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We’ve covered How to Get More Protein in Your Breakfast, and How to Get More Protein in Your Snacks, now it’s time for lunch! It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with lunch options (just like with breakfast and snacks) so hopefully here I can give you some new ideas to try.
If you’ve read either of my last two blogs, you’ll already know about protein, so feel free to skip down below to the ideas. If you haven’t seen it or would like a recap on protein and its benefits, just carry on reading.
Chances are by now you’ll have heard that protein is a very important part of nutrition.
Some of the many benefits of protein are:
• It has a high satiety effect, so you feel fuller for longer
• It helps to repair muscle after exercise
• It is a vital building block for your bones, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood
• It’s essential to the repair and regeneration of all the cells in the body
• It has a high thermogenic effect, meaning that around 25% of the calories in protein are burned off just in its digestion (the numbers are much less for carbohydrates and fat)
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of consuming protein for health, weight loss and muscle-building goals. And it’s not just for the guys – ladies if you want look athletic and toned rather than just skinny, you’ll need to consume enough protein too.
A simple way to ensure you’re getting enough is aim for a serving in each meal throughout the day.
A visual serving of protein would be 1 palm size portion of meat or fish for women, and a 1.5-2 palm-sized portion for men.
If you’re looking from a numbers perspective, you’re aiming for around 20g if you’re a woman, and 30-40g if you’re a man.
What can I have for lunch?
To make things easier I’ll break it down into categories depending on whether you’re eating at home, buying in the shops, or out at a café or restaurant.
THINGS YOU CAN MAKE AND/OR EAT AT HOME
When people look to find a high protein lunch they tend to think of salad with chicken, other meat or fish. This is obviously a great option, and it doesn’t have to be bland and boring. There are loads of ways to jazz up a salad and loads of recipes you can try.
Check out this website for some healthy high protein salad ideas:
If you like a sandwich, Hi Lo protein bread (found in Sainsburys) is a great choice. 2 slices (although fairly small) will give you 16g of protein. So any filling that has protein (smoked salmon, chicken, turkey slices, ham) would get you into the 20-30g serving range. Hi Lo bread toasted and topped with reduced fat hummus, cottage cheese or nut butter is a great vegetarian option.
Wraps are a great option if you’re on the go. Who doesn’t love a wrap filled with chicken and onions/peppers/spinach, with a few herbs and spices? Fresh salsa or a dollop of reduced fat hummus can top if off nicely. Wrap it in foil and eat whenever you get a few spare minutes. If wraps appeal to you, I would highly recommend Joseph’s low carb whole wheat tortillas from musclefood.com – http://www.musclefood.com/low-carb-whole-wheat-tortillas.html
Each tortilla wrap is just 70 calories and 7g of protein. Most standard wraps are around 170 calories! They are slightly smaller than standard size so you could enjoy two for a very filling, nutritious and high protein lunch.
(P.S. If you go for these, type in the code HP297203 at the checkout and you can get 4 free chicken breasts or 2 free steaks with your order)
What about a small jacket potato, or sweet potato jacket?
Topped with chicken, tuna, chilli (made with lean beef or turkey mince) or cottage cheese this would be a very tasty high protein lunch.
Leftovers are another great easy option. Simply cook up extra portions of dinner and take to work the next day. Or if you’re a true prepping boss like my client Laura, you can make loads of meals at the weekend and keep them in the fridge/freezer so you’re set for the whole week.
BUYING IN THE SHOPS
The options you have here tend to be salads, sandwiches and wraps, but there’s a few other things you could look at too. Marks and Spencer and Waitrose do some very nice high quality salads, and you can find good options in Boots, Tesco and Sainsburys too.
Here are some decent for Marks and Spencer and Sainsburys, based on being high protein (usually 20g plus) and lower in calories compared to similar options (generally 300-450 calories):
• Sainsburys taste the difference salt beef sandwich
• Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich on malted bread
• Sainsbury’s ‘My Goodness!’ chicken salad sandwich
• A packet of seafood sticks will also give you 10g of protein for 169 calories (or less if you don’t eat all of the cocktail sauce)
• Most of the Sainsburys ‘My Goodness!’ range found in the ready meal section gives you more than 20g of protein for around 400 calories or less. Good choices include including the chicken salad sandwich, green chicken curry, fish curry, beef noodle stir fry and salmon fillet with rice noodles.
