Homemade Protein Energy Balls

Makes 20

Protein bars are everywhere these days, but have you ever heard of protein energy balls? And did you know that you can make them at home? They’re quick, easy, and if you make enough you can eat them during the week as healthy snacks or even share them with family and friends! Everyone needs protein in their lives to help build and repair muscles, bones, and even skin, so reach for some tasty sources during the day to support a healthy lifestyle 😉

Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients we’ve used in our recipe – with the exception of the protein powder, oats, and oil, you can replace everything else with things that you might like. Not a fan of nut butters? Try using dates instead – they’re sticky too so will help keep everything together. Maybe you can’t stand chia seeds – that’s fine! Think of other nuts and seeds you might like instead, like flax seeds, almonds, or pistachios.

This recipe is ready for you to make it your own, so get to it and let us know how you did in the comments 😊

Ingredients:

  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • ¾ cup natural nut butter (such as peanut butter or almond butter)
  • 3 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Optional: coconut flakes*

Instructions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pay attention to consistency – if it’s too sticky, add more oats or protein powder to help stabilize. If it’s not sticky enough to form into balls, add more nut butter.
2. Once you are happy with how the mixture feels form it into balls and place them in the fridge for an hour.
3. Happily serve 🙂.

*If you decide to add coconut flakes, coat a baking sheet with about 1 cup of flakes and use your hands to lightly roll protein balls on top until they are evenly covered.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
165 kcal / 7g protein / 9g carbs (with 3.5g of fibre) / 9g healthy fats


– Huda Amareh, MAHN, RD

Roasted Chickpeas

Here’s a healthy and crunchy snack you can take to work or school. Not only is it easy to make, but it’s high in protein, fibre, and contains complex carbs – elements of a fulfilling snack that can sustain and keep you energized. It also can help you reach your daily nutrient needs of iron (to help carry oxygen in your blood), potassium (to keep your nerves and muscles healthy) and folate (to make red blood cells, keep heart healthy, and lower certain birth defect risks). Try it out!

Ingredients

  • 2 (19oz/540ml) cans of cooked chickpeas (drained & rinsed) or 2 cups dried chickpeas, boiled
  • 3 tbsp canola/corn/vegetable oil
  • 2-3 tbsp spice of your choice (ex. chili powder, cajun, pepper, etc).

Tip: If chickpeas are not completely dry, spread them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes, to remove excess water. (This makes them crispy).

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F (200˚C). Line a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  2. Season chickpeas with spice and oil. Combine well.
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes, giving the sheet a shake every 10 minutes to evenly cook chickpeas. Serve once cool.

⚠ Always remember to increase fibre intake slowly and to have more water when you have more fibre to avoid discomfort! Talk to a dietitian to find out if you are having enough.

Nutrition Information (per ¼ cup serving):
150kcal / 6g protein / 17g carbohydrate / 4g fibre / 7g healthy fat

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All About Protein for an Active Lifestyle

Ever wondered how much protein is enough? What types? And when? Well today we’ll *whey* into this subject! 

As mentioned in our first  Sports Nutrition Article, protein is important for our health, especially for physical activity. Research is now suggesting that athletes and active individuals need more protein than what most individuals need [1].

 Let’s look at why and what happens to the proteins we eat:

This last scenario is especially concerning for athletes and active individuals since they’re consistently working out and burning calories (energy). In other words, if we’re active but don’t have enough calories or protein, our muscles might become a source of fuel; i.e. our bodies would lose protein and not have enough to build and repair muscle.

So How Much Protein is Enough?

For best health and performance, the amount of protein should meet your specific needs. It depends on many factors: the type of exercise (intensity, duration), your weight, calorie intake, goals, age, etc. Generally the literature suggests between 1.2 – 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight a day [3]. This range is very broad; the higher end may be better suited for athletes training for specialized sports, while the lower end may be for individuals who are recreationally active. Talk to a Registered Dietitian (RD) to find out what your specific protein needs are.

