Protein Possibilities: Summer Grilling Without the Meat

June 22, 2014

By Mercy's Brad Haller

Grilling season is upon us. That means burgers, brats and chicken are back on the menu. Sure, these foods are big sources of protein, but there are plenty of alternatives.

Aside from meat, other animal protein sources are eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. “An easy way to sneak extra protein into a meal or snack could be a hard-boiled egg,” said Mercy dietitian Jade Manczuk RD, LD. “Eggs provide six grams of protein, and a half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese will provide 14 grams.” Manczuk suggests flavoring cottage cheese with fresh vegetables and herbs; or if you prefer it sweet, add fruit and cinnamon.

Veggie burgers have grown in popularity and are full of chickpeas, black beans, falafel (made from ground chickpeas or fava beans), or other mashed vegetables. If you’ve not feeling too adventurous, there are many pre-made patties available in most frozen food sections of grocery stores. Either way, they can make for excellent grilling. Slip a few sliced avocados onto the fire for a topping; you’ll get three to six more grams of protein.

Soy is a common ingredient in Asian dishes and it’s full of protein. “Soy provides all the essential amino acids and is considered a complete protein like meat, which is why it is such a great substitute in vegetarian diets,” said Manczuk. “Tofu can also provide protein; for example, half a cup has 10 grams. A good tip when buying tofu is the firmer the tofu the higher the protein content.” Tofu can be a great addition to stir-fry or soups.

Nut butters are protein-rich and easy to add into your diet; however, be careful to not exceed the serving size of two tablespoons because nut butters are calorie dense. One serving of peanut butter provides 15 grams of protein. Spread peanut butter on toast or fruit for breakfast or as a snack.

“A lot of people don’t realize whole grains are also a source of protein,” explained Manczuk. “One cup of brown rice provides five grams of protein. Another grain growing in popularity is quinoa, which provides eight grams of protein per cup.” You can substitute quinoa for rice or use it in baked goods for added protein.

Legumes, another source of protein, include beans, lentils, and chickpeas (a main ingredient in hummus).  Two tablespoons of hummus provide seven grams of protein. “To make your own hummus at home, drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and puree until it reaches a smooth consistency.  Add garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and tahini, then season with salt and pepper. You can also flavor the chickpeas with spices and herbs you prefer.”