High Protein Foods: 16 Foods for High Protein Meals (2024)

Getting enough protein daily is essential for your overall health. Healthy protein sources include eggs, nuts, lean meats, fish, dairy, and certain grains.

Proteins are a large category of molecules that support cell structure, immune function, movement, chemical reactions, hormone synthesis, and more. They’re all made up of tiny building blocks called amino acids. Nine of these are essential–meaning your body needs them but can’t make them on its own, so you need to get them in your diet (1, 2).

Not only is protein essential for your health but consuming it can keep you feeling full and satisfied, which supports a healthy body weight (3).

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is set at 0.36 grams (g) of protein per pound of your body weight (0.8 g per kilogram). Remember that this reflects the minimum protein required to meet your body’s needs (4).

Here are 16 delicious foods that are high in protein.

Whole eggs are a good source of protein that’s easy to absorb, and they’re also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants (5).

Remember that egg whites are almost pure protein, but whole eggs that include the yolk provide many more nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Protein content

One large egg (50 g) provides 6.3 g of protein (5).

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Almonds are a nutritious tree nut rich in essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium. They’re also high in plant-based protein. (6)

Eating almonds may benefit your health in several ways, including lowering heart disease risk factors like high LDL (bad) cholesterol and high blood pressure (7).

Protein content

One ounce (28.35 g) of almonds provides 6 g of protein (7).

Other high protein nuts include pistachios, which deliver 5.73 g per 1-ounce (28.35 g) serving and cashews, which contain 4.34 g of protein per 1-ounce (28.35-g) serving (8, 9).

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Chicken breast is an excellent choice if you’re trying to increase your protein intake. In addition to protein, chicken provides a variety of B vitamins, plus minerals like zinc and selenium (10).

Protein content

One half of a chicken breast (86 g) provides 26.7 g of protein (10).

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Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that is low in fat and calories yet high in protein. It’s rich in calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and various other nutrients (11).

Protein content

One cup (226 g) of cottage cheese provides 28 g of protein (11).

Other high protein cheeses include cheddar cheese, which provides 3.96 g of protein per 17-g slice, and mozzarella, which provides 6.29 g of protein per 1 ounce (28.35 g) (12, 13).

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Greek yogurt, also called strained yogurt, is a very thick type of yogurt high in protein.

It has a creamy texture and is a good source of many nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, selenium, and zinc (14).

Protein content

One 7-ounce (200-g) container provides 19.9 g (14).

Other yogurt products that are high in protein include unsweetened low fat yogurt, which provides 11.9 g of protein per 8-ounce (227-g) container, and kefir, which provides 9.21 g of protein per 1 cup (243 mL) (15, 16).

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Dairy milk contains a little of nearly every nutrient that your body needs. It’s a good source of high quality protein, and it’s high in vitamins and minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin (vitamin B2) (17).

Many people with lactose intolerance can’t tolerate milk and other dairy products, and they avoid many dairy-containing foods (18).

Protein content

One cup (246 mL) of dairy milk provides 8.32 g of protein (17).

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Lentils are among the richest sources of plant-based protein, making them an excellent choice if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Plus, they’re loaded with other nutrients, too, including fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese (19).

Studies show that people who regularly consume lentils and other legumes have a lower risk of developing health conditions like heart disease and fatty liver disease (20, 21).

Protein content

100 g (about 1/2 cup) of cooked lentils provides 9.02 g of protein (19).

Other high-protein legumes include chickpeas, which provide 7.05 g of protein per 100 g cooked, and black beans, which provide 8.86 g of protein per 100 g cooked (22, 23).

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Lean beef is a rich source of protein. It’s also high in bioavailable iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins B12 and B6 (24).

Red meat can be a part of a healthy diet, but it’s best to moderate your intake. Consuming high amounts of red meat has been linked to a higher risk of developing certain health conditions, including colorectal cancer (25).

Try cutting back on red meat and eating plant-based protein, fish, and poultry more frequently.

Protein content

A 3-ounce (85-g) serving of lean beef provides 24.6 g of protein (24).

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Fish is an excellent source of protein and provides several important vitamins and minerals, like iodine, selenium, and vitamin B12 (26).