*Note: It’s important to have enough calories especially from carbohydrates, so protein is spared from being used as fuel and can be used to build other proteins (ex. muscle) [1][4]. You can think of it like this: have protein to build and repair muscles, and carbohydrates to fuel.

Protein Timing

We know it’s important to have enough protein, but recent research shows that timing may matter just as much. 

After we exercise, our body produces proteins to repair and rebuild damaged muscle – for 24 hours after exercise. This is when our bodies are more sensitive to the protein we eat [5]. They trigger and supply building blocks to make muscle and proteins [6][7].

So When Should I Have Protein?

The key to having a good supply of protein for your body is to have moderate amounts of high-quality protein spread throughout the day and after your workout. More specifically, research recommends to:

  • Have ~ 15-25g(or 0.3g per kg of body weight) immediately after or within 2 hours of exercise to best repair and build muscle § [3]. 

Examples: 2 oz grilled chicken breast, 4 scrambled egg whites, 3 oz cooked salmon/tuna, 1 cup cooked beans, ¾ cup Greek yogurt, ¾ cup cottage cheese, 2 tbsp peanut butter 

  • Spread protein intake throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) in modest amounts in meals and snacks – since our bodies don’t store protein

Does More Protein = More Gains?

No! Extra protein will not help you build more muscle! Current research has tested this and showed that doses of more than 40g after exercise do not enhance muscle growth in most people. There’s only so much your body can use in that time!

Having excessive protein may also lower kidney function along with other negative health effects, so it’s important not to overdo it [1]!

Note: This amount is generally for the typical athlete but depends on your weight. Check with an RD.

§Note: Having enough energy (calories) is important to support muscles. If you do not (ex. if your goal is weight loss), then you may need more protein to support muscle growth and maintenance. This changes from person to person. Talk to an RD to find out what your needs are.

Which Protein Sources are the Highest Quality?

We’ve all heard the saying, “quality over quantity”. Well the same applies to the protein we choose to eat. If you’re active, consider high quality proteins because they’re easily used by muscles to promote muscle growth, repair and maintenance [1][3]. 

High-quality proteins are:

✔ Easily digested
✔ Provide essential amino acids that the body can’t make
(i.e. must come from food)

Examples of high-quality proteins:
  • Animal sources: dairy products, egg whites, lean beef, poultry, and fish
  • Plant sources: soy, quinoa, pea, beans, lentils, and peanuts
  • Isolated proteins: whey, casein, egg white, and soy [1]

Note: Choose protein from food sources over supplements as they provide a natural source of protein with other nutrients to support an active lifestyle.

But there’s one more player involved, and that’s leucine – probably one of the most important amino acids for improving muscle growth after intense exercise [1]. Proteins rich in leucine (such as whey, found in milk), have been shown to be the most effective in improving muscle growth with resistance exercise [1][6][8]. Studies point to this branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) as the trigger for the machinery responsible for making more muscle proteins [6].  

The figure explains the theory that as leucine levels rise in the blood quickly, following exercise, it reaches a certain point where it triggers the production of muscle proteins more than a lower dose would. In other words, the theory is that protein with a high amount of leucine that digests quickly, will boost the amount of muscle proteins made following exercise. 

Foods Richest in leucine:
  • Animal sources: dairy products (ex. milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), egg whites, lean beef, poultry, and fish
  • Plant sources: soybeans, beans (ex. edamame), lentils, and peanuts

Note: there is little benefit of consuming a leucine supplement, rather high-quality proteins that contain leucine and other essential amino acids should be preferred for muscle growth promotion [6].

Therefore, athletes and active individuals should consider high-quality proteins that are:

  1. Leucine-rich
  2. Rapidly digested
  3. Rich in other essential amino acids

To Summarise:

  • Athletes and active individuals require more protein, which depends on many factors
  • An RD can help determine what your specific protein needs are
  • Consider high quality proteins, rich in leucine and essential amino acids that digest rapidly  to promote muscle growth, repair and maintenance
  • Spread protein intake throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) in modest amounts in meals and snacks
  • Have ~15-25g (or 0.3g per kg of body weight) of high-quality protein immediately after or within 2 hours of exercise to maximize gains

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit ourContact Us page to book your first appointment.

