Healthy High-Protein Midday Meals

If your idea of a healthy salad is a handful of greens tossed with a nonfat dressing, no wonder you skip lunch or opt for less-than-diet-friendly fare. Boring salads that have no substance will never win your thumbs up when it comes to healthy eating nor will they ever become anticipated and satisfying midday meals. We couldn’t agree more! So we’ve come up with three amazing protein-rich salad recipes that will make lunch your favorite meal of the day.

Warm Mediterranean quinoa salad

Warm Mediterranean quinoa salad recipe

Quinoa is a high-protein super grain that has rapidly gained popularity over the past few years. Quick to cook, it can be served warm or chilled, sweet or savory and for any meal of the day. Sitting down to a bowl of this Mediterranean-inspired quinoa for lunch is a delicious way to fuel the rest of your day until dinnertime.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 3/4 cup dried currants
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate syrup*
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Place broccoli and eggplant on the baking sheet and drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil, tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.
  3. Meanwhile, combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add vegetables, onion, currants, herbs, remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, and pomegranate syrup to quinoa and toss well to combine.
  5. Divide quinoa salad among four bowls and garnish with feta.

*Cook's note: You can buy pomegranate syrup or pomegranate molasses in the ethnic section of many supermarkets. You can also make your own pomegranate syrup by combining 1/2 cup 100 percent pomegranate juice and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small skillet over high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer until mixture reduces down and thickens into a syrup.

Sauteed shrimp salad recipe with creamy citrus dressing

Shellfish is low in calories yet packed with protein. Shrimp's mild flavor makes it an easy addition to just about any type of salad. In this zesty salad recipe, shrimp is tossed with colorful fruit, veggies, greens, and a sweet creamy citrus dressing.

Serves 4

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise made with olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

For the shrimp:

  • 1-1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled, deveined (remove the tails or leave them on)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

For the salad:

  • 6 cups shredded green and red cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions (green and white parts)
  • 1 large mango, pitted, peeled, diced
  • 1 cup cashews

Directions:

  1. To make the dressing, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, honey, orange zest and juice, lime zest and juice and cilantro. Set aside.
  2. To cook the shrimp, season shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, for three minutes or until shrimp are pink throughout. Season with paprika, toss again, and remove from heat.
  3. To make the salad, in a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, green onions and mango. Divide salad among four plates. Arrange shrimp on top of salad ingredients. Drizzle with dressing. Garnish with cashews.

Masa crusted chicken strip salad recipe

Masa harina is a specialty corn flour that you can find in the Mexican section of your local supermarket. It is used to make masa dough for tamales as well as homemade tortillas, and it adds a lovely flavor and coating for juicy chicken strips. This protein-rich chicken strip salad recipe is the perfect dish to serve for a girls' luncheon or family brunch.

Serves 4

For the chicken:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup masa harina
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A few grinds freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

  • 8 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 large ripe but firm avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 2 small limes or 1 large lime
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco (or mild feta cheese)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Cut chicken into strips and set aside.
  3. Place eggs in a shallow dish. In a second shallow dish, mix together masa harina, flour, spices, sugar, salt and pepper.
  4. Dip chicken strips in eggs, let excess drip off, and then dredge in the flour mixture. Place chicken in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Spray chicken with olive oil (or cooking spray). Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and the coating is lightly browned.
  6. Meanwhile, place salad greens, peppers and avocado in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice and honey.
  7. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss to coat. Divide greens among four plates and top with chicken strips. Garnish with cheese and serve immediately.

More salad ideas

3 Sandwich & salad combos for the family
Kid-friendly salad recipes
Filling low-carb salads

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