5 Ways to Add Vegetarian Protein to Lunch Salads

05/14/2014 at 02:33 PM ET

How to Add Meat-Free Protein to Your Salad
Courtesy Food52

This article was originally published on Food52, a site that brings cooks together to share recipes, ideas and support. 

Meatless meals have come a long way over the past decade. Gone are the frumpy kasha of the ’70s and the egregious margarine of the ’80s. Meatless Mondays will be getting their own Hollywood star sometime soon, between Natalie Portman and Kale.

Here are five quick ways to add (vegetarian) protein to your lunch salad:

How to Add Meat-Free Protein to Your Salad
Courtesy Food52

Lentils and beans
Legumes are the classic choice here. They’ve got some of the highest protein per square inch, as far as meatless options go, and you can make a big batch of them on Sunday and keep them on hand all week. Add a big scoop to your salad — pair lentils with more delicate greens, and bigger beans with chunkier vegetables. Or fold your lentils into yogurt with some spinach, and spoon them over toast. In springtime, white beans go nicely with crunchy radishes and bright herbs; let your legume of choice change with the seasons.

How to Add Meat-Free Protein to Your Salad
Courtesy Food52

Boiled Eggs
Don’t turn up your nose at this idea just because the salad bars of your youth contained icky, rubbery, sulfurous eggs. After all, they’re compact, they don’t need much adornment past deskside salt and pepper, and your fork will quickly break them down into salad-friendly bits. Boil one while you dry your hair or make your coffee in the morning — here’s how to do it — then prepare yourself a new kind of egg salad. They are also perfect atop last night’s roasted vegetables, alongside a handful of whatever grain you have around.

How to Add Meat-Free Protein to Your Salad
Courtesy Food52

Tofu and Tempeh
It’s all about prepping these ahead and seasoning them well. Press your tofu, slice and dress it, then briefly broil it to crisp it up. Marinate and sear tempeh for better flavor and texture. Then layer your filets onto lunch, and eat with a fork and knife, as if your desk were a steak-free steakhouse. BYO-bread basket for the full effect.

How to Add Meat-Free Protein to Your Salad
Courtesy Food52

Feta (or Other Crumbly) Cheese
Feta adds tang, creaminess, and contrast to crunchy vegetables or chewy grains. Bring in a tub of the good stuff and keep it in your fridge, then crumble it over your salads, whether they be green or grain. It pairs especially well with quinoa, sturdy greens like kale, and crunchy toppings. Its lifelong friends include lemon, olives, and parsley.

More: If you’re a total overachiever, try making your own.

How to Add Meat-Free Protein to Your Salad
Courtesy Food52

Nuts and Seeds
Don’t overlook the little guys. Nuts and seeds are full of protein and good fats; they’re cheap when bought in bulk; and, when toasted or roasted, they add deep flavor and fun crunch to an otherwise vanilla salad. If you’ve toasted them and you want maximum crunch factor, pack them separately so they’re not softened by the water in your vegetables. Try adding hazelnuts to this quinoa salad, or cashews to miso-laced greens.

Tell us: How do you pack in protein for a packed lunch?

FILED UNDER: Expert Tips , Food , Health , Salad , Vegetarian

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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