A lot of the clients I work with in my one on one health coaching practice have the health goal of wanting more energy. Most suffer from what I call “the afternoon slump.” You know the feeling, come 3pm you are ready for that afternoon coffee or a nap under your desk. Your energy is zapped.
I ask these clients what they are having for lunch and most of them reply that they are eating a big salad. And when I ask what ingredients are in their salads, it turns out that most of them are lacking sufficient protein.
Not having a sufficient amount of protein in your breakfast and especially your lunch will typically lead to that afternoon energy slump. Protein contains B vitamins that our bodies use to balance our nervous system and particularly B12 in animal protein sources that give us energy*
Adding protein to your morning smoothie or nut butter to your oatmeal or other warm breakfasts is a great place to start. For lunch I like to add a good protein source along with a healthy fat to help satiate me until an afternoon snack and give me energy until dinner. My favorite way to do so is on a salad for lunch.
Scroll for my 5 favorite protein toppers for your salad.
If you are stumped for what protein to add to your salad and how much, look no further! I got my 5 favorite toppers and how much to add, all with ideas for fats to add as well. Can I get a woot woot?
1) CHICKEN. Surprise surprise, but chicken is one of my favorite protein toppers in terms of variety for what salads you can make. I suggest a 4 - 6oz. piece of chicken, or enough shredded chicken that would fit in the palm of your hand. My favorite combinations are a classic chicken caesar like the one pictured above with my easy homemade caesar dressing and avocado; or a chicken salad with sliced almonds, strawberries and olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.
2) EGGS. I love both hard and soft boiled eggs on my salads. It’s so easy to bring with you to work and add on top of your salad. Eggs are the perfect protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids that our body can’t produce on it’s own. I suggest adding two eggs to your salad, or doing one egg and also 1/4 cup of quinoa (a gluten-free grain that is high in protein) or chickpeas. I love me a good chopped salad with romaine, tomatoes, avocado, eggs and chickpeas.
3) BEANS/LENTILS. Plant-based protein from legumes back a big punch in your salad. I love a mexican-themed salad with romaine, 1/2 cup black beans, avocado, cheddar, tomato and a lime +cilantro + olive oil dressing. I love making this a warm salad with 1/4 cup kidney beans and 4 oz. of ground turkey sautéed in olive oil and taco seasoning.
4) STEAK. Don’t shy away from red meat, but do make sure it comes from a local source that is grass-fed. Red meat is high in iron, selenium, zinc and B-12. I like steak salads for when you are going out to lunch with co-workers or clients for work. It’s an easy menu choice when you don’t want to fuss and someone else has picked the place to eat. If ordering steak, I suggest skipping dairy to help with digestion. Chew your steak thoroughly and a 4oz. to 6 oz. portion the size of the palm of your hand is the perfect amount.
5) SHRIMP. The underdog for salad toppers. Here is one of my favorite shrimp salad combos when you are looking for something quick and tasty. I also love making my own shrimp louie salad using a good ranch dressing like this ranch one and also this thousand island dressing.
*if you are a vegan or a vegetarian I recommend getting a blood test to see where your B vitamin levels are and substituting as needed.