Protein-packed lunch ideas to get you through the day

We all know protein is good for you and that it helps build muscle, but if horror stories of meat milkshakes and gas-inducing protein shakes has turned you off protein, you’re missing out!

Yahoo Lifestyle spoke to dietician and nutritionist Susie Burrell for her expert opinion on what protein is and how to make protein your bestie.

Mid section of young woman enjoying freshly served sizzling steak with salad and rice bowl in a restaurant
Susie Burrell has shared her expert opinion on what protein is. Photo: Getty

The Importance of Protein

“Protein plays an important role in the creation and maintenance of every cell in your body, which is why it’s such a necessary component of our diet,” Susie, who is also a Tassal ambassador, explains.

“It’s also considered a 'macronutrient', meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to reap its range of benefits. These benefits include maintaining muscle mass, keeping blood sugars stable, the growth, repair, and maintenance of cells, building muscle, cartilage and skin, and hormonal regulation.”


Common Food Swaps to Boost Protein Intake

Most health-conscious foodies already know how to make an epic smoothie bowl or yummy Sunday fry-up, but if you’re struggling to find ways to get more protein into your diet on a daily basis, Susie has some tips for you.

“Animal based foods including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy contain the highest amounts of good quality protein, so swapping fruit juice for milk-based smoothies, avocado on toast for smoked salmon on toast, or a jam or honey sandwich for an egg or cheese sandwich are easy swaps to increase protein intake through the day.”

Boosting Protein at Every Meal

Susie says aiming to include one protein rich food into each meal or snack is an easy way to achieve your daily protein requirements.

For example, eggs or Greek yoghurt for breakfast, smoked salmon or chicken breast with lunch, or Tassal salmon or lean red meat with dinner.

And plant-based foodies haven’t been forgotten!

Salmon on a dinner table.
Salmon is a great protein source. Photo: Getty

If you prefer a plant-based approach, Susie advises that legumes, nuts, wholegrains and seeds do contain protein.

“Including a wholegrain or legume at each meal will help to ensure you get adequate protein, while snacking on seeds and nuts once a day will also give you a serve of protein.”

Susie’s Top 10 Protein-Packed Lunch Ideas

Planning ahead or eating on-the-go, these protein packed lunches will have you feeling satisfied and ready to take on anything!

1. Macronutrient Salad

A macronutrient balanced salad with two to three cups of leafy greens, a palm-sized portion of protein, like salmon or boiled eggs, a decent serving of carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, or beans, alongside some good fats will keep you satisfied for hours.

2. Soup and a sandwich - not only will the vegetables in the soup keep you full, but the serving of carbs and protein through egg, salmon, or chickpeas on a small side sandwich will keep you full up until dinner too.

3. Sushi - a couple of brown rice sushi rolls with sashimi, edamame and seaweed salad will help you achieve a high protein meal that will satisfy you until late afternoon.

4. Savoury muffins and slices - not only are they easy to meal-prep, they’re also packed with protein. I like to sneak even more protein in my muffins with salmon, like Tassal’s Salmon & Feta Muffins and Salmon and Zucchini Slice.

5. Stuffed potatoes - they cook within minutes, and you can stuff it with your favourite protein, like smoked salmon or black beans and top with vegetables.

6. Wholegrain wraps - filled with turkey and salad, hummus and tempeh or, diced salmon and vegetables, like Tassal’s Diced Salmon Middle Eastern Wraps.

7. Leftovers

Take your lunch game to a new level with leftovers!

The next time you’re preparing your mid-week dinner, double it. The best recipes that make for great leftovers are usually packed with sturdy, malleable ingredients, like root vegetables and beans. Hearty meats can last in your fridge for up to three or four days and still be safe to eat too—which is great whether you're saving it for tomorrow or later in the week.

8. Stuffed Avocados

Just add chickpeas, mayonnaise, chilli flakes and cherry tomatoes. The protein and healthy fats will ensure you're fuller for longer.

9. Eggs, your way.

Eggs aren't just for breakfast, as they are the cheapest, nutritious protein option you can choose throughout the day. I like to boil them for salads, wraps and sandwiches.

10. Brown rice and vegetables - simply mix a packet of rice with frozen vegetables and throw a tin of canned salmon or tuna in there for protein.

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