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Are Your Boys Eating Too Much Protein?

A recent New York Times blog discussed the issue of adolescent boys consuming more protein than they need, a problem that made its way into the government's most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (published in January): "Some individuals, especially teen boys and adult men, also need to reduce overall intake of protein foods by decreasing intakes of meats, poultry, and eggs and increasing amounts of vegetables or other underconsumed food groups."

As a mom of twin boys (they're younger, only 10, but definitely eat like teenagers) who's married to a man, I can honestly say that I feel this problem in my own house. My tastes and cravings are very different from theirs. I couldn't care less about meat most nights of the week, instead happy to cozy up to a bowl of veggie-packed pasta or some sort of vegetarian whole-grain bowl. But them? They want meat, eggs, and more meat. Even our two dogs are males, so I am very much outnumbered here. But I'm also the main cook in the house, and in that way, I am the nutrition gatekeeper. I get to make most of the decisions about what we eat.

I have made an effort to flip our protein—not necessarily cutting out meat, but instead using less of it and working in lots more veggies. It's an easier sell than trying to go all-out meatless, and what I've been delighted to find is that just a little bit of meat satisfies those male meat cravings. In other words, I don't get complaints. And a house without complaints is a happy house indeed. Here are some of the family-friendly hits we've put into regular rotation.

For the Pittman family, broccoli is one of the top two favorite foods ever. So Broccoli-Bacon Skillet Pizza keeps everyone happy, piling on that beloved veg and using just a little bit of bacon for flavor. And it's pizza!

Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Veggi-fied Meat Sauce uses half the meat usually found in a meat sauce and makes up the difference with zucchini and mushrooms. And it's made with whole-grain pasta. Everyone wins here.

With the slightly sweet sauce and soft bun, Lighter Sloppy Joes appeal to the whole family. Here, half the meat goes bye-bye, and in come hearty chickpeas in its place. The texture and flavor are fantastic!

And this Mushroom-Beef Burger will make a believer out of anyone. It replaces half the meat with sautéed mushrooms, whose meaty depth mimic that of the beef. It's a sneak peek at a recipe that's running in our May issue; see recipe below.

Mushroom-Beef Burger Hands-on: 40 min. Total: 1 hr. 23 min.

Make sure to process the mushrooms just until coarsely chopped (about 4 pulses) so they match the texture of the ground beef. The mushroom mixture will look a little wet in the pan at first; take the time to let as much liquid as possible cook out for a richer patty that will hold its shape when seared in the pan. 

Pickles: 1⁄2 cup white vinegar 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1 medium English cucumber, cut into 1⁄8-inch-thick slices (about 21⁄2 cups) Burgers: 1 (8-ounce) container cremini mushrooms, stemmed 4 ounces white button mushrooms, stemmed 1 tablespoon canola oil 1 cup finely chopped onion 4 garlic cloves, minced 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 8ounces 90% lean ground sirloin Cooking spray 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise 2 teaspoons unsalted ketchup 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 4 (11⁄2-ounce) whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted 4 Bibb lettuce leaves 4 (1⁄4-inch-thick) slices tomato 4 (1⁄4-inch-thick) slices red onion

1. To prepare pickles, combine vinegar, dill, salt, and cucumber in a large zip-top plastic bag or jar; seal. Turn bag until ingredients are well combined. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, turning bag or shaking jar occasionally.

2. To prepare burgers, place cremini and button mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor; pulse 4 to 5 times or until coarsely chopped. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper to pan; cook 7 to 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; cool mushroom mixture completely.

3. Place beef in a bowl. Add mushroom mixture to beef; stir just until combined. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Shape beef mixture into 4 (1⁄2-inch-thick) patties. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper.

4. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

5. Combine mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over bottom and top halves of buns. Place 4 pickle slices on bottom half of each bun (reserve remaining pickles for another use). Top evenly with patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, and top halves of buns.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 burger) CALORIES 306; FAT 12.7g (sat 2.6g, mono 5.9g, poly 3g); PROTEIN 18g; CARB 32g; FIBER 5g; SUGARS 9g (est. added sugars 3g); CHOL 35mg; IRON 3mg; SODIUM 531mg; CALC 75mg

See More:  10 Meatless High-Protein Foods Report: Americans Want to Eat Less Meat and More Vegetables (But Just Aren’t Yet) Recipe Makeover: Veggie-Packed Meat Loaf