Until next time,

Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD


References:

[1] Webb, D. (2014, June). Athletes and Protein Intake. Today’s Dietitian, 16(6), 22. Accessed from: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060114p22.shtml

[2] Unlock Food (2019). Introduction To Protein And High Protein Foods. Can be accessed from: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Protein/Introduction-To-Protein-And-High-Protein-Foods.aspx

[3] Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528. Chicago

[4] Rodriguez, N. R., Vislocky, L. M., & Gaine, P. C. (2007). Dietary protein, endurance exercise, and human skeletal-muscle protein turnover. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 10(1), 40-45.

[5] Burd, N. A., West, D. W., Moore, D. R., Atherton, P. J., Staples, A. W., Prior, T., … & Phillips, S. M. (2011). Enhanced amino acid sensitivity of myofibrillar protein synthesis persists for up to 24 h after resistance exercise in young men. The Journal of nutrition, 141(4), 568-573.

[6] Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.

[7] Phillips, S. M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S2), S158-S167.

[8] Pennings, B., Boirie, Y., Senden, J. M., Gijsen, A. P., Kuipers, H., & van Loon, L. J. (2011). Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(5), 997-1005.

Chana Masala (Curried Chickpeas)

Serves 5

Bring the Indian restaurant home, with this traditional Chana Masala. It’s filled with both flavour and nutrients. Chickpeas are a great source of protein, fibre and folate. It has soluble fibre which may help lower cholesterol, and insoluble fibre that helps to keep you regular. They’re also gluten free and can be part of a healthy vegetarian, vegan or non-vegetarian diet. Try it and let us know how you liked it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp mango (amchur) powder (optional)
  • 1tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • ½ cup pureed tomatoes or 3 tbsp (45ml) of tomato paste
  • 2 (19oz/540ml) cans (4 cups) of cooked chickpeas (drained & rinsed) or 2 cups dried chickpeas, boiled
  • Cilantro to garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, heat canola oil on medium heat and sauté onions till soft. Then add ginger garlic paste and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add spices, mix and add 1 tbsp water. Sauté for 5 minutes, while repeatedly adding 1 tbsp of water and mixing every minute (this creates a great flavour).
  3. Add tomato puree/paste and sauté for a minute covered. Stir in chickpeas, and cover for another 2 minutes. Add ½ cup of water and cover for another 4 minutes.
  4. With your spoon, mash some chickpeas to thicken the sauce to your liking. Garnish with cilantro and serve!

💡Tip* If using canned chickpeas, rinse with cold water- this makes them digest easily and can help lower gas produced.

💡Tip* If using dried chickpeas, soak them overnight and they’ll be ready within 30 minutes of boiling.

Nutritional information (per 3/4cup serving):
263 cal / 12.5g protein / 40.9g carbohydrate / 11g fibre / 6.6 g healthy fats

Photo credit: Food Heaven

Quinoa (Yes! Quinoa) Tacos

Serves: 4

Tacos are a fun and tasty choice for get-togethers but did you know that they can be super healthy too? We’ve added lots of colourful veggies like orange bell pepper, tomato, and red onion to ours to make this meal balanced.  Our recipe uses quinoa too, which is a complete protein (the same way beef, poultry, and fish are) but plant-based, making it more environmentally friendly and a good choice for our Meatless Monday 🙂 Take a chance and make these tacos today, you won’t regret it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (180g) quinoa
  • 1 cup (250 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (250 mL) water
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cumin
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 tortillas
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Black beans (optional)

Instructions

  1. Use strainer to rinse quinoa. Place in a saucepan over medium heat and allow to roast for 4 minutes.
  2. Add stock and water to quinoa and allow to boil. Bring heat down to low and cook quinoa covered with a lid for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  4. Remove quinoa mixture from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Add onion, bell pepper, tomato, lime juice, cumin, and chilli powder, to the quinoa mixture. Mix together well and place on a baking pan. Place in oven for 25 minutes until ingredients are crispy.
  6. Divide into four portions and place in soft- or hard-shell tacos. Happily serve 🙂

