Protein side dishes

There are two ways to think about a main dish: the part of your meal that contains your main protein, or the part of your meal that is the most elaborate and/or takes the most work. I tend to think about it the second way, since I'm the one doing the cooking.

Lately, since we've mostly stopped eating meat (I don't think we'll ever be completely vegetarian), I've come across a few recipes that I want to try, but they don't contain a protein. Before, I would have just served up chicken on the side, but now I'm having to think differently.

Here are some ideas I have for serving meatless proteins on the side. If you have any other ideas, please share!
Tofu and quinoa would be good options, but I can't think of a way I would enjoy having tofu as a side dish, and quinoa makes Tiger Lily a bit sick, so we don't have it much.


  1. I make what I call mushy lentils - it doesn't sound appetizing, but it tastes good. Carrot/Onion/Lentils all cooked together in broth until liquid is absorbed and lentils are...well...mushy. The lentil texture ends up reminiscent of a less-creamy mashed potato as it cools.

    I also like adding nuts to dishes like sweet potatoes or rice, tastes great and adds protein content.

  2. Oh, that's too bad about the quinoa. I was going to suggest that one. What about lentils- do those have much protein?

  3. Anything with beans has protein...baked beans, refried beans, etc.

  4. I have a request for a post related to this one - something about how you make your meatless meals satisfying. We've been trying out "meatless monday" at our house, but there have been a few tries where we end up feeling hungry again only a few hours after eating. I am guessing that I am not getting enough substitute protein in, and I noticed you commented about avacado helping you feel full, but are there other tricks to it?

    1. @Times New Roman: Macronutrients that contribute to a satiated feeling are: fiber, proteins, and fats. Pretty much all the macros besides carbohydrates (not including fiber, which are specific carbohydrates that humans lack the proper enzyme to digest. Fiber slows the digestion process enough to trigger the group of peptides responsible for satiety, similar to fats.). Some websites might list "complex carbohydrates" as very satiating, but that is because larger amounts of fiber and protein are included in the calories of the sample, which makes the carbohydrate "complex". Additionally, these sites are usually comparing them to "simple carbohydrates" (refined flours, sugars, etc.) which contain very little if any fiber and protein. Thus, carbohydrates (especially those that do not include full fiber in their content like sugars and processed grains) are not nearly as satiating (per calorie consumed) as foods that contain larger amounts of fiber, proteins, and fats.

      My family started doing "Meatless Mondays" a few years ago (it wasn't actually on Mondays) and now (mostly due to rising food costs) we only have meat in a meal a few times per week, and infrequently as the main dish (1-4x/month). We don't miss meat, but sometimes I miss the more expensive cuts, which we cannot afford to buy regularly. I always find excuses to add beans, eggs, and cheese to dishes to make sure we get plenty of proteins. Vegetables are great for adding fiber and if you cook them in some oil (fats) they'll contribute even more satiating power to the meal. When I include grains as part of the meal they are always whole grains (which means complex carbs, not simple ones) and usually one that has a fair amount of protein or fiber (quinoa, wild rice, oats, buckwheat, amaranth, wheat).

      Also, water content in food can (probably more effective if paired with fiber) slow how fast the food is digested and can contribute to that feeling of satiation. As long as everyone is getting enough of the right calories, you could suggest that whoever is hungry a few hours later drink some water (or juice) with a teaspoon or two of chia seeds added. Just be sure to let the seeds soak for 10-15 mins to give them time to absorb the water. I drink this in the mornings at work when I'm too busy to stop for a snack or when I've forgotten breakfast and sometimes it's so effective at stopping hunger I forget to eat lunch too.

      I hope this information helps! Keep up the meatless Mondays!