Protein is an integral part of the nutrition trifecta, which also includes fat and carbohydrates. While it provides your body with energy, in the form of calories, that’s far from its only job.
Protein is part of pretty much every single aspect of your body, from your skin, hair, and fingernails to your muscles, digestive tract, and blood, explains Toby Amidor, MS, RDN, CDN, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.
“Protein, which is found in some hormones, antibodies, and digestive enzymes, also helps build and maintain the body by replacing worn out cells regularly and is also involved with blood clotting, an important function that prevents you from bleeding out.”
Despite protein’s vital importance, most women and elderly men are missing out on their daily recommended amount of protein. For this reason, Amidor presses the importance of including protein in every meal from a variety of sources—ideally about 30 grams per meal or snack.
To help ensure that you get your daily dose, nutritionists share their favorite recipes for post-workout dinners.
Foil-Baked Norwegian Salmon
Salmon is one of the most nutritious fish out there, thanks to its healthy serving of Omega-3-fatty acids, the good-for-you type of fat that your body craves.
For Jill Weisenberger, Virginia-based RDN and author of Prediabetes: A Complete Guide, this recipe from the Norwegian Seafood Council is a go-to, high-protein dinner recipe, because it’s also chock-full of carbs from the potatoes and vegetables, an essential nutrient that your body needs replenished after exercise.
The best part? There’s practically no clean-up involved!
1 pound Norwegian salmon fillet, skinned and deboned
2 cloves garlic
3 ounces of unsalted butter
Two sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh dill
4 fingerling potatoes
1 red onion
Salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse Norwegian Salmon fillet and pat dry with paper towel.
- Cut into 1-inch-thick cubes, season with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes.
- Mince and mash garlic and add the butter, chopped dill, and thyme along with salt and pepper.
- Cut fingerling potatoes into quarters and boil until smooth when forked. Remove from water and set aside.
- Slice zucchini lengthwise, then cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons; set aside. Large-dice the onion.
- Place salmon, zucchini, cooked potatoes, and onion in an aluminum foil “basket,” leaving enough foil to seal together.
- Pour garlic butter mixture evenly over top and seal the foil over the food.
- Place in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for ten to 15 minutes, allowing the bag to sit on the counter for three minutes before opening.
Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken with Potatoes and Carrots
Chicken is packed with protein. A skinless, cooked chicken thigh contains a whopping 28 grams—which is more than half of your recommended daily amount, depending on your body weight. Of course, you don’t want to overdo it, which is why it’s best to choose a recipe that incorporates nutrient veggies and starches as well. This one, created by Amidor, is the perfect one-pan, high-protein, post-workout dinner.
¼ cup olive oil
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 1 thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1-1/2 pounds new potatoes, quartered
5 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch coins (about 1 pound)
2 medium parsnips, cut into ½-inch coins (about ½ pound)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and coat a sheet pan with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Add the chicken, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips to the dressing and coat to toss.
- Gently pour the vegetables and chicken onto the prepared baking sheet and top with the lemon slices.
- Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 45 minutes until the chicken reaches a minimum internal cooking temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Into each of four containers, scoop about two cups of chicken and vegetables.
Spanish-Style Chicken in Tomato Sauce
This is another great chicken recipe that looks (and tastes) fancy, but is equally as easy to make as the last of Amidor’s dishes that we mentioned. The flavor comes from the mix of herbs and spices—onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley—as well as the fresh veggies, including green bell pepper, white mushrooms, and canned tomatoes.
1-1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
½ teaspoon salt, divided
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into ¼-inch strips
10 ounces white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
¼ cup halved and pitted green olives, for garnish (optional)
- Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook for ten minutes, flipping once, until both sides are browned. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
- In the skillet, heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and cook until translucent, three minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, one minute. Then add the peppers and mushrooms, and cook for five minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet and toss to coat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Add the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and remaining ⅛ teaspoon pepper, and stir to combine.
- Serve warm, garnished with the parsley and olives, if desired, or freeze for later.
Summer Vegetarian Grain Bowl with Maple-Dijon Dressing
Not all protein comes in seafood and meat forms. This gluten-free, vegan dish created by Amy Gorin, RDN in New York, is packed with protein, thanks to kidney beans. Just one cup packs 43 grams—nearly your recommended daily dose!
½ Vidalia onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves
1 yellow squash, sliced
½ lemon, sliced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, from Canada
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3 cups arugula
1 cup cooked quinoa, prepared with low-sodium vegetable broth according to package directions
1 cup low-sodium canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ avocado, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
- Spray a grill or cast-iron grill pan with spray oil.
- Grill onions, garlic, and squash over medium-high heat, flipping once, until desired tenderness.
- Grill lemon wedges until lightly browned, turning once.
- Combine olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and mustard in a sealed container, such as a mason jar.
- Shake well until combined and set aside.
- Place a bed of arugula in two bowls and top with quinoa.
- Add grilled vegetables, tomatoes, kidney beans, and avocado.
- Drizzle with maple-Dijon dressing and add lemon wedge and enjoy immediately.
Getting enough protein is essential for working out and staying healthy. We’ve just added all new workouts in the Aaptiv app and are adding more every week!