I personally enjoy the process of creating a satisfying, healthy meal that is different from my typical dinner routine, to the extent that many of these meals have become a part of the way my family eats throughout the year. In this article, I aim to help you incorporate different non-meat proteins into healthy dinner meals that are family-friendly, satisfying, inexpensive, and take only minutes to prepare.
Let’s start with eggs. Eggs are very bioavailable, meaning your body can utilize the protein in eggs very easily. They contain many nutrients and are very versatile. My favorite ways to use eggs for dinner are to whip up an easy shakshuka using canned crushed tomatoes, garlic and herbs, or to create an egg burrito. Both are filling and delicious!
Fish is a popular protein option to use when not making a meat dinner. Many popular kosher fishes are good sources of healthy unsaturated fats, making them great dinner options. A fun dinner using fish is to create a poke bowl. Pop some frozen brown rice into the microwave, top with whatever veggies you have available, and place fish on top. I like to add a leafy veggie in there as well. Sprinkle with soy sauce or dressing and enjoy! A salmon sheet pan dinner featuring chickpeas, baby peppers and baby bella mushrooms is another favorite of mine.
When using dairy as a protein source, it is important to realize the correct portion size of the meal. Heavy cheese sauces can add up in calories and saturated fat very quickly, and are generally used with foods we easily overeat. Plan in a strong vegetable side dish to your menu to create a balanced meal. A lighter dairy meal option is a summer feta salad with a side carb dish. A vegetable soup topped with cheese can be another delicious and hearty dairy meal. We won’t tell the neighbors, but realize that a cup of milk can provide a picky child with her dinner protein.
Despite not being a typical part of the standard American or Ashkenazi diet, legumes are a great protein to meal plan around. They are high in fiber in addition to providing protein, and are cheap and easy to prepare straight from a can, making legumes very convenient to have on hand. White bean soup is a favorite among my children. I like to toss (canned) lentils with fresh (store-bought!) tomato salsa and eat in a soft tortilla. Bean chili is a fun meal as you can set up a toppings station to dish it up.
Below are more delicious recipes that incorporate legumes.
Soy as its less processed self is another underutilized protein source. Top that aforementioned poke bowl with edamame. Substitute tofu in for the protein in a stir fry dish. Tempeh is great marinated, and grilled or pan fried, then eaten in a sandwich, wrap or salad. In addition, there are a plethora of veggie-burger-type options out there that are soy based. However, read the nutrition facts and ingredient labels of the burger with care before deciding that it provides the health benefits you are looking for.
Enjoy minimal time in a hot kitchen while providing yourself and your loved ones with nourishing, satisfying, and fun meals to enjoy together.