People who include a lot of fish in their diet tend to have a lower risk of health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, fatty fish like salmon and herring are high in omega-3 fats, which have powerful benefits for your overall health, including supporting heart health (27, 28, 29).

Protein content

All types of fish are high in protein. For example, half a salmon fillet (124 g) provides 30.5 g of protein, while a cod fillet (180 g) provides 41 g of protein (30, 31).

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Quinoa is rich in fiber, folate, copper, iron, and zinc, and it’s higher in protein than many grains (32).

Quinoa is often referred to as a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own. However, it actually contains insufficient amounts of certain amino acids, like leucine (33).

Protein content

One cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa provides 8 g of protein (32).

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When you’re pressed for time and unable to prepare a meal, protein powder can come in handy.

You can easily add protein powders like whey and pea protein to shakes, smoothies, energy balls, yogurt, and more to increase the protein and fullness factor.

Protein content

Whey protein powder provides about 16.6 g of protein per scoop (28.6 g), while pea protein provides 15 g of protein per scoop (20 g) (34, 35).

Note that the protein content per scoop differs between products, even when the scoop size is the same.

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Ezekiel bread is different from most other breads. It’s made of organic and sprouted whole grains and legumes, including millet, barley, spelt, wheat, soybeans, and lentils.

Compared with other breads, like white bread, Ezekiel bread is high in protein, fiber, and various important nutrients.

Protein content

One slice (50 g) of Ezekiel bread provides 6 g of protein (36).

However, remember that the exact nutritional content of Ezekiel bread will vary between products.

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Pumpkin seeds are a great source of minerals like iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Plus, they’re loaded with plant-based protein and fiber (37).

Try adding pumpkin seeds to salads, baked goods, oatmeal, or yogurt, or mix them with unsweetened dried fruit and almonds for a convenient snack.

Protein content

A 1/4 cup (29.5 g) of pumpkin seeds provides 8.8 g of protein (37).

Other high protein seeds include sunflower seeds, which provide 7.25 g per 1/4-cup (35-g) serving, and flax seeds, which provide 7.5 g of protein per 1/4-cup (42-g) serving (38, 39).

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Turkey breast consists mostly of protein, with very little fat and few calories. It also contains several vitamins and minerals, including selenium, zinc, and vitamins B12 and B6 (40).

Protein content

A 3-ounce (85-g) serving of turkey provides 25.6 g of protein (40).

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Shellfish, including shrimp, oysters, clams, and scallops are excellent sources of protein. Plus, shellfish contain healthy fats and a number of vitamins and minerals, including selenium, zinc, vitamin B12, and iron (41).

Protein content

A 3-ounce (85-g) serving of cooked clams provides 21.8 g of protein, while the same serving of shrimp provides 20.4 g of protein (41, 42).

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Peanuts and peanut butter are packed with nutrients like protein, folate, magnesium, and vitamin E (43).

Eating peanuts and peanut butter may help make you feel full due to their high protein content. In fact, studies show that adding peanut butter to a high carb meal may help reduce blood sugar spikes after the meal (44).

Protein content

A 1-ounce (28.35-g) serving of peanuts provides 7.31 g of protein, while a 2-tablespoon (32-g) serving of smooth peanut butter provides 7.2 g of protein (43, 45).

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What foods are very high in protein?

Foods that are highest in protein typically include lean meat, poultry, and seafood. But you can also get protein from eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

How can I get 100-150g of protein a day?

You can reach 100g of protein per day by choosing protein-rich food options with each meal. This can include Greek yogurt, chicken breast, and a salmon fillet. Plant-based sources to help reach your goal can include peanuts, beans, and tofu.

How can I eat more protein?

You can increase the amount of protein you eat by eating high protein foods, such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, or eggs, at each meal. You can also eat plant-based protein sources such as beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

The bottom line

Getting enough protein daily is essential for health.

People’s protein needs vary. However, experts recommend most active people consume 0.54–0.9 g of protein per pound of their body weight (1.2–2 g per kg) per day (4).

Fortunately, there are many high protein foods to choose from, including animal and plant-based sources.

High Protein Foods: 16 Foods for High Protein Meals (2024)
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