Just recently, I was asked “what are high protein foods for weight loss,” and truthfully, I wasn’t sure at the time. Now that I’ve done some research on the subject, I’d like to share with you what I learned. There are many foods that are protein-rich, yet low in fat and calories. Including more protein in your regular diet can help satisfy hunger, maintain lean muscle mass, and increase metabolism.
What are High Protein Foods for Weight Loss?
During my research, I found so many foods that are high in protein, some I knew about and some I’d never even heard of. The more common foods that are easy to include in everyday diets and high in protein consist of dairy products, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, lentils, and lean beef.
What is protein?
I guess it’s important to first explain what protein actually is. Protein is found in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and throughout the body’s tissue. It also makes up the enzymes that boost chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood. Protein makes you what you are and keeps you that way. It is made from the building blocks called amino acids. Amino acids are not stored in the body, they are derived from the foods we eat. There are nine essential amino acids consisting of;
How Much Protein Does Your Body Need?
According to the National Academy of Medicine, it is recommended that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. Narrowing it down to simpler terms, for every 20 pounds of body weight we need 7 grams of protein. For example, a person who weighs 140 pounds would need about 50 grams of protein each day. A person weighing 200 pounds would need 70 grams of protein each day.
Fat-Free Dairy Products
Low-fat or Fat-free dairy products are good sources of protein and are lower-calorie alternatives. Dairy products contain nutrients essential to our bodies, including calcium & vitamin D; two common nutrients and best know for promoting strong bones and teeth. Dairy foods provide high-quality protein, containing all nine essential amino acids recommended for the body to maintain healthy cells, organs, muscles, and systems.
Some foods to include:
- Skim or 1% low-fat milk
- Fat-free Greek Yogurt (17 gr. protein in 6 oz. serving)
- Cottage-Cheese (Fat-free cottage is lower in calcium, but higher in protein)
- Reduced-fat cheese
- Kefir (a fermented dairy beverage, great for adding to smoothies for extra protein)
- Soy Milk (7 gr. protein per 8 oz. serving)
Poultry & Seafood
Skinless chicken & turkey breast, varieties of fish such as flounder, tilapia, cod, halibut, and canned tuna or salmon, are high-protein foods. All of these contain essential nutrients that our body’s needs such as iron, vitamin B-12, and zinc. Throughout my research, I’ve found some helpful information about many of these protein-rich foods that are easy to include in everyday diets. Read on and I will share more about these foods and their nutritional values.
In a 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken breast, there are 27 grams of protein, zero carbs, and only 3 grams of fat. It is a good source of B vitamins and selenium. A serving of chicken breast (the size of your palm), depending on how it’s prepared, contains about 102 calories. It’s also a good leftover, so I like to cook extra and use it in my salads and wraps during the week. If you are boiling or baking your chicken, save the broth in the refrigerator for another day. Once the broth is chilled, you can easily skim off the hardened fat and use the juices in soups and gravy. I learned this little trick a while back. It’s amazing how much fat hardens on top of the broth; broth I used to eat as it was, with all its fat!
There are many sources of lean protein, but it’s important to have a healthy balance when trying to lose weight. When you need something besides chicken, fish, lean beef, or dairy products, eat some turkey. Turkey contains all essential amino acids. It is lean meat, protein-rich, and can easily be substituted in the place of other meats. It’s important to realize that different parts of the turkey contain different calorie values. Turkey is free of carbs as with chicken. Roasted turkey breast is the best part of the turkey to eat. It has fewer calories; in a 3-ounce serving, there are about 160 calories, 24 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fat. Choosing other parts of the turkey can greatly increase those values. Turkey legs, wings, and thighs are usually not as dry, but that’s because they have more fat in them which increases the calories.
Egg whites are high-protein, fat-free, and cholesterol-free. One large egg white contains 3.6 grams of protein and only 17 calories. Eating the yolk is not recommended when trying to manage weight because it adds about 55 calories and 5 grams of fat. For a one-cup serving of egg whites, you will get 26 grams of protein and about 115 calories. *Scramble up some egg whites with spinach and cottage cheese and enjoy a protein-rich and nutritious breakfast. I was really impressed with how good that mixture was, that I decided to make it into an omelet. I have listed the recipe further down the page if you would like to give it a try. I’d like to know your thoughts about it.
Flounder & Tilapia
Both flounder and tilapia are lean white fish, as much as 20-25 grams of protein and 85-130 calories in a 3.5-ounce serving. They are good sources for omega-3 fatty acids making them heart-healthy and diet-friendly. These types of fish are best grilled or baked and are a great way to incorporate essential nutrients into your diet.
Codfish is packed with protein, low in calories, and has little fat. 3 ounces of cod contains 20 grams of protein and 90 calories. This is a delicious fish, a great source of B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and contains selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Another great source of complete protein is halibut. One serving of halibut, about half of a fillet, gives you 42 grams of protein and 223 calories. It is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and other minerals including selenium and magnesium.
