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The answer might surprise you. 

Ann Pittman
March 07, 2016

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 married mother of young twin boys who already eat like teenagers, 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:

Broccoli-Bacon Skillet Pizza

Microwave-in-bag fresh vegetables help this meal come together lickety-split. A hot cast-iron skillet helps to crisp the bottom of the crust while the surface gets golden brown under the broiler--no baking required.

Lighter Sloppy Joes

We replace half the meat with nutty-hearty canned chickpeas, saving money and saturated fat. While many sloppy joe recipes are very sweet, this version has just a touch of brown sugar and is capped off with crunchy bread-and-butter pickles. Serve with apples or grapes for an easy side.

Shredded Pork and Pinto Tacos with Pepita Slaw

A half-pound of pork is a gracious plenty for these tacos, which are beefed up with pinto beans, Greek yogurt-amped avocado crema, and a crunchy slaw topped with pumpkinseeds. The plant protein sources make up about half the total amount.