We share heaps of healthy information on Nutritious Life’s blog every day, but “In the Kitchen with Keri” is your chance to spend some quality time with the wonder woman behind it all, Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN. It’s where she invites you into her space to share the ingredients she’s currently obsessed with, recipes she can’t get enough of, and other tips and tricks learned over many years of life as an always-ahead-of-the-curve nutritionist and wellness expert.
When you’re having one of those weeks, reaching for a packaged protein bar may be the only option. But in an ideal world, I’d make all of my protein snacks at home—and so would you!
The ideal snack provides protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied and give you energy without being a total calorie bomb (since it’s supposed to fill in gaps between meals, not become its own meal).
These are a few I’ve been making lately that are a little creative and different (AKA, not just handfuls of nuts…which I also love, by the way) but require very little time and skill to make.
Let’s start with my Chickpeas with Toasted Nori and Cayenne. Chickpeas are a great plant-based source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. I like to throw them in everything, from salads to sauteed greens. Roasted, they make a great snack.
Here, I tossed them in a little bit of avocado oil and sprinkled them with a pinch or two of cayenne (be cautious if you’re sensitive to spice!) and sea salt. Then, I roasted them in the oven, on 400, for about 15 minutes. When there was just about a minute left, I took them out and sprinkled them with a sheet of nori, which you can either just tear up or chop. Then, back in the oven for one minute to crisp it all up, and they’re done!
Adding the nori is super beneficial since sea vegetables are loaded with minerals and they’re not something we have a lot of opportunities to get in often. They also add salty flavor and crispy texture.
When these are done, you can throw handfuls into baggies to keep in your purse or keep a little bowl on your desk for an afternoon bite.
Next, I’m loving these No-Bake Peanut Butter Bites. Made with peanut butter (obviously), chia seeds, and flaxseeds, they’re filled with protein and healthy fats. I also like that these are automatically portion-controlled, since they’re made in a mini muffin pan and end up being bite-sized.
They make a great snack, or you can also serve ‘em to your kids as a high-protein, low-sugar breakfast that’s nice and sweet.
Speaking of breakfast, you might think Overnight Oats are just for the AM hours, but they’re also a perfect make-ahead protein snack, when you throw in a little high-quality protein powder.
I love filling a bunch of jars and having them in the fridge for whenever you need something quick and filling. They’re especially great for post-workout, since the protein powder is paired with healthy carbs from oats. Bonus: You can add whatever you want to the jar to dress it up and keep things exciting: chia seeds, berries, bananas, almonds, cashews, coconut, etc.
If you’re really feeling like a pro, make all three of these on a Sunday night and you’ll be set for snacking all week.
Here’s a phrase that might sound like an oxymoron: healthy beef jerky.
Traditionally, gas station jerkies like Slim Jims were straight-up junk food (not gonna lie…I had a weakness for these in my younger days!). They cured cheap meat with nitrates and nitrites (classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, by the way) and then loaded it with sodium, sugar, and artificial flavors and additives (um, yuck!).
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Those still exist, but there’s a whole new category of healthy beef jerky, made by companies using high-quality, grass-fed beef (and also organic chicken and turkey in some cases), which is higher in healthy fats like omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than grain-finished beef.
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These brands are dehydrating the meat or curing it with natural ingredients like salt and vinegar and skipping unhealthy additives. In many cases, they’re even adding additional nutritious ingredients, like antioxidant-rich spices and coconut oil. (Just keep an eye out for excess sugar, still.)
The result? A fast, easy high-protein snack that’s perfect for after a workout or to throw in your travel bag. You can also make your own at home, or check out these five healthy brands worth biting into.
Made with 100 percent grass-fed beef and other clean ingredients, Lorissa’s flavors—like Korean Barbeque—are super delicious. The only downside is the sugar is a little high, so stick to a serving at a time.
Laura’s doesn’t have as many fancy flavors as others, but it’s made with meat that’s both grass-fed and certified USDA organic. It’s high protein and low sugar.
If Slim Jims were your jam, try The New Primal’s meat sticks, like the Cilantro Lime Turkey Sticks made with free-range turkey, sea salt, and antioxidant-packed spices or Habanero Pineapple, made with grass-fed beef.
If you love cured meat, EPIC makes it all—Chicken Sesame BBQ jerky, Venison Sea Salt snack strips, and Bison Bacon Cranberry bars. Not to mention bone broth, animal oils, and more, all of it produced with the highest, healthy standards—for both you and the planet.
The One Simple Diet Change That’s Best for the Planet
Want to eat a more eco-friendly diet? There’s one simple thing you can do that will have the biggest impact: eat less meat.
