVOO in the pot please!, add in everything else (don't drain the can of tomatoes), add a little bit of water if you need to to keep it 'saucy'.. simmer for 15-20 min. and enjoy! If you're feeling crazy, top with low-fat sour cream and a SPRINKLE of cheese.

When I'm feeling nasty I like to eat it with Tostitos instead of a spoon.
posted by matty at 8:18 PM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd like to recommend chicken salad as an alternative to tuna salad. Use pre-cooked (by you) or from a can, but it has a lot of variations available: curry, pesto, salsa. Works great in wraps with some cheese, or over lettuce. No recipe really needed, just chicken, mayo/Miracle Whip, some flavoring, maybe some vegetables.

Another recent discovery of mine is pan-fried chicken, in 1" cubes, seasoned with peanut butter, garlic, soy, etc. Combine with quinoa or brown rice. Mmm!
posted by knile at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2009

Soft boiled eggs on (lightly buttered) whole wheat toast or whole wheat English muffins. Eggs = cheap and delicious protein. I steam mine for 5 minutes in my rice cooker and they turn out perfectly--creamy custard-like whites and runny yolks. Infinitely superior to rubbery hard boiled eggs, in my opinion. Can't really prepare this in advance, but start to in my stomach is less than 10 mins.
posted by jtfowl0 at 8:52 PM on January 11, 2009

Best answer: Turkey strips- fry them in olive oil with Cajun seasoning and lots of it. Serve over baby spinach with whatever other greens you have. This is bizarrely filling and makes a couple meals. Staple part of my diet.

Fish cakes- cook up a bunch of salmon or other fish and let most of it sit in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight to firm up. Mince the fish and mix with flour (or mashed potato), egg onion and seasoning. You can go hog wild on the seasoning: worchester, chipolte pepper and parsley is popular here. So is cajun seasoning. Combine until pretty soggy then make into little balls and fry or grill. A big fillet makes 8-12, freeze leftovers.

Buy fish, zucchini and squash. Heat oven to 350. Slice zucchini and squash into little pieces and bake on a tray. Bake fish at the same time, with appropriate seasoning or topping (Fish sauce, cayenne, lemon and olive oil. Mango chutney. Mayo. Cilantro and cumin.) 20-40 minutes later, delicious and easy meal.

Quiche: easy to make and good for lunch the next day. I prefer whole eggs and all but there are low fat alternatives online. You can make your own pastry or buy premade.

Home made turkey burger: buy ground turkey and combine with garlic, chopped onions, seasoning (coarse black pepper is key in my book), parsley and whatever else floats your boat. Make patties and freeze some, grill the others. Serve with cheese, avocado and salad, in a bun or not.

Roast a chicken or a roast (lamb is my favorite). Basically you just stick it in the oven and try desperately not to forget about it. Recommend multiple alarms. The meat makes a good meal right away and can be used for dinner/lunch for a few days.

Stir fry- basically buy meat or fish and cut into little bits. Fry it up until browned (or mostly cooked for fish). Remove from heat and fry vegetables (I like mushrooms, bokchoy/ kale and carrots). Toss the meat back in for the last minute or two. Sauces are up to your imagination but I don't like soy sauce so most of mine are a combo of fish oil, peppers, olive oil and garlic. Sometimes I make a coconut milk sauce which is easily done and numerous iterations can be found online. This one won't keep, all the others will.
posted by fshgrl at 8:54 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

btw, it's worth buying the organic meat. You don't eat enough to make the price difference noticeable and the texture and taste are so much better. I can't even eat chicken anymore unless it's organic because the regular stuff is so weird and mushy. I have no idea what they feed them to make it like that but... yuck!

I don't eat beef either, I do get a lot of game meat and it's the basis of my favorite winter recipe which I forgot and which is stew. Cube roughly equal amounts of meat, carrots and potatoes and layer (potatoes, carrots, meat, potatoes, carrots, meat) in a pressure cooker or crock pot. Add a sprinkling of onions to each meat layer. Add enough to stock to just cover everything and let cook will meat is falling apart. So good! Parsnips, turnip etc can also be used in season.
posted by fshgrl at 9:00 PM on January 11, 2009

Last post, I promise. Fish tacos! Grill fish and heat tortillas over an open flame. Combine with cabbage, tomatoes, cilantro and peppers. Delicious.
posted by fshgrl at 9:07 PM on January 11, 2009

My recent breakfast discovery was the joy of egg whites. I buy a carton of them at the supermarket (near the eggs), and pour some in a shallow bowl. Microwave for about a minute. This should give you a nice disk of egg-whites that you can slap on a muffin with some cheese. I make mine more interesting by adding salsa. Quick, easy, portable, nutritious, not full of chemicals. For added protein, slap some cold cuts on there. As an added benefit, it's only about a 3 point sandwich (without cold cuts) for those of us doing Weight Watchers.
posted by booksherpa at 9:14 PM on January 11, 2009

turkey sausage in anything. Chili, stew, whatever with ground turkey breast or chicken or lean ground beef. Don't forget pork chops - a pork tenderloin, if scrupulously trimmed of fat, is almost as lean as chicken breast, and it makes a nice change. I like to broil a thin-cut chop with fish sauce and honey and lime, and eat it on a huge bed of lettuce and cabbage and vegetables and herbs, Vietnamese-style. Chicken breasts, of course, which are my go-to protein (not crazy about the taste, but I usually just chop them up to augment whatever vegetable salad thing I'm eating for lunch) - you can do anything you want with them.

