By Dawn Frick, Dietetic Student at the University of Maryland
Halloween has come and gone and chances are we’ve indulged in a little candy. Afterall, we wouldn’t be celebrating the season of trick-or-treating without indulging in a little sugary treat, right?
While we still may be packing some treats in our lunches this week, let’s have a little fun finding ways to “treat” up our protein while we’re at it.
Why should we care about protein during the day?
When we include some of this nutrient into our meals, we’re giving our bodies what it needs to help build muscle and repair damages. Protein can also make antibodies (to help us stay healthy for that mid-term next week).
Additionally, adding a little protein into our lunch gives us a little boost of energy and some help concentrating the rest of the afternoon.
But a mid-day protein doesn’t always have to come in that all-too-familiar form of hamburgers or ham sandwiches. I know it’s easy and quick to stop by Stamp and grab a quick sandwich; but with a little planning, we can turn our lunches into a more interesting balance of protein and carbohydrates.
If it’s not a sandwich, then what? Sometimes we find proteins hiding in the trickiest places…
- Legumes – Toss your favorite bean – kidney, garbanzo, black – in with some noodles and chopped veggies for an easy pasta salad. Keep your salad in a plastic container until you’re ready for lunch.
- Eggs – From the classic hard-boiled egg to egg-salad sandwich, there are quick ways to include an egg in your lunch. Be sure to toss in a cold-pack to ensure your lunch stays cool until you’re ready to enjoy.
- Yogurt – One of the best parts about getting some protein from yogurt is the never-ending treats that can be tossed in – nuts, granola, fruit, or honey. Greek yogurt generally has more protein than non-Greek, and it’s always fun to experiment to find your favorite way to enjoy this protein source.
- Vegetarian burger – If you’re still craving the burger, but not the beef, try a soy or veggie burger and fix it just how you like. Top it with fresh vegetables sandwiched between a whole grain bun. Sprouts, found at the North Diner Dining Hall, has different vegan options as well, including a vegan meatball sub.
- Protein-packed salad – The salad bar at the Dining Hall is a great place to add some protein into your lunch – top your favorite leafy veggies with tofu, chicken, nuts or seeds, or beans. Sprinkle a little cheddar cheese or diced egg on top for a bit more of a protein punch.
- Quinoa – I know, weird word, but great grain! This is an easy protein to cook and to add whatever you like – onions, tomatoes, or spinach – from the Farmer’s Market on campus.
- Peanut butter and jelly – A little treat for the kid in you! These are easy ingredients to keep on hand, and a quick sandwich to take with you for between classes. If a PB&J is too much like preschool, add some peanut butter on just about anything you enjoy – crackers, apple slices, or even an oatmeal cookie.
It’s nice to know that getting protein in our lunch doesn’t have to be some type of meat between two slices of bread. Protein is in many of the foods we already enjoy and maybe just didn’t realize it.
What’s your favorite way to get some protein during the day?