“There are few other changes you can make in your life that will allow you to be both selfish and altruistic at the same time,” writes Mark Bittman in the book The Reducetarian Solution, which coins the term “reducetarian” to refer to anyone looking to cut back on their meat intake. “And yet becoming a reducetarian does just that, by helping you reduce both your changes of chronic disease and also your carbon footprint and the other damaging environmental consequences of industrial animal production.”
All food production requires resources that tax the planet in some way, but meat is particularly intensive in that it uses a lot of water, fuel, and land. It also contributes to nitrogen pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, since cows release methane.
Of course, you don’t have to go vegan if it’s not your style. When you do eat meat, you can choose beef from grass-fed cows that have been raised using more sustainable methods.
But even grass-fed beef advocates will tell you, you don’t need to eat meat twice a day (and meat that’s good for you and the planet can’t be produced at a rate that allows for that, anyway). Here are a few simple approaches you can try to eat less meat, now.
In her book, One Part Plant, wellness advocate Jessica Murnane suggests committing to one plant-based meal every day. You can choose breakfast, lunch, or dinner or switch it up each day, as long as once a day you’re skipping all meat and dairy.
Mark Bittman’s own approach is to eat totally plant-based early in the day every day but allow meat and dairy after 6:00 p.m., a plan he lays out in his book VB6. That doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up protein-rich eggs—just save your favorite frittata recipe for later in the day. Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?
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This may be the earliest example of vegan-ish eating. The Meatless Mondays campaign has been encouraging eaters to eat vegetarian one day a week (on Monday, obviously) for more than a decade. Of course, you could choose whichever day of the week works best for you and commit to swapping your steak salad for a veggie-packed grain bowl just once every seven days.
That really doesn’t sound like much of a sacrifice, right?
The 5 Healthiest Protein Bars
Protein bars are everywhere, calling out to you from next to the cash register at every deli, cafe, and drugstore. The healthiest protein bars, however, are much harder to find.
In fact, most options are just plain bad for your body. They contain more sugar (in multiple forms!) than protein, and the protein is low-quality and over-processed. Not to mention additives like artificial flavors and preservatives.
To help you figure out which to reach for, we unwrapped dozens of the most popular brands and evaluated the ingredients, nutrition facts, and flavor. Our top picks all contain at least 10 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of sugar (in most cases, less than five, and sugar is also far down on the ingredient list). They’re all made with healthy sources of protein (that come in bar form, that is) and the additional ingredients are real, clean food, not fillers.
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Important: We cut off the calories at around 250, but all of these are basically mini-meals, for when you’ve got no lunch break between meetings or need fast protein after an intense workout. (We’ll share our favorite lower-calorie snack bars, later!)
Many of these are still not perfect, but they’re the best of what’s available now. Stick to whole foods, and grab these only when you’re in a bind.
Traditional beef jerky is all cheap meat, sugar, and nitrates from the curing process. EPIC is one of the companies reclaiming the category, with its line of jerky-inspired meat bars. This superstar bar packs 15g of protein into just 120 calories and contains only 3g of sugar. It’s made with high-quality lean chicken and other healthy whole foods like hemp seeds and antioxidant-rich garlic, onion, and ginger.
Oatmega’s bars have a lot going for them. This chocolatey one has 14g of whey protein from grass-fed cows and just 5g of sugar, plus added fish oil for an omega-3 boost. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste fishy.) Bonus: it’s under 200 calories and also provides 7g of fiber. One note of caution on whey protein: These bars contain both whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate. Both can upset digestion in some people, depending on your sensitivity. And the concentrate form has more lactose, so if you’re intolerant, this one isn’t for you.
KIND bars are a little bit of a mixed bag. They generally contain mostly whole food ingredients (points!), but some include non-organic soy lecithin or are a little high in sugar. This one from the new Strong & KIND line is pretty great, with 10g of protein from nuts and pea protein isolate and only 5g of sugar. It’s a great pick for vegetarians (but is technically not vegan because of the honey) and also contains healthy spices like turmeric and paprika.
Primal’s bars contain 15g of protein and only 3g of sugar, and the ingredient list reads like a healthy menu: almonds, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, dark chocolate, etc. They also include collagen from happy, grass-fed Brazilian cows and 6g of fiber, so you may get some gut health benefits, too.
We really don’t like that a form of sugar (brown rice syrup) is the first ingredient in this bar, but we’re including them on the list for an important reason. It’s the only protein bar with a decent nutrient balance (10g protein to 9g sugar in 260 calories) that is also totally allergen-free. So, it works for those who need to avoid nuts, soy, gluten, eggs, and dairy. And the ingredients it does contain mostly come from healthy whole foods, like sunflower seed butter, sprouted brown rice protein, cinnamon, and vanilla.
(Top Photo: Instagram/primalkitchenfoods)
The Essential Guide to Plant-Based Protein
Maybe you got a smart pet and decided you had to go vegan. Maybe you’re cutting back on eating beef to lighten your environmental footprint. Whatever the reason, when you reduce meat in your diet, getting enough plant-based protein becomes important.
