Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in the growth and repair of tissues, the production of hormones and enzymes, and the maintenance of healthy muscles. It’s important to include protein in our diet, especially for growing children and active adults. Which is why we’re each making more of an effort to incorporate protein in our meals–one of us is taking a plant-based approach and the other is taking an animal-based approach. Because “healthy” doesn’t have to mean the same thing for every family.
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We’re excited to be learning a lot about all the options out there for our family meals! That’s not to say it’s been seamless, though. It can be particularly challenging to incorporate protein into meals and snacks when you’re planning for more than yourself and balancing many different food preferences.
We’re finding success by embracing the rhythm of our family meals; when we focus on one thing (like what we’re bringing to the table) the process is simplified. Here are a few tips for including protein in your family’s diet that we’re implementing:
Include protein-rich foods at every meal and snack
Aim to include a source of protein at every meal and snack. That way, if the protein option is skipped (for whatever reason…kids will still be kids!) you still have several other opportunities to get protein worked in. Some good options include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts, and seeds. One idea is you can add diced chicken or turkey to a salad, serve a hard-boiled egg as a snack, or include a serving of Greek yogurt as part of a breakfast smoothie.
Make protein-packed smoothies
Smoothies are a great way to pack in protein and other nutrients. Try using Greek yogurt, milk (we love having Keely Farms’ raw milk and yogurt delivered), or plant-based protein powders as a base, and add in some fruit and vegetables for flavor and added nutrients. You can also add in nuts, seeds, or nut butters for an extra protein boost.
Try plant-based protein sources
If your family is open to trying plant-based protein sources in meals, there are plenty of options to choose from. Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu are all good choices, and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes. For example, you can make a protein-packed chili with beans and lentils, or serve tofu stir-fry for dinner.
For snack time, we can’t get enough of the chickpea-based HIPPEAS Organic Vegan White Cheddar Chickpea Puffs because they have 4 grams of protein per serving.
Incorporate protein-rich grains
Whole grains are a good source of protein, as well as fiber and other nutrients. Try incorporating quinoa, millet, or amaranth into your meals. These grains can be used as a base for a grain bowl, or as a replacement for rice in dishes like stir-fries or burrito bowls.
A family-favorite of ours is Dave’s Killer Bread Killer Classic English Muffins. Each muffin has 6 grams of protein and 5 super grains: quinoa, spelt, rye, millet, and barley (spelt and barley are especially high sources of protein). We use these muffins for breakfasts, sandwiches, and snacks–they’re so versatile and a staple in our homes.
Use protein-rich toppings and add-ons
If your family members are picky eaters, it can be challenging to get them to eat protein-rich foods. One way to work around this is to include protein-rich toppings and add-ons on dishes that they already enjoy. For example, you can add some nuts or seeds to a salad, or sprinkle some cheese on top of a bowl of pasta.
One of our favorite high-protein cheeses to top things with is feta because it has 4 grams of protein per ounce. Our recipe for Blush Wine Vinaigrette Pasta Salad can be a great way to bring protein into a crowd-pleasing dish like pasta salad.
Our Quinoa and Kale Fall Salad recipe is another great option for meals. Because the salad’s toppings include almonds (6 grams of protein per ounce), walnuts (4.3 grams of protein per ounce), and parmesan cheese (11 grams of protein per ounce). And don’t let the name fool you, many of these ingredients are available year-round!
Make protein-packed snacks
Snacks can be a great opportunity to sneak in some extra protein. Some good options include protein bars, protein balls, or homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. You can also try making protein-rich dips like hummus or bean dip to serve with veggies or crackers.
Our 5-minute Charcuterie Board checks all the boxes for a protein-packed snack that adults and kids both love.
Including protein in our diet is important for maintaining healthy bodies and supporting growth and development. By incorporating protein-rich foods into meals and snacks, you can help ensure that your family is getting the nutrients they need. What are your favorite ways to incorporate protein into the meals you feed your family?