Going Green with a High-protein Diet

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


  1. 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.
  2. Roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and begin to brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. 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.
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Elisha Daigneault
Elisha Daigneault, RDN, improves the lives of hospital patients and private clients in San Diego by translating the science of nutrition to practical and enjoyable diet changes. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and at QoL Nutrition.