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3 easy high-protein dinners that help me maintain my 35-pound weight loss without counting calories


Feta pasta, RachelRachel (right, pictured in January 2024) relies on staple meals like baked feta chicken pasta with vegetables.

Rachel Hosie

  • I lost 35 pounds by following a high-protein diet and strength-training.
  • I’ve maintained my body composition for five years without cutting out any foods.
  • I love easy, tasty meals including baked feta pasta with chicken and Mediterranean vegetables. 

It’s been five years since I cut my body fat percentage in half and lost 35 pounds. I followed a high-protein diet, ate in a gentle calorie deficit, and strength-trained, but I didn’t cut any food or drinks out of my diet entirely.

I’ve stayed around the same body composition since then by continuing to eat and train this way, and I rely on a few simple meals to keep me on track without having to count calories.

In the last couple of years, I’ve added a few new dishes to my repertoire that are easy to make, tasty, and healthy. I usually cook four portions worth of food to feed me and my fiancé for two days, and it’s easy to adjust the quantities to serve as many portions as you like or to hit your own nutrition goals.

While I still make trusty dishes like peanut butter chicken curry, recently I’ve been paying more attention to my fiber intake for the wide-ranging health benefits by adding pulses such as chickpeas or beans to meals.

Here are three high-protein dinners that have become staple dinners over the past year or two.

1. Baked feta, chicken, and vegetable pastaFeta chicken vegetable pastaThe finished pasta dish, and the feta and vegetables before going into the oven.

Rachel Hosie

Remember the feta pasta dish that went viral a few years ago? Well, this is a twist on that. You can use whatever vegetables you like provided they all cook in about the same length of time. I usually go down the Mediterranean route with peppers, red onion, garlic, and zucchini.

It’s easy to scale this dish depending on how many people you want to feed, it just takes more chopping time. I sometimes use wholemeal pasta for more fiber too.

Serves four.

Ingredients

  • 300 grams feta (1-2 blocks)

  • 1 red onion, sliced into chunks

  • 2 peppers (any color), sliced into strips

  • 2 zucchini, sliced into strips

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 3 chicken breasts, diced

  • 300 grams dry pasta

  • Pine nuts (optional)

  • Oregano, mixed herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil, and honey to season

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F). Place the feta in a large baking dish surrounded by all the vegetables. Drizzle with honey and olive oil then season with a sprinkle of oregano, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

In the meantime, season the chicken breast chunks with salt, pepper, and mixed herbs then fry in a large, hot pan with some olive oil until cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Fill the pan with salted boiling water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, and return to the pan.

Remove the tray from the oven and combine everything — chicken, feta and vegetables, pasta, and pasta water (to emulsify and thicken the feta sauce) — either in the pan or the baking dish, depending on which is bigger. Mix until everything is combined and serve.

If you’re feeling fancy or trying to impress, sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

2. Easy chiliChiliEasy chili already mixed up with rice.

Rachel Hosie

I’m really into chili at the moment because it’s such a good source of protein, fiber, and micronutrients. I vary the toppings depending on how I’m feeling — sometimes I add avocado, tortilla chips, or sour cream, but I always add cheddar cheese.

Make it as spicy or mild as you like, and serve with rice or crusty bread. If I’m short of time (or just don’t want to get another pan dirty), I use pre-cooked rice packets that you just pop in the microwave.

Serves four.

Ingredients

  • 1 white onion, diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 500 grams ground beef (use 5% fat if you’re trying to keep calories down)

  • 2 red peppers, diced

  • Cumin, smoked paprika, and chili powder, or a pre-prepared chili seasoning mix

  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes

  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree

  • Beef stock

  • Rice, bread, tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, and/or cheddar to serve

Method

Heat a large pan over medium heat with some olive oil then fry the onion until softened. Turn the heat up slightly, add the garlic and the beef, and cook until the meat is browned. Add the pepper, season with salt and pepper, and add the spices and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the drained kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and tomato puree, and gradually add beef stock until you get the right thickness. Check the seasoning and add more if needed.

Leave to simmer for at least 15 minutes. If the liquid is absorbing too quickly, add more stock or put the lid on the pan.

Serve with whatever accompaniment you like.

3. Buffalo chicken rice with broccoliBuffalo chicken riceYou can drizzle some extra Buffalo sauce on top if you like.

Rachel Hosie

People often joke that the classic “gym bro” meal is chicken, broccoli, and rice, which makes me chuckle because I regularly cook some combination of these three ingredients but it’s never boring.

This Buffalo chicken dish is a favorite with my fiancé because he loves the spicy flavor. Bodybuilding coach Cliff Wilson previously told me that Buffalo is a great sauce choice for people trying to lose fat because it’s really low-calorie but has such a strong flavor.

This is a recipe by food influencer Jess Hawkins, but I add broccoli to up the vegetable content and also because I just love broccoli and think it goes nicely.

Serves three to four.

Method

  • 3 chicken breasts, diced

  • 1 onion, diced

  • Two celery sticks, finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon garlic granules

  • 250 grams uncooked basmati rice

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets

  • About 600 milliliters chicken stock

  • 50 to 100 milliliters Buffalo sauce, depending on how spicy you like it

  • Grated cheddar to top

  • 2 scallions, diced

Method

Heat a large pan over medium heat with some olive oil then fry the onion and celery until softened. Add the garlic granules and a pinch of salt and cook for a few more minutes.

If your pan is big enough, add the chicken in and cook, or remove the onions and celery to cook the chicken then recombine.

Stir in the rice and broccoli, and add the stock and Buffalo sauce — add more stock if needed, you want everything to be well covered. Season well with salt and pepper. Simmer with the lid on for 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is cooked through, adding more liquid if needed.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle cheese over the top then put the lid back on to melt for a few minutes. Sprinkle scallions on top and serve.

Read the original article on Business Insider