Making sure you get enough protein is important, regardless of whether you’re a pro-athlete, you're in recovery-mode or you're just Joe Average. Protein can't be stored in the body, therefore you must meet your daily dietary requirements in order to support all the important functions that rely on it: Think tissue growth and repair, enzyme function, healthy hair and nails, red blood cell function and immune system function.
Ensuring you get sufficient protein can have other benefits too. Protein generally increases satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrate or fat (for the same volume) and may therefore help you feel fuller sooner, and facilitate a reduction in overall energy consumption, should you be looking to lose a little weight. Higher-protein diets are also associated with higher TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) values. This is the amount of energy required simply just to digest your food, and may constitute as much as 20% of your daily energy requirements. In some individuals, a moderately higher protein intake may also provide a stimulatory effect on muscle protein anabolism, favouring the retention of lean muscle mass and increasing basal metabolic rate (BMR; that’s the rate at which your body expends energy just to keep everything ticking over, no exercise, no TEF, just the effort of lying down!).
I’m a massive advocate for combining dietary protein intake with resistance exercise as a highly effective way of reducing body fat and improving body composition and encourage this approach with the majority of personal training clients. I'm also a big fan of starting the New Year right, and opting for some less hearty food while still making sure I get enough protein. This salad is just the thing, and is also perfect if you're looking for ways to use up the leftover chicken or turkey from Christmas.
1/2 a small bag of watercress
a large handful of seedless red grapes (about 10-12), halved
a 10cm chunk of cucumber, halved lengthways and cut into 0.5-1cm slices
1/2 a small avocado, peeled, stone removed and sliced
half a roast chicken breast (you can buy these in the supermarket, pre-roasted. Alternatively use the leftovers from your Sunday roast or cook one up from scratch, it'll only take 20-25 minutes or so)
a slice of feta cheese
a small handful of blanched almonds, halved
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Greek or plain yoghurt
a small handful of fresh mint leaves
salt and freshly group black pepper
to make the creamy dressing, finely chop the mint leaves and combine in a small bowl with the lemon juice, yoghurt and a pinch of salt. Set to one side;
combine the watercress, grapes, cucumber and avocado on a plate;
finely shred the chicken breast and scatter over the top of the salad;
crumble over the feta cheese;
pour over the dressing and mix everything up gently so that the salad becomes evenly coated;
scatter the almonds and spring onion over the top of the salad before serving. Easy.
Energy 120.4kcal (502.8 kj)
of which sugars 3.7g
of which saturates 2.0g
Per serve (332g)
Energy 399.9 kcal (1670.5 kj)
of which sugars 12.2g
of which saturates 6.7g