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Protein-Rich Meal Ideas

When you’re working out regularly, it’s important to eat the right foods. Protein is an important part of a balanced diet, but you should choose quality over quantity.

Go Lean With Protein

According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should “go lean with protein.” That is, you should choose leaner cuts of meats with fewer calories and artery-clogging fats. Healthy meats include:

•Chicken or turkey: white meat without the skin
•Beef: tenderloin, porterhouse, top loin, flank steak, 90 percent lean ground beef
•Pork: tenderloin or chop
•Veal: any cut
•Lamb: look for the term “loin”
•Game: bison, rabbit, buffalo
•Other healthy protein choices: fish, nuts, tofu, lentils, beans

Aim for three- to four-ounce portions, and complement the meal with whole grains, fruits and veggies.

Here are five healthy, protein-rich meal ideas to get you started:

Idea #1: Hamburger

Use 90 percent lean ground beef to create portion-controlled, three- to four-ounce patties. Serve on a whole wheat bun or pita, and pile the burgers high with veggies like lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Watch those condiments — you don’t want to overload on calories, sugar or sodium. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Protein alternatives: ground turkey, ostrich, salmon

Idea #2: Chicken Chili

Chili is a hearty favorite that can be modified into a healthy dinner. Use skinless chicken pieces. Experiment with different types of beans, such as kidney, black and pinto. Toss in delicious veggies like peppers, mushrooms, onions and peas.

Protein alternatives: Diced lean steak, 90-95 percent lean ground beef, turkey breast

Idea #3: Fish Tacos

For a fun alternative, make it a fish taco night. Shrimp, tilapia, and mahi mahi are low in calories and make a delicious taco. Add grilled vegetables such as peppers and onions. Top with salsa (1/2 cup for 30 calories) and two tablespoons of one high-fat topper like guacamole, reduced-fat sour cream or grated cheese.

Protein alternatives: chicken breast, strips of lean steak, rice and beans

Idea #4: Pork Tenderloin

Use fruits such as plums, pears, apples or mangoes to create a mouth-watering marinade or chutney for pork tenderloin. Serve with a side of green beans and baked new potatoes.

Protein alternatives: chicken breast, mahi-mahi, tilapia

Idea #5: Tofu Stir-Fry

For a meatless alternative, cook up a quick and easy stir-fry. Heat a teaspoon or two of oil in a wok; toss in cubes of marinated firm tofu; add vegetables such as broccoli, onions, peppers and carrots; serve over 3/4 to 1 cup of cooked brown rice.

Protein alternatives: skinless chicken, turkey, shrimp, pork tenderloin

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