Q: I'm tired of chicken. What else can I eat?
Updated: Jan 3
A: We all get in a food rut, especially when we're trying to eat healthier. While grilled, skinless chicken is a go-to lean protein, it certainly is not the only one. For a punch of protein that is full of flavor, try this one-pan dish made with zesty turkey Italian sausage, beans, and lentils. Along with 29 whopping grams of protein, it's also jam-packed with satisfying, cholesterol-lowering fiber; potassium to help lower blood pressure; antioxidant-rich tomatoes; nutrient-rich greens; and an overall balance of good nutrition.
Including protein in each meal helps us to feel full longer, warding off hunger and cravings between meals. Most women need about 50-75g of protein per day; most men require about 75-100g of protein per day.
Protein needs will vary for special circumstances, such as elite athletic training, surgery recovery, advanced kidney disease, or other conditions. Otherwise, meeting your protein needs is easy to achieve if your meals are well balanced, containing about 15-30g protein per meal.
Good sources of protein include*:
Legumes (lentils, peas, and beans like garbanzo, kidney, pinto, etc.) 1/2 cup = 7g
Fish 4 oz = 25g
Skinless turkey or chicken 4 oz = 25g
Lean beef (sirloin, tenderloin, 10% fat ground beef, flank steak) 4 oz = 25g
Lean pork (tenderloin, top loin chops) 4 oz = 25g
Low fat milk 1 cup = 8g
Greek yogurt 6 oz container = 18g
Low or reduced fat cheese 1 slice or 1/4 cup shredded = 7g
Egg 1 whole = 6g
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, mixed nuts) or seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) 1/4 cup = 3-6g
Tofu 1/2 cup = 10g
Tempeh 1/2 cup = 15g
Seitan (vital wheat gluten) 3 oz = 18g
*Estimated protein content from calorieking.com
The recipe below contains a hearty amount of protein, high fiber carbs, and non-starchy vegetables--the basics for a well balanced meal.
Turkey Sausage, White Bean and Lentil Stew
Meal Planning Tip: Stews make great leftovers for packed lunches, easier weeknight dinners, or freezer meals.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 package lean turkey Italian sausage (5 links)
4 cloves garlic
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 15 oz can tomato sauce, no salt added
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 can low sodium great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
1 bunch kale, cut into small pieces
1. Heat oil in a large skillet, then brown the sausage on all sides.
2. While the sausage is browning, mince the onion and garlic.
3. Remove the sausage from the pan and saute the onion.
4. While the onions cook, slice the sausage into 1-inch pieces. Return to pan with the garlic. Continue to saute until sausage is warmed through, careful not to burn the garlic.
5. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, spices, and lentils. Simmer for 15 minutes.
6. Add the beans and kale and continue simmering for another 10 minutes or until lentils are to desired tenderness.
Serving size: about 2 cups
Make it Vegan!
Omit turkey sausage and substitute one 14 oz package extra firm tofu diced into 1-inch cubes.