5 High-Protein Dinners That Are Easier Than Chicken

By K. Aleisha Fetters |

Mix up your regular dinner routine with these quick, nutrient-packed meals.

broccoli cheddar soup

No matter your age, protein is important. But the older you get, the more protein you may need.

That’s because through the years, your body naturally becomes less adept at absorbing and using the protein you eat to build muscle, per the Research Journal of Nutrition and Health Aging.

What’s more, research published in Age and Ageing found that one third of adults ages 60 and older suffer from severe muscle loss called sarcopenia. And this muscle loss is a major contributor to fat gain as well as low mobility and function.

Now for some good news: Eating a high-protein diet can help counteract this issue and significantly improve muscle health, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism. In the study, a daily dose of 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight did the trick. For a 150-pound adult, that equals 102 grams of daily protein.

That’s a lot of protein, so you may need to get creative to hit your daily goals. In other words, think—and cook—outside the chicken-and-a-side box.

“While chicken does offer a good source of protein, other foods—like chickpeas, hemp seeds, fish, and Greek yogurt—pack in other nutrients important to good health, like fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals like magnesium and calcium,”says Tori Schmitt, R.D.N., founder of YES Nutrition. “Variety of all foods in the diet, including protein foods, is important.”

Here are five protein-packed recipes that offer key nutrients you won’t get from chicken. The best part: They’re even easier to cook!

Most of these recipes make one serving, so simply double (or triple) the amounts if you’re cooking for a larger group.

1. 5-Minute Easy Tuna Salad

Packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, tuna not only benefits muscle health, but it’s also great for your heart, brain, and eyes, Schmitt says. While you can use any kind of canned tuna in this recipe, she recommends skipjack, which tends to be lower in mercury than albacore.

tuna salad on bed of lettuce with whole grain crackers
Photo: YES Nutrition LLC

You’ll need:

  • 1 can (5 ounces) skipjack tuna, drained
  • 4 tablespoons hummus
  • ½ teaspoon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Pepper to taste

What to do: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Serve on a bed of lettuce with eight to 12 whole grain crackers and ¼ lemon, if desired. This recipe makes one serving.

2. Blackberry Chickpea Salad

Meatless protein doesn’t have to be difficult: This salad packs nearly 20 grams! Plus, a single serving delivers half of your daily-recommended fiber, helping to improve both heart and digestive health, as well as aid in healthy weight loss, Schmitt says.

blackberry chickpea salad
Photo: YES Nutrition LLC

You’ll need:

  • 2 to 3 cups mixed greens
  • ½ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup blackberries
  • ½ cup cauliflower florets
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons Tessemae’s Green Goddess Dressing

What to do: Top mixed greens with chickpeas, blackberries, cauliflower, and hemp seeds. Drizzle with salad dressing. This recipe makes one serving.

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3. Cauliflower Steaks with Pesto and Hemp Seeds

These plant-based steaks are rich in fiber, folate, and vitamins B6, C, and K, Schmitt says. And cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, which may help tame inflammation. Plus, the hemp seeds alone contain almost 10 grams of protein.

cauliflower steak with pesto and hemp seeds
Photo: YES Nutrition LLC

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup avocado oil
  • ½ teaspoon basil
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon homemade or store-bought pesto
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • Fresh parsley (optional)

What to do: Mix together avocado oil, basil, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, and salt. Wash cauliflower, remove leaves, and cut into half-inch slices. Place slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Baste both sides of the cauliflower with the oil-herb mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, baste with remaining oil-herb mixture, and then bake for another 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden brown. Top with pesto, hemp seeds, and parsley if using . This recipe makes one serving.

4. Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This healthier twist on creamy broccoli cheddar soup contains only 155 calories per serving. And thanks to a generous helping of Greek yogurt, it also delivers 12 grams of protein per serving.

broccoli cheddar soup
Photo: YES Nutrition LLC

You’ll need:

  • 16 ounces (or about 3 cups) frozen broccoli, cooked (for a thicker soup, use more broccoli)
  • ¾ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do: Blend all ingredients, and then heat puréed mixture in a small saucepan on the stove. This recipe makes four servings.

5. Brussels Sprouts, Pomegranate, Walnut, and Feta Salad

While a single cup of Brussels sprouts contains 3 grams of protein, it also packs more than your daily allowance of immune-boosting vitamin C, Schmitt says. Bonus: This recipe gets an extra protein boost from walnuts and feta.

brussels sprouts, pomegranate, walnut, and feta salad
Photo: YES Nutrition LLC

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

What to do: Wash, de-stem, and halve Brussels sprouts. Combine with oil, salt, and pepper until sprouts are evenly coated, and place mixture on a baking sheet. Roast sprouts in the oven until centers are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Flip halfway through.

Remove from the oven, let cool, and combine with walnuts, pomegranate seeds, feta cheese, and balsamic vinegar. This recipe makes three servings.

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