Nutritional Information (per serving):

250 kcal / 40g Carbohydrates (includes 6g Fibre) / 10g Protein / 3g Healthy Fats

Photo credit: Plays Well with Butter

Brilliant Black Bean Quesadillas

Serves: 4

This easy-to-make dish is a family favourite that we can’t wait to share with all of you 🙂. Quesadillas are a colourful addition to your weekly food plan – and a healthy one too! This strong source of protein is packed with veggies and cheese, making it not only a fun dinner choice but a complete meal option as well 😉. These are super quick to make so whip up a few for your family and friends and let us know what you think in the comments!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 can (17 oz/500 mL) black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cumin
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red chilli powder
  • 1 cup nonfat mozzarella cheese
  • 4 soft tortillas

Instructions:

  1. Drain and rinse black beans in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan on high heat. Add onions and stir until they start to become soft and almost clear in colour.
  3. Turn heat down to medium-high and add beans, corn, red pepper, as well as cumin and red chilli powder. Stir for about 4 minutes.
  4. Remove mixture and heat the first tortilla on the saucepan.  Add ¼ cup of your cheese on top along with ¼ of the mixture on half of the tortilla. Fold over the other half and cook until golden brown and crispy.
  5. Happily serve 🙂.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

350 kcal / 20g protein / 50g carbs / 6g healthy fats

Photo credit: Lauren Allgood, Pinterest

Honey Garlic Salmon

When I come home from a long day and want to make something quick, yet healthy, fresh and tasty – I make honey garlic salmon! With ingredients that can be found in our fridge and cupboards, and a short cooking time, dinner will be ready in minutes! High in protein, healthy omega fats, and a good source of vitamin D!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp (10ml) honey
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) low sodium soy sauce 
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp (10ml) lemon juice
  • 2 tsp (10ml) canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 4 salmon fillets (4-5 oz or 150g each) 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Season salmon fillets with a mixture of honey, soy sauce, lemon juice, pepper, paprika and thyme. Let fillets marinate for 15 minutes in the fridge, covered.  
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, and saute garlic for 1 minute. Add salmon fillets, along with the marinade into the pan. Cook each side for 4 minutes, while periodically basting the top of the fillets with the marinade. 
  3. Place fillets in a baking sheet,and  broil the salmon in the oven for another 5-6 minutes or until cooked.
  4. Serve with sliced lemons, and drizzle with any extra marinade.

*Tip*  Great with a side of steamed greens and a whole grain such as bulgur, quinoa or wild rice. 

Nutrition Information (per serving):

256kcal / 25g protein / 3.8g carbohydrate / 12g healthy fat

Photo Credit: Cafe Delites

Spicy Red Lentil & Spinach Soup

The cold weather is here and it’s here to stay, so what better way to warm yourself up than with a hearty soup! This red lentil and spinach soup is not only tasty but healthy with loads of nutrients such as iron, fibre, folate, protein, vitamin A and more. Fibre from the spinach, and protein from the lentils will keep you full, while the spices will give you a burst of flavour in your mouth! Super easy to make as well! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric 
  • ½ tsp red chili powder
  • ½ inch ginger, chopped (or ½ tsp ginger paste)
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped (or ½ tsp garlic paste) 
  • 2 cups (60g) fresh or frozen spinach 
  • 1 cup ( 200g) red lentils, rinsed 
  • 2 cups (500ml) water or vegetable broth (adjust for thickness)

Follow 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Place diced onion, frozen or fresh spinach and lentils into a large pot. 
  2. Add water or vegetable broth. Then add all the spices, along with ginger and garlic. 
  3. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes or until cooked. For a pressure cooker, cook for 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (per serving):

126kcal / 9g protein / 22g carbohydrate / 0g fat 

Photo Credit: iFoodreal