You’ve probably heard how important it is to eat lean proteins as part of a healthy, balanced diet. And that when it comes to lean protein, fish can’t be beat. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat it every day. And what if fish isn’t part of your diet?
Whether you’re conscious of your ecological footprint or simply don’t enjoy eating it, there are plenty of other tasty lean protein options to try that aren’t fish or seafood—including plant-based options like lentils and cage-free turkey .
A varied diet that incorporates whole foods like these is a key part of overall fitness and health. And of course, prep is key. To retain the most nutrients without adding excess fat, look for recipes that bake, boil, or slow-cook ingredients, rather than frying.
With nine grams of protein per hundred grams of cooked lentils, lentils have the second-highest protein content of any bean out there (after soy). When combined with brown rice, a meal of lentils gives you an easier-to-digest whole protein that’s just as good as meat, but better for your heart. Along with that, you also get the added benefits of fiber, folate, potassium, and iron.
Dry lentils can stay fresh in your pantry, so they’re a great ingredient to have on hand for curries, stews, and soups.
It’s not just for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Turkey has the highest protein content of any meat, and it comes in many forms for you to incorporate into meals. Try ground turkey instead of ground beef, turkey breasts instead of chicken breasts, and turkey bacon instead of pork bacon.
If you’re tired of tofu, try tempeh instead. Made from fermented whole soybeans that give it an umami flavor and meaty texture, tempeh is less processed than tofu and comes in a firm block. It also has higher protein content, and more bioavailable protein, than most plant-based options—along with probiotics that support digestion, and plenty of other nutrients including iron and magnesium for strong blood and healthy muscles.
High in protein, often low in fat, and with nine essential amino acids that your body uses for healing, pork can be a nutritious part of a healthy diet—as long as you pick the right cuts for your needs. If you’re eating a low-fat diet, avoid fattier cuts like pork belly or bacon (turkey bacon is a great substitute). Instead, look for lean cuts like pork tenderloin, loin chops, or sirloin roast.
You probably have eggs in your fridge already. You likely use them in breakfast dishes and for baking, but that’s just the beginning. There are many ways to incorporate eggs into lunch and dinner meals—and a hard-boiled egg makes a satisfying, protein-rich snack). You could also try slicing some into a mixed salad to make it heartier or adding poached eggs to rice bowls or soups.
For the leanest protein, stick to egg whites, since nearly all of the fat in an egg is in the yolk.
Lean protein is an important part of health and wellness, especially those who are reducing fat. Protein helps your body build everything from skin and bones to muscles and blood. And since your body doesn’t store the excess you eat, it’s important to make it a regular part of your diet. Luckily, it’s not all fish and chicken breasts. There are many delicious ways to incorporate lean protein—both animal such as turkey bacon and plant based such as tempeh—into your cooking.