I’ll admit it. I’m a meat eater — the leanest varieties I can find, of course. But sometimes I like to take a page from the vegetarian’s cookbook. I fuel my muscles with other protein sources, like beans, seeds and nuts. Just because they aren’t very lean doesn’t mean nuts and seeds don’t deserve a place on your plate.
Vegetarians may be onto something, because nuts and seeds are the perfect protein when…
You need more nutrients — It may come as a surprise, but you actually need fat to better absorb nutrients. In fact, the fat from nuts and seeds is mostly the healthy unsaturated kind. So not only are you helping your body get the nutrients it needs, but you’re helping your heart, to boot! If you choose wisely, your meatless protein picks can be real winners — low in sodium, no cholesterol and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
You crave a little crunch — Potato chips are oh-so-tempting. And so are those crispy tortilla strips that restaurants add to an otherwise healthy salad. But you’re not doing yourself any favors with these greasy crunch monsters. When you really need to sink your teeth into something, top your salad with slivered almonds. Instead of pairing your lunch sandwich with the old standby chip bag, grab a handful of unsalted pecans. If your crunch craving comes with a side of salt, nut crackers are not a bad option — just be sure to dunk them in homemade bean dip for more protein punch.
You can’t stand to eat another chicken breast — Believe me; I know how boring it is to eat chicken breast over and over. There are a lot of ways to make it varied and interesting, but a week’s worth of chicken is hard to stomach even for a master chef. That’s why it’s completely okay — and strongly encouraged — to go meatless at least one day of the week. Take the challenge and try a new recipe with nuts, beans or seeds being the protein stars of the show. Simple and soothing fall dinner ideas might be a bowl of bean chili for the game, walnut-pesto spaghetti the whole family will love or nut butter quesadillas. Experiment and enjoy!
Jennifer Nicole Lee is an international fitness model, best-selling author and motivational speaker who has appeared on Oprah, CBS The Early Show, Inside Edition, E! Entertainment and Fox and Friends. She is the author of the The Fun Fit Foodie Cookbook and was named one of the “Three Top Females in the Fitness Industry” of 2011 by Yahoo Sports. Check out her health and fitness tip videos exclusively on the Vitacost Live Wire.