This High-Protein Recipe Helped Me Lose 30 Pounds (2024)

In 2008, I had written for WWE Magazine and my local Vermont alternative weekly newspaper, but I was still toying with the idea of becoming a screenwriter when I started my internship at EatingWell. I didn't know that my time learning to edit and write for a food magazine would set me up for my career to come. And it would turn out to be an important ingredient for a dramatic weight loss later in my career as a restaurant critic.

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I treated my internship at EatingWell as a buffet. While the talented crew in the test kitchen created healthy recipes all day, I would bide my time until lunch and then take full advantage of the spoils. I gained my own version of a freshman 15 during Christmas-cookie testing season. But one unexpected recipe won my long-term affection.

I say "unexpected" because I am a lifelong meat obsessive. Just Google me and you'll see the pictures with a pig's head. I would never have imagined that a tofu recipe would become one of my standbys. I have to thank former EatingWell Test Kitchen Manager Stacy Fraser for being the one to convince me that soy protein could be the centerpiece of a meal. The recipe was part of a story about packing bento box lunches. I still have a soy-sauce-stained printout of the original magazine page that also featured short-grain brown rice balls, strawberries and orange wedges.

But the Soy-Lime Roasted Tofu was the star, both in spite of and because of its simplicity. With just four ingredients, there are few dishes in my arsenal easier to make—just cut up extra-firm tofu and marinate it in soy sauce, lime juice and toasted sesame oil for a few hours. Roasted at 450°F for 20 minutes, the cubes emerge from the oven crisp at the edges, silky inside and flavored with a masterful balance of salt, umami and acid. I've been known to add a bit of gochujang for a kick of sweet heat, but truly, the original recipe is iconic without it.

I left that internship for a job as a food writer and critic. I was young and still relatively slim despite the cookie testing. I gained 10 pounds a year my first five years on the job. At just 5 feet tall, 50 pounds was more than half my starting weight. Well-meaning friends said I looked voluptuous. But I felt exhausted.

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When you're a restaurant critic, life is like a particularly extravagant day on a cruise ship, floating from meal to meal. My days could start with an ice cream tasting before an indulgent lunch, then a multi-course dinner of various cuts of wagyu, then another dinner. When you sign up for a life as a professional eater, you have little license over what you put into your own body. When I had my gallbladder removed at age 32, my boss at the time called it "a job hazard."

But that helped me realize that I couldn't continue to live like that forever. I would have to manage my portions when dining out and cook healthier dishes than pork belly stews when I was making dinner at home. That's when I began to focus my menu on lean protein. The star? A certain zippy tofu recipe.

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Clocking in at just 163 calories per cup, Soy-Lime Roasted Tofu is packed with 19 grams of protein. While the recipe yields four servings, I can usually eke out more, especially if I make the protein part of a hearty salad. It's easy to revive in the air fryer, so it makes sense to prepare two packages, then reheat the cubes as needed. When I don't feel like sprinkling them on top of a salad, they're also fantastic packed into corn tortillas with fresh cilantro for Asian-fusion street tacos.

Swapping out heavier meals for tofu gave me enough energy to start hopping on a spin bike—first at a local studio, then on my very own Peloton. Combining those healthier habits helped me to lose 30 pounds in about a year.

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And I kept it off, despite moving to Houston, where my life as a restaurant critic was even more calorie-packed. The job that followed in the Washington, D.C. metro area involved eating at more than 100 restaurants in the space of three months for my annual best restaurants package. That was when my shape began to change again. Marrying my pizza-loving husband didn't help either. I gained 10 pounds again this past year.

But this time, I know how to rein in my habits before they get out of control. Staying on top of my portions is essentially impossible when it's my assignment to eat at least three courses. But when I'm not eating for work, I'll be replacing pizza night with a recipe that I love almost as much. And you can trust that you'll be seeing me feeling healthy and energized, next year.

This High-Protein Recipe Helped Me Lose 30 Pounds (2024)
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