Salads are undeniably one of the best ways to get your daily dose of veggies. But carrots and kale alone do not make a satisfying meal, nor is it going to help you pack on the muscle. That’s why we recommend adding high-protein foods to your salads as often as possible.
“By looking for ways to add protein to your salads you’ll be able to transform it from a mere side-dish to the main part of a meal,” says Molly Morgan, RD, owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions & Founder of Fuel2Win.
Sure, you can be like the French and toss an egg on your greens, or you can take the easy way out and scatter on some chopped rotisserie chicken. But there are other, more interesting ways to make a high-protein salad. Kick things up a notch by piling on these protein-packed foods.
1) Hemp seeds.
Also called “hemp hearts,” these groovy little nuggets are a nutritional treasure trove. On top of delivering 10 grams of complete plant protein in each 3-tablespoon serving, hemp seeds offer up a surfeit of heart-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. As a bonus, adding hemp seeds to a salad is as simple as reaching into a bag, grabbing a handful, and tossing them onto your greens. The Chipotle, Onion & Garlic Hemp Toppers from Manitoba Harvest are a great option.
2) Smoked mackerel.
The nutritional firepower of this fish is worthy of a resounding “holy mackerel.” Mackerel contains a ton of omega-3 fats, which “have been linked to decreasing inflammation in the body for better heart health,” says Morgan. “And research seems to point towards food sources of omega-3s as being superior to supplements.” This gift of the sea is also a great source of muscle-making protein, containing about 16 grams in a 3-ounce portion.
While cooking fresh mackerel can leave your kitchen smelling for days, no-cooking-required fillets of smoked mackerel are a less odorous way to quickly add a protein kick to your pile of veggies. You can also use it to elevate potato salads. No luck reeling it in from your fishmonger? Look for convenient tins of mackerel from brands like Wild Planet.
3) Skyr yogurt.
So thick that tradesmen could use it to lay bricks, this healthy Icelandic import has been marketed as a less tangy alternative to Greek yogurt. Made by fermenting milk with cultures and then straining away the liquid, skyr (pronounced “skeer”) is ultra-dense in protein, supplying about 17 grams in a 5-ounce serving. Bonus: it contains gut-friendly critters known as probiotics, which Morgan says are important players in your overall health. The straining process also removes much of the lactose, which can make skyr easier to digest for some.
Use skyr to rustle up a protein-rich, creamy dressing. Simply whisk together plain Skyr yogurt with extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped chives and a couple pinches of salt. For added oomph, go ahead and also stir in some prepared horseradish. Skyr is also a good swap for mayo when making tuna or egg salads.
This buzzy ancient grain is basically quinoa on steroids. Not only does freekeh have more protein (7 grams in 1/4 cup dry) and twice as much fiber as quinoa, it also delivers the same vision-protecting antioxidant duo lutein and zeaxanthin, which is most often found in leafy greens. “Freekeh’s impressive protein-fiber combo will work to make your salads more filling for longer,” adds Morgan.
Look for brands selling faster cooking cracked freekeh such as Bob’s Red Mill and then simmer one cup of grain in 2 1/2 cups water or broth until tender and liquid has been absorbed. You can then add the cooked freekeh to your salad mix or use it as an anchor of a grain-based salad.
5) Meat sticks.
Jerky, that on-the-go snack for long-haul truckers and Paleo dieters, has experienced a renaissance of late as the ultimate protein-packed snack. But unlike many tough and ropy jerky options, meat sticks are often more tender, making them a great way to give any salad a lean protein boost. Simply slice up a couple sticks and scatter them on your salad. We like Mighty Organic Original 100% Grassfed Beef Sticks, which has six grams protein per stick.
As far as meat-free options go, lentils are a pretty protein-packed option. Just half a cup of these legumes provides roughly nine grams of plant protein and a stunning 16 grams of fiber, along with ample minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, making them the best salad topper you’re not using. “Plant proteins like lentils are inherently nutrient-rich which better supports health and longevity,” Morgan says. And you don’t even have to turn on the stove to simmer up a pot if you opt for vacuum-sealed, canned, or even frozen pre-cooked lentils, all of which are awesome ready-to-go healthy salad options.
Through this article, we hope to help you understand Protein to add to salad