Canned meat and fish are useful, too - I love eating an Italian-style tuna salad with spring water packed tuna, cannelini beans, roasted red peppers if I have them, minced red onion, and lots of parsley, all dressed with olive oil and lemon. Put that on a fistful of greens and you have a super-healthy, very satisfying dinner.

Beans and legumes in general are pretty high in protein. Something like chicken+white bean chili really packs a protein wallop. Grains like quinoa are surprisingly high in protein, too. I find I have to eat more carbohydrates than I want to if I rely only on plants for protein, but it's a nice bonus.

And eggs. A poached or fried egg is an excellent way to get about seven grams of protein in, and a runny-yolked egg goes really well on all kinds of things (roasted vegetables, braised greens, toast, pasta...). Eat just egg whites if you don't want the fat/cholesterol. A halved hard-boiled egg, yolk removed and replaced with hummus is my current favorite protein snack.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:14 PM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Protein Pancakes! I love these things and make a batch up most weekends.

1/3 c cottage cheese
1/3 c egg whites
1/3 c rolled oats
splash vanilla extract (splurge on the real stuff. the difference is noticable)
a few walnuts

Put all that in blender. Run the blender until it's all nicely liquidy, then cook them up like normal pancakes.

This is a single portion. You can scale it up as much as you like. I usually make 6 portions at a time and throw them in ziplocks for the week.

They freeze really well and are delicious with pureed fruit, yogurt or peanut butter.
posted by burntflowers at 9:18 PM on January 11, 2009 [6 favorites]

wow, could I have used the word "protein" any more in that reply? Anyway, don't forget lean fish like tilapia - it's easy to grill and eat with whatever you want. Less lean fish is good, too - it's so satisfying you don't have to eat much, and it's good fat. I bought a giant pack of wild salmon on sale tonight and divided it up into four ounce portions. I froze most of it, but roasted one with balsamic vinegar and garlic, and ate it on top of a wilted escarole salad with roasted butternut squash. 417 calories, 30 grams of protein. Awesome.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:21 PM on January 11, 2009

Not to intrude on the meat party, but here is my favorite quick tofu recipe:

Breaded baked tofu

Cut a block of extra firm tofu into 1/4" thick slices. Soak slices in a mixture of 1/5 soy sauce, 4/5 water. Bread with a mixture of flour, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Lightly oil a cookie pan, arrange tofu slices and lightly spray them with cooking oil. Bake at 350 for awhile, spray again, flip over and bake a bit longer. When they are nicely browned pour the rest of your soy sauce/water mixture onto the pan and bake until boiled away. Serve as a sandwich with mayonnaise (optional, depending on your fat concerns), mustard, lettuce and tomatoes.

I realize that this doesn't really meet the cook-in-advance or no-culinary-skill criteria, but they are surprisingly easy and tasty. One pound of tofu will give you about 37g of protein.
posted by ChrisHartley at 10:07 PM on January 11, 2009

1-1.25g per pound??! That sounds much too high. I've heard around 40-45g for a 115lb person. I imagine it could be even less for an office type of worker.
posted by rainy at 2:03 AM on January 12, 2009

Cook quinoa and yellow lentils for 15 minutes. (Ideally, there should be no water left so you do not need to rinse). Add a can of tuna, season with salt and olive oil.

Also: sources of protein.
posted by Think [Instrumental] at 4:01 AM on January 12, 2009

Best answer: Here is a basic diet I used to follow (and should start following again!):

Mornings: Protein whey shake. (get chocolate, don't mess with berry, vanilla, or whatever else they have. trust me most companies can't screw up chocolate too bad.) Try to take about 2 to 3 scoops here. The stuff I used was like 75 cals and a ton of protein per serving. It came out to about 225 for a shake. I would also take my minerals, vitamins, and such. So it was about 300 cals.

Between breakfast and lunch: Eat a handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, whatever) Piece of fruit works here too. About 200 Cals.

2 to 3 hours later: Eat a sandwich. PB and J or a turkey sandwich. Something along those lines. You can also eat tuna here if you wish (just don't do it all the time. Too much tuna is bad for you).

For dinner I stuck with skinless chicken breast, salmon, pork roast, etc. Chicken and rice is a crock pot is awesome. I would put 4 pieces of chicken with the rice and use chicken broth instead of water for the rice. It would make 3-4 dinners. Also for variation you can eat an omelet here. Take 4 white with 2 yolks, add some cheese for flavor, add veggies (peppers, onions, mushrooms, whatever.) It's quick and simple. Serve with a side of green beans or peas.

For a snack eat Cottage cheese and apple sauce.

If need variety: I would throw in taco bell's spicy chicken taco every now and then. They come out to about 150 cals per taco.

