The term high-protein diet brings to mind images of protein-style burgers or giant chicken breasts with steamed broccoli for dinner. The craze started by the Atkins diet has now taken a Paleo spin by adding in some healthy sources of protein and fat (almond butter anybody?) and further restricting non-animal protein foods (bye-bye grains and legumes). Regardless of the name, the high-protein diets linger.
As dietitians, we know a high-protein, calorie-restricted diet can promote weight loss, even if that loss is no greater than any other calorie-restricted diet if both are maintained. The benefit to all of that meat is that it is satiating, but maybe it’s time for the high-protein diet craze to go green.
A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a soy-based high-protein, weight-loss diet (with 30 percent of calories from protein) had a similar effect on appetite as a meat-based, high-protein diet. The soy-based diet also promoted similar weight loss, lean body mass retention, and fat loss. Beyond the weight loss benefits, the soy-based interventions improved total and LDL cholesterol, whereas the meat-based diet did not.
Although a small study with short intervention periods, the authors concluded that a soy-based, high-protein, weight-loss diet can be a healthier alternative to the meat-based high-protein diet. Recipes that highlight delicious seasonal flavors and add protein from a variety of vegetarian sources — such as the one below — make it easy to give a high-protein vegetarian diet a try.
Roasted Vegetable Salad
Recipe developed by Elisha Daigneault, RD
4 cups kale
1 cup butternut squash, sliced
1 red bell pepper cut into strips
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup wheat berries
2 oz. pepitas
Honey mustard vinaigrette
- Toss squash, bell pepper, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper in olive oil. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on an edged baking sheet or roasting pan.
- Roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
- In a large salad bowl, combine kale and wheat berries. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing, tossing to gently coat. Top with roasted vegetables and pepitas and serve.