This high-protein salad features a surprising ingredient.
Reviewed by Dietitian Annie Nguyen, M.A., RD
In the weeks leading up to my bariatric surgery, I was put on a high-protein, all-liquid diet. In the weeks directly following the procedure, it was more of the same. But as I continued to heal, I was able to move from liquids and pureed food to solids again. My bariatric surgeon told me I’d need to follow a high-protein diet forever, as protein is important for weight loss surgery patients so they maintain muscle while their bodies are changing.
Related: 16 High-Protein Smoothies to Start the Day Strong
After a few months of leaning on high-protein staples like grilled chicken breast and cottage cheese, I began looking for recipes with more dimension and more flavor. Tuna salad has always been a favorite of mine, and it’s not uncommon for me to meal prep a big batch of it to get me through the week. From sandwiches on multigrain bread to lettuce wraps, I’ve always found tuna salad to be a comforting-but-healthy way to get some protein in and enjoy a quick meal or snack on the go.
Something else I’ve always enjoyed? Miranda Lambert’s music. “The House That Built Me” singer is one of my favorite female country music singers. Blonde, fearless and totally inspirational, Lambert has long been a woman I look up to. So when I learned she’d be releasing a cookbook in April 2023, I couldn’t wait to add Y’all Eat Yet: Welcome to the Pretty B*tchin’ Kitchen to my bookshelf.
Inside Lambert’s cookbook, I’ve found really good Southern recipes ranging from hummingbird cake to pimento cheese. And, while many of her recipes fall into the “everything in moderation” category, there’s one I knew would be a great addition to my post-gastric-bypass-surgery diet: Nonny’s Tuna Salad.
The recipe starts with some familiar tuna salad ingredients like canned tuna, celery, mayonnaise and relish. There are also a few hard-boiled eggs thrown into the mix, something I appreciated immediately for the extra protein. But the real star of this celebrity-endorsed tuna salad is something a bit crunchier: chopped apple.
Related: The Best and Worst Apples for Eating, Cooking & Baking
I was surprised and intrigued by this addition. Sure, celery and red onion were present in the recipe to provide the crunch that a good tuna salad should have, but what would chopped pieces of apple bring to the table? How would the sweet, crunchy fruit taste mixed in with ingredients my brain found decidedly more savory like celery, mustard and mayonnaise? But after just one taste I was hooked.
I made Lambert’s recipe for a summer beach picnic with friends, warning them in advance that the tuna salad “was a little different” and contained chopped apple. “Apple?” they asked, unsure, like me, that fruit and tuna salad would play well together.
As it turned out, the apple-packed tuna salad (I used Red Delicious) was the hit of the picnic. Not only did the adults love it, but so did the teenagers—even a few of the pickier ones. The sweet, crunchy apples added a totally new dimension of flavor, making a dish that can feel a little mayo-heavy on hot days seem lighter and more fresh.
When I got home that evening, a friend texted me asking for the recipe. Now every time one of us makes it, we text each other saying, “I made the apple tuna salad!” I make it at least once a month as part of my weekly meal prep, using all kinds of apples, from Gala to Granny Smith. I’ve learned that both sweeter and more tart apples work in the salad—the different flavor profiles adding something different to the dish each time. I like to spread it onto crackers, scoop it onto a bed of lettuce, slather it over multigrain bread, and even just eat it by the forkful when I need a fast protein fix.
Related: 13 Easy High-Protein Snacks You’ll Want to Make Forever
Although my bariatric surgery took place more than a year ago, I continue to eat a high-protein diet, and will for the foreseeable future. I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds, the success of which I attribute to my willingness to continue following the guidelines set for me by my surgeon and nutritionist. The good news is, thanks to recipes like this apple-studded tuna salad, I never feel like I am sacrificing when I sit down to a meal. A food editor, I worried that having weight-loss surgery would change my ability to make connections over really delicious food, but recipes like Lambert’s make sure there are still lots of yummy dishes to bond with the people I love over.
Read the original article on Eating Well.