MARKS AND SPENCER
• Chicken and avocado sandwich
• Prawn mayo sandwich
• Super wholefood salad (best vegetarian option)
• Chicken harissa cous cous salad
Take a look at the nutrition information chart. The amount of calories you want in the meal will depend on what else you’ve had or are having that day. You can normally find a good option for 250 – 400 calories. Some sandwich fillings, salad dressings or added ingredients such as nuts, can dramatically increase the amount of calories in the meal, so it’s worth checking. In terms of protein, at least 15-25g is a good amount to look for.
Supermarket salads tend to skimp on the amount of meat they include in order to keep costs down. If there’s a big leafy salad with little or no meat, you could always get a separate packet of cooked chicken/turkey/ham to go with it.
Boots and M&S now do boiled eggs in a pot with a little bit of spinach – could be a great choice for a snacky lunch along with some fruit and/or a yogurt.
Another option if you choose a low calorie meal that falls below 10-15g of protein is to grab yourself a yogurt to go with it. Skyr, Total, Liberte and Arla can all be found in small pots in most supermarkets and will give you another 15-20g of protein for around 90-140 extra calories.
You could also grab a pot of cottage cheese (reduced fat version if you want to keep calories lower) and have half of that, putting the other half in the fridge for tomorrow (if possible).
If your preferred meal choice is 250 calories or less and below 10g of protein, you could also grab yourself a protein bar to go with it. Sainsburys do Promax protein bars (dark chocolate flavour is rather nice IMO) for 220 calories and 21g of protein.
In supermarkets you can also find a range of ‘light lunch’ options from John West – small tuna or salmon based meals ranging from 250 – 350 calories, with added ingredients such as tomato, red pepper, bulgar wheat and sultanas. This would make a great choice for a quick and easy meal.
Most places will offer a decent salad with some chicken or other meat/fish. A chicken or tuna sandwich shouldn’t be too far off either. You may be able to find a jacket potato with chicken, tuna or chilli.
Assuming you want to find healthy balanced options with around 20+ grams of protein and less than 500 calories, here’s a few options at popular restaurants:
• At Zizzi’s you could choose the Chicken and Pancetta salad or Chicken and Prosciutto salad
• At Café Nero you could choose a chicken fajita wrap, tuna salad sandwich, or chicken salad sandwich. If you’re vegetarian, the Goats cheese and grilled red pepper panini comes in at 19.1g of protein and 426 calories.
• At Prezzo you could choose the steak/salmon/chicken salads, which all come with a variety of nicely prepared vegetables, the addition of cheese/egg/avocado (depending which dish you pick) and a tasty dressing that isn’t too many calories.
• At Nandos you could choose a chicken pitta with a side of chargrilled vegetables or ratatouille.
• At Frankie & Benny’s you could choose the chicken, bacon and avocado salad or the chicken mojito salad
• At the Harvester you could choose the grilled salmon fillet with green beans, the chicken fajita wrap or the Salsa Chicken and Pepper stack. (Be aware these dishes come with sweet potato fries which add another 458 calories to the meal. If your goal is weight loss, it would be a good idea to skip the fries and enjoy the free salad bar instead). You could also choose the Simply chicken dish with a jacket potato for 590 calories, which would work well if that’s your main meal of the day.
At some cafes you may be able to choose a Brunch option such as scrambled eggs with salmon or an omelette, which would both be great choices.
VEGETARIAN / NON-MEAT OPTIONS
• Eggs – in an omelette, baked, in a frittata, poached on top of roasted vegetables
• Lentils – one 62g serving or Puy lentils contains 15g of protein. This could be in a salad or added to a soup or casserole.
• Chick peas and other beans/pulses will give you a little less protein than puy lentils but still could equate to a good amount in your meal
• Goats cheese, reduced fat feta cheese and reduced fat hummus will add some protein to your lunch (just be aware of the overall calories you’re having as they have a fair amount of fat too)
• High protein Greek / Natural yogurt – can be stirred into dishes instead of cream, used in place of sour cream / mayonnaise, or just enjoyed with some fruit
• Whey protein – added to oats this makes an easy meal for any time of day (just ask any of the TPP coaches!), or you could simply have it as a protein shake.
• Cottage cheese – great on protein toast, normal toast, or with a jacket/sweet potato.
Hopefully this post has given you some ideas and inspiration on how to get more protein into your lunch.
Is there anything you like that hasn’t been mentioned here?
Let us know in the comments below!
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