Protein Power: Preparing and Incorporating Proteins into Your Daily Meals

By: Izzah Siddiqui – Gleaners Nutrition Education Team

Proteins are an essential part of a balanced and satisfying meal. Here are some strategies and tips for prepping and incorporating proteins like chicken, fish, and tofu into your summer meal prep routine:

  • Prepping proteins: When batch cooking proteins, consider cooking methods that maintain their tenderness and flavor. For chicken, options include grilling, baking, or poaching. Fish can be grilled, broiled, or pan-seared. Tofu can be marinated and baked or sautéed.
  •  Marinating techniques: Marinating proteins is a fantastic way to infuse flavors and enhance their taste. Create your own marinades using ingredients like citrus juices, herbs, spices, and healthy oils. Allow the proteins to marinate for a few hours or overnight to maximize the flavor impact. Remember to discard any leftover marinade that has been in contact with raw proteins to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Don’t forget the plant-based options: Beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are all excellent sources of protein for those who want to eat less meat or avoid it altogether. Substitute half of your meat in burger patties or curries for beans to stretch your food dollars. Make a chilled bean salad to serve as a side to a summer cookout.
  • Recipe ideas: Here are some protein-packed recipe ideas perfect for summer meal prep:
  • Skewers – Grilled chicken or tofu skewers with colorful vegetable chunks: Marinate the proteins in a flavorful sauce and thread them onto skewers with bell peppers, onions, and zucchini. Grill them to perfection for a delicious and nutritious meal.

    •  Baked fish with herb crust: Prepare a mixture of fresh herbs, breadcrumbs, and a touch of olive oil. Coat the fish fillets with this mixture and bake until golden and flaky. Serve alongside a fresh salad or whole grains for a well-rounded meal.
  • Tofu stir-fry with seasonal vegetables: Marinate tofu cubes in soy sauce, garlic, and ginger, then stir-fry with an array of seasonal vegetables like snap peas, bell peppers, and broccoli. Serve over brown rice or quinoa for a satisfying and protein-rich dish.
  • Grilled shrimp and vegetable foil packets: Toss shrimp with olive oil, lemon juice, and your favorite herbs. Place the seasoned shrimp along with vegetables like asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and summer squash in foil packets. Grill or bake them for an easy and flavorful meal.
  • Bean Salad: Make a chilled salad with low-sodium canned beans, peppers, corn, onion, cherry tomatoes, and your favorite dressing.

Remember to adjust cooking times based on the specific protein and your desired level of doneness. With these strategies and recipe ideas, you’ll be able to enjoy protein-packed meals that are both delicious and convenient throughout the summer season.