Lean, Mean Protein!


Written By: Heather Gerrish, RDN

Sometimes it’s hard to change things up or experiment with a new flavor combo. Protein is no exception. If you feel like your go-to protein staple is getting old, or you need some new ideas - stay tuned - there is more than just grilled chicken out there to help round out a delicious meal!

Let’s first define some different descriptions of “lean protein”. Some protein sources can contain a higher percentage of fat, primarily from animal sources. These protein options often will indicate a certain percentage of fat on the label (for example, in ground beef). Additionally, the marbling found in cuts of beef (the white sections) also play a role. Cuts of meat vary depending on the percentage of marbling, which can result in a tender steak or a lean and tough cut - completely dependent on what you are looking for and what you might be making at home. (We can talk about food science later and the art of making a great steak!).


Most often, “leaner” options include reduced marbling or percentages of fat - that’s where chicken comes in as a key player in being both a high protein option that is both versatile (can be served in many dishes with many flavor profiles) and has low total percent calories from fat when served baked or broiled, without skin.

Let’s take a closer look…

Things to watch for when shopping or reviewing a nutrition facts label:

  • Amount per serving (this can play a big role in total calories and fat later on)

  • Total grams of protein per serving

  • % Fat/Total grams of fat

  • Ability to be cooked down (for example, ground beef can be cooked down and then the extra fat from the meat itself can be drained, therefore reducing the total percentage of fat - BUT - this is not exact and is just an estimate that is lower than the indicated package percentage)

Other options:

  • Dairy products (reduced fat/low fat) depending on individual dietary needs and preference

  • Beans and legumes (when buying canned beans, review the nutrition facts label for total grams of fat and be aware of added sodium)

  • Jackfruit (vegan and vegetarian option with “meat-like texture”), versatile in mixed dishes

  • Tofu or soybean, Tempe

  • Vegetables!! (contain some protein, but every bit counts!).

Recipes and Inspiration:

Here are some new, fresh recipes to get your imagination going and some ideas to help you think of new items and combinations to try in your next round of meal prep.

Chia Seed Crusted Salmon

Why We Love it: An interesting take on traditional salmon. Salmon and is a great option for substituting red meat or changing up your meal prep. Note that salmon contains a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for the body’s inflammatory response.

Tofu Chili

Why We Love it: Something different for a legume-based dish. Traditional chili often contains beef, but in this recipe trying out tofu is another way to increase total protein for a delicious recovery meal or weeknight staple.

Marinated Chicken Breasts

Why We Love it: Another idea for the traditional chicken breast - so flavorful, so versatile and SO delicious!

Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf

Why We Love it: Adding in quinoa vs. bread crumbs is a nuanced idea - but why not! Meatloaf is an easy meal prep dish that can be portioned out for the week - another idea is to use ground turkey vs. beef to lower the total grams of fat in this flavorful dish.

Give these options a try, or be inspired to try something new this week! You never know what you might find - and love!


“Food, Friends, and Recipe Inspiration.” Allrecipes, www.allrecipes.com/.

“Food Network Canada | Easy Recipes & How To Cook Guides - TV Schedules.” Foodnetwork.ca, www.foodnetwork.ca/.

Heather Gerrish