Tuna is very low in calories and fat, which makes it an almost pure-protein food. It is great right out of the can, added to a salad, or included in casseroles. In a 3-ounce serving of tuna, you get 20 grams of protein with only 92 calories. It’s also a good source of B-vitamins, plus minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Salmon is another great fish and one of my favorites. In a 3-ounce serving, you can get as much as 23 grams of protein and about 200 calories. It contains 7 grams of fat, mostly in the form of unsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is considered a great source for protein, vitamins, and minerals; containing niacin, B-vitamins, vitamin D, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.
Shrimp are high in protein and low in calories, carbs, and fat. In a 3-ounce serving of shrimp, there are 17 grams of protein and only 90 calories. This is a nutrient-dense food that is rich in vitamin D, niacin, and vitamin B-12. They also contain iron, phosphorus, copper, and selenium. There are many ways to include shrimp while dieting. Boil them and eat them cold with cocktail sauce or have them on a salad, in a stir-fry, or gumbo.
Beans, Peas & Lentils
Black beans, Lima beans, White Beans, and other legumes are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and potassium. They are low-fat, high in protein, and considered as nutrient-dense foods. I’ve listed several of these foods along with some nutritional benefits below. This list can help you get started with your next grocery list.
Legumes include lentils, split peas, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), kidney, pinto, black and white beans. Studies have shown that legumes do not provide enough essential amino acids or protein components that your body needs to get from a regular diet, but great when combined with grains or a source of animal protein. Meals with complete protein can meet your amino acid requirements. Some examples of “Complete Protein” include; black beans with eggs or brown rice, whole-wheat pita with hummus or garbanzo bean dip, split-pea soup with barley. Throw in some grilled red peppers, onions, tomatoes or corn for added nutrition and easy to include in meals and snacks throughout the day.
People commonly include black beans in salads, on nachos, and served with Mexican dishes. They are an inexpensive source of protein and delicious to eat in a variety of ways. I love eating Morning Star Farms veggie burgers; “Spicy Black Bean”. They have black beans, corn, and tomatoes in them and in one patty there is 10 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 13 grams of carbs, and only 110 calories. 14% of the daily recommended amount of “complete protein”. I’ve included a delicious recipe further down the page that I really enjoy for, “Spicy Black Bean Burger Quesadillas.”
Lima beans are loaded with protein; 21 grams of protein in one serving of 100 grams. They can be eaten hot or cold and great when added to a salad. Lima Beans are sometimes called butter beans. If you’re looking for a good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber, Lima beans are the perfect vegetable! The high-fiber content in these beans prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making them a great choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance, or hypoglycemia. Enjoy a nearly fat-free high quality “Complete Protein,” when combining Lima beans with whole grains such as rice.
Chickpeas or Garbanzo Beans
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans are considered one of the best foods that suppress the appetite. They are a great source of fiber and protein along with tons of other health benefits that will help keep you full for longer. In just one cup of cooked chickpeas, there are 13 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein!
Lean Red Meat
Lean red meat or beef is certainly very rich in protein, but choosing the right red meat is important for weight loss. If you are lucky enough to find grass-fed beef, I would certainly recommend it. It’s leaner and lower in fat and calories when comparing to grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef also has more nutritional value because it is rich in “good fat,” specifically omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy and supports brain function. I’ve found a list of USDA Select or “Choice” grades of lean beef, that may help you when choosing your beef.
- Flank Steak
- Cubed T-bone steak
- Rib, chuck, or rump roast
- Sirloin Tip Steak
- Top Round Steak
- Eye of Round Steak
- Bottom Round Steak
- Filet Mignon Steak
Ways to Add Extra Protein Daily
Breakfast burrito in whole grain Wellness Wrap, with scrambled egg whites, black beans, whole grain rice & salsa Vegetable Omelets with cottage cheese If you want meat; Substitute ground chicken or turkey in place of bacon or pork sausage
Green leaf salad with Romaine lettuce and Baby Spinach; add tuna, Lima beans, chickpeas & feta cheese with Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing Whole Grain & Flax Seed Extreme Wellness Wrap with Slices of roasted chicken breast, ham, baby spinach, peppers, mushrooms, and Monterrey Jack cheese Tuna fish on whole wheat bread with creamed avocado Left over baked chicken makes a great chicken salad; check-out my recipe HERE. Black Bean Burger Quesadillas; Recipe further down the page (one of my favorites!)
Feeling Creamy Berry Yogurt; Fat-Free Plain Greek Yogurt, blueberries, Lite brown sugar, & cinnamon. Lean Beef Jerky; Click this link for “Devara’s Kicken Hot Spicy Beef Jerky” 1% Cottage Cheese with tomatoes or pears
Bake or roast a whole chicken, saving the broth for later use; removing the skin before eating (Leftovers are GREAT in salads and wraps). Bake or grill halibut fish; Foil Packs make fish delicious, flaky & juicy. Serve with some whole grain rice or pasta and steamed vegetables. Vegetable soup using leftover chicken broth skimming the fat off first; add your favorite protein-rich beans, red meat, and whole-grain rice or pasta.