I tried to keep myself around 1800 cals for the day. About 50% protein, 30% carbs, 20% fat.

Lastly, this is more of a tip than anything, always try to eat something after you have finished lifting.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 6:44 AM on January 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

Greek yogurt is crazy with the protein. 20 g of protein in an 8 oz serving and only 120 cals for the plain 0% fat version. Fage is the brand I see most in the regular grocery stores. I'll mix up a serving with some honey, frozen blueberries, and sliced almonds. I'm a major snacker at my desk at work and it's the only afternoon snack that keeps me full until dinner. It would also be a great dessert or post-workout treat.
posted by misskaz at 8:13 AM on January 12, 2009

Best answer: Omelets with fewer yolks. You don't need cheese, but if you want cheese and healthy use a lower fat cheese. I like beans and salsa in my omelets.

Boneless, skinless chicken breast is almost pure protein. There are so many ways to prepare these.

Fish fillets are similar to the chicken breasts in their high protein content and diversity of recipes. If you are not a fish person try poaching fish in some chicken broth with a few slices of carrots, celery and onion and a hint of your favorite herbs (I like fine herbs for this). It tastes much less fishy.

Low carb tortillas provide many options. Load with beans, frozen corn, low fat cheese, shellfish (fake crab, ok not really shellfish, comes packaged and ready), chicken (you can buy precooked chicken strips for salads etc. which work well here), left over beef, etc.

Any of the aforementioned meats cut into strips and placed on a salad. A plain egg (skip some yolks if you chase fat) omelet sliced into strips can be used as well.

edamame, either alone or in tortillas, salads etc.

Cornell bread, ok it still has a fair amount of carbs, but it packs a protein punch. A thin slice with an egg will keep you going all morning. Recipes abound and you can substitute up to one half to three quarters of the white flour with whole wheat or whole rye but up the amount of wheat gluten to compensate and keep the loaf from becoming too dense. Wheat gluten is very high protein by the way. Incorporate that and soy flour into your baking for a high protein blast.

whey - yucky tasting but lots of protein. I'll take egg whites instead please.

For a pure protein yet sweet snack try meringues made with Splenda. It's just whipped egg whites and Splenda.

cottage cheese and yogurt, mix in fruit, granola, dried fruit, whatever suits your fancy but avoid sugar.

Tuna and cannellini beans bean salad. Mix in equal proportions of canned tuna (water packed) and canned cannellini beans (rinse well) with a little bit of olive oil and vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs to taste. I like fresh basil and parsley. Canned chicken (or the precooked chicken strips) or shrimp or salmon etc. all substitute well for the tuna.

chana masala
posted by caddis at 8:18 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a lazy grad student, my go to meal for dinner is to marinade some boneless/skinless chicken breasts (I buy em at Costco where they're crazy cheap, comparatively) in whatever I feel like, I tend to use pesto a lot, but if you don't like the oil, you could use bbq sauce, a lemon juice based marinade, soy sauce, etc. Either way, the marinade is a pretty small part of things so you don't get a lot of bad stuff anyways. I bake 2-4 of them at a time (I bag them in groups of 2 and freeze them when I buy them) and then throw some frozen veggies in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil and a ton of fresh black pepper (other spices work well too: oregano, chili flakes, curry powder, etc). I tend to load up on the veggies, and am full with one chicken breast. The rest go into the fridge for tomorrow's dinner, or sliced up on sandwiches for lunch (I'm not a fan of deli meat).

There's very little fat, lots of good flavor and lots of good nutrients. And it allows me to have a carb-free dinner, which is good for me since I tend to OD on pasta/rice/potatoes when given the chance.
posted by dnesan at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2009

Response by poster: Some great answers as usual - thanks, all!
posted by Pontius Pilate at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2009

Cook a morningstar farms soy sausage patty and set aside. Saute spinach (frozen is fine) in a little olive oil, chop up the sausage patty and add it to the spinach , add egg whites, cook until almost set, throw in some feta cheese and chopped tomatoes, fold the omelette over and let it finish cooking. Serve it on whole wheat toast with hot sauce.
31 grams of protein, about 450 calories and you will not be hungry when you're done
posted by leading question at 8:05 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I hate to be a spoil sport (like rainy), but you don't need that much protien, lifting or involved in vigerous exercise. Around 0.75g per kilogram of body weight is ample, one (1) gram per kilo allows more than enough.

You can put too much pressure on your kidneys with too much protein and more protein does not 'build' muscle. It's important to have a mixture of carbohydrate and protein after a workout, low fat yoghurt is ideal and is easy to digest, even if you don't feel hungry.

Don't sweat about eating more than two and half times the amount of protein each day. Enjoy what you are eating and have good, whole food.
posted by Flashduck at 1:23 AM on January 20, 2009

Just popping in to say there are a lot of great responses here, and to add my two cents.

I like to keep about 4-6 hard-boiled eggs in the fridge at all times, which I eat as a high-protein snack after lifting. I usually pop out the yolks, or at least most of the yolks, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Very quick and tasty.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2009

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