Serving Protein Diehards

For customers still putting their faith in a high-protein, low-carb diet, here’s how you can up the protein beyond the ordinary.

The truth about weight loss is that there is no one truth, and the answer is that there is more than one answer. The discussion can’t be reduced to high-fat/low-carb versus high-carb/low-fat. The complex carbohydrates in vegetables, fruits and grains have sustained the human race since there was a human race. Unfortunately, complex carbohydrate foods have largely fallen out of favor, to be replaced by simple carbohydrates found in white flour, sugar and fructose.

That said, you may have customers who ask you to menu items that are allowed on high-protein diets. After all, we have been hunting and eating meat for eons; our incisors are not there by chance.

To hike up the protein, remember that high protein is not all beef and eggs. Seafood fits perfectly into the low-carb, high-protein menu category. Per serving, most seafood is lower in fat than meat or eggs. This makes seafood the perfect menu item for customers attempting to keep their intake of calories and carbs low and their protein high.

Easy does it: High-protein seafood does not mean dry or flavorless offerings. Simply broiling fish steaks, fillets or butterflied shrimp or lobster tail, or sea scallops with a maitre d’hotel butter (butter seasoned with chopped fresh parsley and lemon) or other savory compound butters (think of whipped butter seasoned with cayenne or red pepper flakes, chopped basil and lemon or cracked black pepper and garlic), makes for a savory low-carb entrée.

Other simple preparations include stovetop poaching in court bouillon or oven poaching in parchment. Think about salmon steamed with lemon and olive oil, flavored with thyme, black pepper and lemon zest; roasted red snapper seasoned with fresh cilantro, rosemary and oregano; grilled sea bass with Cajun seasonings; grilled catfish with charred Southwestern spices; pecan-crusted halibut; paupiettes of salmon with shrimp mousseline, or steamed black bass with mustard vinaigrette.

For cold seafood salads, hold the pasta and potatoes and add the chopped hard-cooked eggs, flavored mayonnaise-based dressings and a small vegetable garnish. Think of cold poached salmon and halibut salad, shrimp and crab salad, mussel and shrimp salad, chilled ahi and crab salad, or chilled monkfish salad.

Heat it up: Low-carb Mexican cuisine can be tantalizing. Select from hard and soft cheeses, whole eggs and egg whites, poultry and seafood, olives and fresh and dried seasonings.

  • Red Snapper Vera Cruz combines sautéed red snapper with a flavoring of green pepper, onion, tomato, oregano, cilantro, black pepper and olives. A little bit of this seasoning goes a long way.
  • Sopa de Lima is quick to prepare. Heat chicken broth and add lemon juice, chopped red chilies, cilantro, finely chopped fresh lime and strips of cooked chicken. Bring to a fast boil, allow to simmer and serve with low-carb tortilla chips.
  • If your customers are adventurous, and you have a reliable fresh fish supplier, you can attempt ceviche, or seafood “cooked” with lemon and lime juice, rather than heat. Very fresh fish is cut into thin strips and marinated overnight in lemon and lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, chilies, onions and chopped tomatoes.
  • Eggs diable, a popular brunch item, are deviled eggs with a Mexican edge. Eggs are hard-cooked and cut in half. The yolk is removed and mashed with mayonnaise or sour cream, finely minced chilies and olives, hot sauce and black pepper.

Go nutty: While not very, very low in carbs, nuts and seeds are a healthy ingredient to use, in moderation, when looking to add flavor and texture to high-protein snacks, sauces, desserts and salad dressings.

Nuts and seeds are certainly portable and convenient and are available all year round. Most nuts are concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals. Yes, nuts and seeds have lots of calories from fat. But nuts are not just fat calories. Most varieties contain protein, fiber, folic acid and some fat-soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin E, and minerals, such as calcium and iron.

The fat that the nuts have is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated—the heart-healthy kind. If you feel the need for something luscious and creamy, nuts are the way to go. To give you an idea: the USDA allows 2 ounces of nuts or 3 Tablespoons of peanut butter in place of a serving of meat or cheese for the school lunch program. 

When selecting high-protein ingredients, remember that soy nuts are not “nuts” are all, but roasted soybeans.

You can purchase flavored soy nuts and soy nut butters, to use in sandwiches, snacks, smoothies and desserts. Soy nuts should be OK for people with nut allergies. As always, read the label.