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How to eat more protein at the Brodhead Center

Before I start, a disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or dietitian, nor am I remotely knowledgeable about nutrition by any means. My only relevant background experience is writing a love letter professing my adoration of chicken shawarma disguised as an opinion column. But, I hope that’s enough for you to keep reading about my experiences hunting down high-protein options at the Brodhead Center. 

Through many Zooms with my camera on and my mic off, I’ve scrolled through NetNutrition in another tab and inputted the macros of my favorite foods into an Excel spreadsheet aptly titled “High Protein Foods.” Here’s what I’ve found:

The Roasted Turkey at Farmstead blows every other option out of the water. You’re guaranteed to get a 5 oz portion every single time, because the turkey is weighed in front of you (unlike the salmon, whose size is incredibly variable—I’ll get to that next). There are 40 (!!) grams of protein for 270 calories. The turkey’s brine is nice and salty, its crust herby, and its meat juicy, which is a blessing because turkey breast can be tough, stringy and bland. Find any other protein source at the Brodhead Center with a better protein to calorie to flavor ratio than the Farmstead’s Turkey. You won’t.

The Salmon at Farmstead is good too, except on days where you open your box to see a shriveled hunk of salmon the size of an Airpod case after having walked all the way back to Edens Quad, so I couldn’t ask for another reasonably sized piece. I ate a Clifbar from the vending machine to quiet my angry stomach on that sad, sad day. 

Skimpy days aside, salmon is another staple—39 g of protein also for 270 calories.The salmon is light and flaky, and the seasoning crust tastes like the ocean.

But, you can’t eat turkey and salmon in rotation forever—I’ve tried. The turkey and salmon are two options that I think warrant recognition, but the others, not so much. I’ve sought out alternative protein sources, but beyond the oasis of Farmstead, the Brodhead Center is like the Wild West. There’s vast stretches of terrain, as far as the eye can see, of saltless chicken, pork dripping with juice and sugary, sauced-up meat chunks. It’s a scary world out there. 

The chicken 65 at Tandoor was a diamond in the rough. Although I can’t speak to its authenticity, given that Chicken 65 is in a very small bracket of protein competitors, I believe it still gets a spot on the protein podium. Clocking in at 23 g of protein for 180 calories, Chicken 65 is well salted, occasionally crispy, and most importantly, it has spice! It’s a vibrant ruby-red, and it looks a lot prettier than the slab of meat that is Farmstead Turkey. And this semester they have it every day of the week except Thursdays, so I’ve been over the moon.

Chicken-65 is versatile too. If you ask for the $5 daily devil deal, no rice, no naan, the world is at your disposal. Forget the chicken chunks at Sazon—I get an arepa bowl with guac, beans, pico de gallo, the habanero red sauce, and top it with Chicken-65. Sazon pico can be juicy, which I normally dislike, but it pairs nicely with Chicken-65, which is sometimes on the drier side. The chicken with a generous drizzle of habanero sauce sets my tongue on fire, and I absolutely love it. 

In terms of sweet proteins, I love Quest Bars from the Lobby Shop because they’ve saved me from many chocolate cravings. To be completely transparent, however, Quest bars do taste like artificial sweetener, and the appearance of the bars is less than delightful. They resemble large beige erasers speckled with dark cookie bits. 

However, if we let the bar for flavor, smell and appearance drop to the floor (we’re talking about protein bars here), Quest Bars are spectacular—21 g of protein, 4g of net carbs, and 1g of added sugar. The chocolate cookie and graham cracker chunks in the bars add realistic texture (they even drop real crumbs!) that almost make you forget that you're chomping on a rubbery blend of whey protein and almonds. Almost.

I intended to write this article to provide protein recommendations, but I ended up finding that the protein scene, especially for vegetarians, vegans, or those who just don’t like meat, is abysmal. But this didn’t mean that I had to throw up my hands and indulge in a never-ending carbapalooza. Instead, my quest to eat more protein has taught me how to think beyond typical the Brodhead Center boundaries and put together meals I genuinely enjoy, like spicy chicken arepa bowls, Farmstead salmon on a bed of CaFe Moroccan couscous, or CaFe dry oats soaked overnight in vanilla almond milk and PEScience protein powder. 

Next time you walk into the Brodhead Center, don’t let the names of the eateries stop you! Think about the Brodhead Center as that magical pantry on Guy’s Grocery Games stocked with a cornucopia of ingredients so that you can cook up a dish to impress the judges—the judges being your stomach and the ingredients being whatever combinations of $5 daily devil deals you can throw together. There will always be more than eleven options at the Brodhead Center, so long as you use your imagination.

Jessica Luan is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays. 

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