Spark Your Protein

Plain grilled or baked meat or tofu gets boring quickly. With very little extra work, you can turn a pound of lean chicken, pork or fish into a healthy main dish.
You'll need:
  • Chicken: 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Pork: 1 pound boneless chops
  • Fish: 1 pound boneless fillets
  • Tofu: 1 block extra firm, drained and pressed 
1. Easy marinades. Brush with no or low oil marinade, then roast, grill or sauté. (Vinegar-based dressings make great marinades.) If you use a store-bought version, choose one that's low in sodium.
2. Glazed with jam. Grill or roast protein. During the final five to 10 minutes of cooking, brush meat with jam or marmalade thinned slightly with water. Try peach jam, orange marmalade or cherry preserves.
3. Crunchy coating. Beat two egg whites in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, add 1 cup breadcrumbs sprinkled with your favorite dried herbs (such as dried thyme, rosemary or parsley). Dip the protein in the egg whites, then coat with breadcrumbs. Bake on lightly oiled baking sheet or pan-fry in a skillet coated with cooking spray. (Choose whole-wheat panko for extra crunch.)
4. Spice rub. Choose a salt-free blend or make your own. Try mixing equal parts chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and paprika. Sprinkle on both sides of the meat, then roast, grill or sauté. (Serve with corn tortillas and your favorite taco trimmings.)
5. Simple soup. Bring 4 cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock to a boil in a large stock pot. Add diced protein and simmer for five minutes. Add 4 cups chopped vegetables (try any combination of tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, kale, spinach, onions, potatoes or sweet potatoes) and 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs, then simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Note: With fish, add after the vegetables have cooked.)
6. Quick kebabs. Mix 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs and two tablespoons oil or 1 tablespoon curry paste and 1/4 cup Greek yogurt. Brush on chunks of protein threaded on skewers. Grill or broil. (Soak wooden or bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning.)
7. Compose a salad. Mix cooked protein with 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 tablespoon dried parsley, 1 tablespoon pickle relish, 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and pepper to taste. Serve over greens or in between slices of whole-grain bread.
8. Protein-packed pasta. Dice the protein and season with dried oregano, basil and thyme. Sauté in a large skillet. Add a jar of low-sodium spaghetti sauce to the pan, bring to a simmer, then add four servings (2 cups) cooked whole-wheat pasta.
9. Speedy stir-fry. Slice protein into thin strips. Season with 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger, then sauté. Heat a bag of frozen vegetables according to package directions, drain any excess water, then add to the pan and cook for one minute. Serve with cooked brown rice.
Note: Be sure your meat reaches a safe temperature before eating.
  • Chicken: 165 degrees
  • Pork: 145 degrees (let rest for three minutes before eating)
  • Fish: 145 degrees