Why? Every meal should include protein since it contributes to satiety (AKA prevents overeating), provides energy, and helps maintain and build muscle (especially if you’re a gym junkie).
The good news: Our food supply is now filled with plant-based protein sources. Hemp and chia seeds weren’t sitting on grocery store shelves five years ago; neither were high-quality vegan protein powders. We can now meet our needs without burgers or wings.
How to do that in the healthiest way possible? Here’s everything you need to know about plant-based protein.
First of all, it’s important to know that it’s a (very widespread!) myth that you need to eat beans and rice together on one plate to form complete proteins (which contain all essential amino acids), like those found in meat.
Frances Moore Lappe proposed the theory of “protein complementing” in a book she published in the 70s. In later editions, she corrected the mistake to reflect the prevailing scientific position: as long as individuals are eating enough calories of varied plant-based food, they’ll almost always get all essential amino acids and meet daily protein requirements. In other words, yes, rice and beans are complementary, but you don’t have to mix them together during the same meal in order to benefit from the protein each offers on its own.
Plus, most Americans are eating more protein than they need, so it is rare to be deficient (although it’s much easier without meat!).
If you’re eating lots of different vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, you may already be getting more protein than you realize. Most veggies contain at least a few grams, for example, from broccoli to spinach and potatoes. But the following whole foods contain some of the highest amounts of plant-based protein:
Ancient grains like quinoa, farro, and amaranth all provide 8–9 grams of protein per cup (cooked) and are filled with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Legumes like lentils, black beans, and chickpeas provide many of the same important nutrients, like antioxidants, and deliver even more protein, with about 15–18 grams per serving.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and cashews are protein stars, too, and they contain healthy fats. That includes the nut butters you love, like almond and peanut. Just watch your serving sizes as calories can add up fast. And chia and hemp seeds are packed with protein (and many other beneficial nutrients) and can literally be sprinkled on anything—from avocado toast to zucchini noodles.
In general, it’s best to stay away from faux meat, but not all options are awful.
When it comes to soy, avoid faux meats made with highly processed versions, like soy concentrates and textured soy. And choose USDA-certified organic if you can, since soy is one of the most pesticide-soaked crops on the planet. All that being said, a block of organic tofu added to a stir fry instead of chicken is a great source of protein. Even better, try tempeh, which is a fermented version with probiotic benefits.
Seitan, on the other hand, is best avoided, since it’s basically concentrated wheat protein and is usually highly processed.
Finally, when it comes to veggie burgers, read labels carefully, since many are filled with processed soy and other potentially harmful additives. Look for products that list whole vegetables, beans, and other recognizable foods as ingredients. Better yet, make your own!
Finally, if you feel like you’re not getting enough protein, you can always boost your smoothie with a plant-based protein powder. This is a particularly helpful option if you love intense workouts and want to retain and build muscle shortly after a training session.
Skip soy protein since it tends to be super processed. Instead, reach for pea protein or hemp protein, which are both excellent, healthy plant-based protein powders.
Here’s the key: Most companies make powders that blend a mix of plant-based protein sources, combining pea or hemp, for example, with sunflower, flax, chia, or sacha inchi protein. These blends can be super healthy, you just have to pay close attention to the ingredient list to make sure they’re not also blending in preservatives, fillers, and artificial flavors. (P.S. I’m partial to Life’s Abundance Plant Protein Powder, since I just happened to help develop the recipe…so feel free to stock up on that one.)
The bottom line? If you incorporate all (or even some) of these foods into your plant-based diet on a somewhat regular basis, chances are you’ll be getting plenty of protein.
7 High-Protein Breakfast Recipes to Power Your Mornings
Why eat a high-protein breakfast?
Protein is essential for good health, and getting enough in the morning can set you up for a productive day filled with great food choices.
In addition to contributing to building muscle, protein provides energy (for both important meetings and chasing toddlers). It also fills you up, so you’ll feel satiated from the get-go and won’t overeat during the rest of the day’s meals (and snack times!).
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Worried this means you’ll have to stick to a steady rotation of scrambled eggs and yogurt? Try these seven high-protein breakfast recipes that are just as easy to prepare but will mix things up to make your mornings super tasty.
Turkey Sausage Patty and Eggs
Lean meat is the base of this dish that’s topped with an egg for even more protein. You’ll also get healthy fats from olive oil and micronutrients from flavor-enhancers like cayenne pepper, fennel, and cumin.
Salmon Pesto Tartine
Avocado’s not the only thing you can put on toast. Top the healthiest slice with smoked salmon, parmesan, and veggies, for a perfectly balanced breakfast.
Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal
We can hear your kids thanking you already. If you never thought of adding peanut butter (the natural kind!) and antioxidant-rich chocolate to morning oatmeal, now’s the time.
5 Healthy Snack Ideas That Require NO Skills
And, you’re about to crash hard. Must. Have. Fuel.
You always have a yogurt just about now, but . . .uch. You have no interest in it.
You’ve unenthusiastically had the same one for the past 3 days.
If this is you, right now, go ahead and eat it today (it’s better than the candy jar on your boss’s desk) but tomorrow try one of these 5 fab healthy snack ideas that need no skill and are ready in seconds.
Who doesn’t love a little somethin’ sweet and crunchy? Break out a bunch of tupperware and toss in 1 cup GMO-free air-popped popcorn, 1 ounce dried apricots (about 4, but double check with the packaging and make sure no added sugar or sulfur) and 10 almonds. Make a bunch to grab and go. Better yet, have your kids do it. Gorgeous fuel: calories 185, fat 6.5g, protein 4g, fiber 4.5g.
If you can boil water, you can have hard boiled eggs anytime. Boil up a bunch on Sunday. Slice ‘em up in one quick step and eat ‘em on a romaine leaf, wrapped up like a little burrito. Voila. Two large hard boiled eggs on 2 romaine leaves serves up 157 calories, fat 11g, protein 12.5g, fiber 0.
If unusual eats are what you crave, grab a green magic Mamma Chia Squeeze (loaded with omega-3s and fiber) and an ounce of roasted chickpeas. You can mix and match your chia squeeze and chickpea flavors (you can also buy these at the grocery if you don’t want to make them yourself) for endless excitement. No assembly required, you’ll refuel with 180 calories, fat 2g, protein 7g, fiber 9g.
If you are a self proclaimed stress eater, I have a perfect comfort snack that you can feel great about. OK, so you do need hot water, a bowl and spoon, but if you unleash a packet of high quality oatmeal into a mug, stir in some coconut chips and sprinkle with cinnamon, you’ll release some serotonin, and your fried brain will thank you: calories 245, fat 10g, protein 6g, fiber 8g. Bonus if you take deep breaths and enjoy slowly.
It doesn’t get healthier, more satisfying or easier than this, peops. Halve a small avocado. Fill with ¼ cup steamed lentils (you find them in the refrigerator section by the produce) and a squeeze of lemon. You can use ¼ cup prepared tabbouleh instead, if lentils are hard to come by. Avocado + lentils: calories 127, fat 7g, protein 5.5g, fiber 7g. Avocado + tabbouli: calories 169, fat 12g, protein 3g, fiber 5.5g
Covet your co-worker’s snacks no more.
Get out of your snoozers snacktime rut. If any of these 5 delicious, healthy snack ideas take you more than 5 minutes to grab and go, somethin’s wrong.
Happy snack time = happy, more productive you.10 Awesome Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks
You’ve got your Lululemon gear on, hair in a pony, you’re ready to lace up and get your sweat on. But there’s one problem: you’re starving.
The carrot kale salad topped with grilled salmon you had for lunch is a distant memory.
You’ve been in this story a zillion times, so you know how this plays out. You open and close the pantry and refrigerator doors at least one hundred times.
Plan A: You grab the leftover pizza, shovel it down, and regret it as it sloshes around in your stomach turning your workout into a seemingly counterproductive duel between exercise endorphins and digestive angst . . .
Plan B: You white knuckle it through your workout on an empty stomach, and when you get home, you shove whatever you can into your mouth as fast as you can, feeling like you’ve undone your gym efforts as the first cheese cracker touches your lips.
Your familiar situation has you stuck.
A poorly planned pre-workout snack forces your body to juggle channeling blood to your digestive tract to digest and channeling blood to your muscles to work. The result is usually stomach pains and sometimes nausea.
Alternatively, exercising on an empty fuel tank results in a low energy workout with poorer performance and gains.
So what should you eat as a pre-workout snack and/or a post-workout snack?
I’ve supported countless clients through navigating their pre-post-workout conundrum, but the fact is, there’s no one size fits all perfect pre-workout snack or post-workout snack.
Trial and error is part of the game and is essential to figuring out what works for you, the activity you’re doing and your lifestyle.
Your snack for the 90 minute yoga class may be different than what you choose before your Tabata sprint sesh on Saturdays.
Carbs: energy from carbohydrates so you don’t run out of steam
Satiety: so you aren’t starving in 20 minutes
Digestibility: easy digestibility so nothing lingers in your stomach and weighs you down
H2O: hydration to keep you from feeling sluggish
H2O: water is uber important for your overall energy, maintaining electrolyte balance and restoring losses from the great sweat you worked up
Protein: helps to restore your enviably hard worked muscle tissue
Carbs: help to replete glycogen losses, and the energy you store in your muscles