It’s an essential nutrient, so putting protein high on your priority list is a resolution you should make (and keep) this year.
BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY
Food/Photography BY BROOKE ECHOLS
Makers of many foods (and those in charge of promoting certain agriculture products) like to slap the title “good source of protein” on their items as a way to entice an increasingly health-conscious public to buy and ingest whatever it is they’re selling. But is “getting enough protein” really that important or is the popularity of protein a fad? Yes to the first question; kind of to the second.
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to our bodies’ daily functions. It forms the building blocks of our cells and is used to make and repair muscles, bones, blood and other tissues. It plays many other crucial roles too, making it a key component of a balanced diet. It is found in meats but also in dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds and beans.
Protein is also the focus of several “trendy” diets (like Paleo, Keto and Whole 30), but just because they’re “trendy” doesn’t mean they don’t work. These protein-rich eating regimens deliver impressive results for weight loss. Pounds are shed quickly, and thanks to protein’s ability to satisfy appetites, people on these diets usually don’t feel overly hungry or deprived. According to the Mayo Clinic, for most people, high-protein, low-carb diets are safe, at least when they’re practiced short term.
But if you’re loading up your plate with bacon and fatty beef, you could exchange unwanted fat for high cholesterol and other issues. Better protein-heavy choices are fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy and beans. In fact, this advice applies to everyone: Experts agree that many of us could be making better choices about the kinds of protein we’re eating.
If you’re considering one of the protein-packed diets or just need to add some additional protein to your menu (now that you know how vital to good health it is), you’re in luck. Check out these tasty and (mostly) healthy reader-submitted recipes.
Cook of the Month
Mike Rich, Sand Mountain EC
No-Bake Puffed Quinoa Peanut Butter Crunch Cups
1 1/2 cups puffed quinoa*
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add the puffed quinoa to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter, coconut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract to a medium saucepan. Heat over low and whisk continuously for 4-5 minutes or until completely melted and smooth. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the puffed quinoa and stir to coat. Place 16-18 muffin liners on a baking pan. Drop heaping tablespoons of the quinoa mixture into the muffin liners and gently smooth out with a spoon. Pop the pan into the freezer for one hour to set. Once the cups have set, you can transfer them to the refrigerator to store.
Cook’s note: You can purchase puffed quinoa, but if you prefer to make your own, this is what I typically do: Heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Once the pot is hot, pour a small amount of pre-rinsed and dried quinoa over the bottom of the pan. Gently move the pan so that the quinoa swirls around as it pops (this helps prevent burning). Once all the quinoa has popped (a minute or two), pour it into a bowl and repeat until you have 1 1/2 cups. You’ll notice that the quinoa has a very quiet crackle rather than a popcorn-like “pop,” and its popped state is only the tiniest bit larger than its un-popped state.
2 ribeye steaks
1 package pork sausage
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans
1 16-ounce can black beans
1 16-ounce can pinto beans
1 16-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes
1 16-ounces tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 14-ounce can beef broth
Splash of sriracha sauce
Sear the steaks in a skillet 10 minutes a side. Brown the ground beef and pork together in a large pot. Cut the steak and add to a pot along with the chopped onion. After the onions cook down, add spices, tomatoes, brown sugar, sriracha sauce and beans. Pour in the beef stock and cook at a simmer for 30 minutes. Let chili rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
Kirk Vantrease, Cullman EC
Healthy Peanut Butter Cup Puppy Chow
3/4cup toasted wheat (or rice) cereal
(or any brand of peanut butter
1/4teaspoon Hershey Special Dark
Cocoa powder (or chocolate protein powder)
2packets Splenda or Stevia
Coconut oil cooking spray
Mix peanut butter powder, dark cocoa powder and Splenda or Stevia in a bowl. Place cereal in a quart sized Ziploc bag. Spray cereal with coconut oil cooking spray, tossing well. Use just enough to coat. Add the dry ingredients to the bag with the cereal and toss until they stick to all sides.
Kaci Cheeseman, Baldwin EMC
Sausage, Egg and Cheese Bake
2 pounds bulk sausage (I like to use one hot, one mild)
1 small onion, chopped
1 package diced red, yellow and green bell peppers
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup half and half or milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Brown the sausage with onion. Drain well on paper towels. Add the chopped bell peppers to the pan and sauté until tender. (You may or may not want to add a little oil or butter to the pan.) Add back in the sausage and onion mixture and stir until all ingredients are incorporated. Spread the meat/pepper mixture in a greased 9×13-inch baking dish or two smaller dishes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Whisk eggs, half and half or milk, garlic powder, salt and pepper together, and pour over the whole pan. I like to chill it overnight, but that’s optional. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Allison Law, Alabama Living managing editor
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