Protein-Rich Low Fat Recipes
Have you heard of Spicy Black Bean Quesadillas, by Morning Star Farms? I wish I could claim this recipe as my own, but it’s not.
Spicy Black Bean Quesadillas
Servings = 2
29 grams Protein / 530 Calories / 51.5 g Carbs / 27 g Fat
- 1 – Morning Star Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger (9 g Protein / 110 Calories / 13 g Carbs / 4.5 g fat)
- 2 – (7- or 8-inch) Trader Joe’s Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Tortillas (4 g Protein / 45 Calories / 10 g Carbs / 1.5 g fat)
- Olive Oil Non-stick cooking spray
- ½ cup shredded Colby Jack cheese or Monterrey Jack Cheese (divided) (12 g Protein / 220 Calories / 2 g Carbs / 16 g fat)
- 2/3 cup frozen whole kernel corn (thawed) ( 3 g Protein / 100 Calories / 21 g Carbs / 1 g fat)
- 2 TBSP Pico de Gallo (0 Protein / 15 Calories / 3 Carbs / 0 g fat)
- 2 TBSP guacamole (1 gr Protein / 40 Calories / 2.5 gr Carbs / 4 g fat)
Prepare Spicy Black Bean Burger patty according to package directions and crumble. Coat one side of each tortilla with cooking spray and place on a cutting board with the coated side down. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of cheese over half of each tortilla. Top cheese with a crumbled burger, corn, and Pico de Gallo (I add homemade salsa to mine as well). Fold tortillas in half, pressing gently. In a medium-size skillet, cook quesadillas over medium-low heat for 2 to 4 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Remove from skillet and cut each quesadilla into 3 wedges or triangles. Spoon small amounts of guacamole onto each one. Serve with shredded lettuce & salsa (optional) Eat and Enjoy!
Chicken Rotini Parmesan Casserole
Serving Size = 6 28 grams Protein / 321 Calories / 36 grams Carbs / 9 grams Fat/ 9 grams Fiber
- 12 ounce – Cooked Chicken Breast
- 2 TBSP – All-purpose Flour
- 2 TBSP – Butter (try to find unsalted butter)
- 10 ounces – Skim Milk
- 2 TSP – Italian Seasoning
- 2 TSP – Garlic Powder
- 1 TBSP – Parmesan Cheese, grated
- 7 ounce – Rotini Pasta, Whole Wheat
- 2 – Yellow, Orange, or Red Bell Peppers, chopped (I use the mixed snack-size sweet bell peppers that come in a bag – it’s cheaper and gives you extra to snack on.)
- 1 – Zucchini or Squash, chopped
- 12 ounces – Broccoli, chopped (fresh or frozen)
- 1/3 Cup – Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
- Olive Oil Cooking Spray
Preheat of to 350 degrees. Take a large piece of foil and layout on a cookie sheet pan. Spray foil with cooking spray. Cut chicken breast up into bite-size pieces and place on foil and seal up in the foil, similar to a foil pack. Put in the oven until chicken is done. (about 25-30 minutes) While the chicken is baking, fill a large pot 1/2 full of water and place on burner on high heat. Once the water has started to boil, pour in the pasta and turn the heat down to medium. When pasta is almost cooked (tender), add chopped broccoli and zucchini/squash to the water for the remaining time. When pasta is tender, pour into a colander to drain the water. Place contents back into the empty pot and set aside.
Using a small saucepan, melt butter. Once the butter has melted, add two tablespoons of flour using a whisk to blend. (The mixture will become very thick!) Gradually add 10 ounces of milk using the whisk until well mixed and no lumps. Simmer on low heat (so not to scorch the milk), for about 10 minutes. Add Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese to the white sauce and mix well. Pour the white sauce into the pot of pasta and vegetables and blend. Using a 9 x 13″ pan or casserole dish, spray with cooking spray and pour the mixture into the pan. Top with shredded cheese, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes or until hot. Eat & Enjoy! 🙂
Healthy Protein-Rich Wraps
24.5 grams Protein / 206 Calories / 25.45 Carbs
1 Whole Wheat & Flax Seed Wellness Wrap (4 gr. protein / 50 calories / 16 gr. carbs) 1-ounce Monterrey Jack Cheese (7 gr. protein / 70 calories / 0 carbs) 2 slices Black Forest Ham (4.2 gr. protein / 30 calories / .5 carbs) 3 slices Oven Roasted Chicken Breast (4 gr. protein / 30 calories / .5 gr. carbs) 2 tsp Spicy Brown Mustard (10 calories) 3-oz Jalapeno peppers (1.15 gr. protein / 26 calories / 5 gr. carbs) 3 or 4 slices of Cucumbers (.12 gr. protein / 3 calories / .45 gr. carbs) 3.5-oz Romaine lettuce (1 gr. protein / 17 calories / 3 gr. carbs) 3.5-oz Baby Spinach (3 gr. protein / 23 calories / 4 gr. carbs)
Place 1 tortilla wrap on foil for ta