If you're hitting the gym getting enough protein is key for building and repairing your muscles. It also keeps you feeling fuller for longer so you can brush off the mid-afternoon sugar cravings.
Many companies are now creating high-protein versions of everything (even protein beer. Seriously). At this rate, it wouldn’t be a surprise if in five years we see a ‘high protein’ sticker on newborn puppies.
It can be easy to forget that there are many readily available high-protein foods all around us. We've rounded up a list of 24 ways to get more protein so you can stay on top of your diet and get the most from your workouts.
You're more likely to abandon your healthy intentions when you make them complicated. So the tips listed here are easy and quick. We focus on food swaps, easy additions to your usual meals, and picking the right snacks.
PROTEIN FOOD SWAPS
The easiest way to get a little more protein is to make smarter choices with the foods you’re already eating. There’s nothing complicated here, just a few high-protein food swaps. In fact, these are the closest thing you’ll find to a protein ‘shortcut’.
1. GREEK YOGHURT
Natural yoghurt isn’t a bad option, but Greek yoghurt packs double the protein so this is pretty much a no-brainer. Flavoured yoghurts are delicious but as well as being lower in protein, they also pack a lot of sugar. Go Greek.
💡 PRO TIP
When a recipe calls for sour cream use Greek yoghurt instead. You’ll barely notice the difference but Greek yoghurt has much better macros.
2. PROTEIN PEANUT BUTTER
You need protein. You love peanut butter. So peanut butter fortified with whey protein is a match made in heaven. Keep in mind that peanut butter is naturally high in protein, so a decent quality peanut butter normally packs 25-30 grams of protein per 100g. So you’re looking for more than that.
💡 Pro Tip
Many companies label their nut butter as high protein when it has barely over the 25-30g you’d expect in normal peanut butter. Check the label for 35-50g protein per 100g so you’re getting a high protein nut butter, and not just paying for ‘high protein’ branding.
"Peanut butter is the glue that holds my life together."
- You, probably
3. HUMMUS OR MUSTARD
If you’re looking for a tasty low fat spread for your sandwich, grab some low-fat hummus or wholegrain mustard. Both pack a surprisingly good amount of protein and also have lower calories than mayo (and even light mayo).
Condiment Macros (per 30g)
4. LEAN DELI MEATS
Nobody is going to tell you off for a ham sandwich (apart from maybe an aggressive vegan). But an easy way to up your protein intake is to go for sandwich fillings like chicken, turkey, tuna and roast beef instead of pork. Tuna contains 50% more protein than ham.
💡 Pro Tip
Chicken breast sausages make a great muscle friendly replacement for pork sausages, with 66% more protein and 41% fewer calories.
Deli Meats Per 100 Grams
5. LEAN CUTS
When you are buying a less lean meat, go for the leaner cuts to get the most protein:
- Pork – loin is a good option, and with its fat trimmed rivals chicken for leanness
- Beef – go for sirloin
- Chicken – breast over thighs
- Minced beef – pick the low-fat option
Sirloin v Ribeye
Sirloin has almost 20% more protein and 100 fewer calories per steak. Easy decision.
Oats are at the high end in terms of protein in breakfast options, up there with brown bread and wholegrain cereals. But they have a strong advantage – it’s much easier to make additions to a bowl of oats than other breakfast options. It’s not like protein powder would mix well into cereal, or spread well on toast! This is also a great way to keep oats interesting.
- Bursting with vitamins and nutrients
- Easily customised
- Calorie dense, plus good ratio of protein/carbs/fat (great for bulking)
- High in beta-glucan (a special type of fibre), meaning they:
- Reduce blood sugar response, which helps you burn fat (great for cutting)
- Help lower cholesterol
These are foods you can add to your favourite meals for a protein boost. Our focus is on easy additions that require little to no prep, and can simply be stirred in or served on the side.
Peas pack a decent 6 grams of protein per 100g. But the best part is how easy they are. Frozen peas can be microwaved in 3 mins and enjoyed alongside your main. They’re also super versatile and fit in well with many dishes.
Add them to...
- Pasta dishes
- Stir-fried rice or noodles
- Soups and stews
- On the side with other dishes
Just throw them in a few minutes before the dish is cooked and boom! Easy protein.
One of the quintessential high protein foods. A large egg packs 7 grams of protein. As well as being a great breakfast choice, it is super easy to add them to stir-fried rice or noodles for a protein upgrade. Just stir them in in the last few minutes of cooking. They will add flavour, help bind the stir-fry together and give it a protein boost too. Or hard boil them and add to salads or sandwiches.
Myth: Eggs give you high cholesterol.
Reality: Eggs are high in cholesterol. But strangely, eating cholesterol doesn’t affect your body’s cholesterol. Your body makes its own cholesterol using saturated fats. Eggs have low saturated fat so have little impact.
Mushrooms pack over 3 grams protein per 100g (cooked weight), and barely any calories, carbs or fat. They are also quite filling, so are a great way to bulk up a dish and only add a few grams of protein while you do it! If your current goal is to lose fat, make use of them.
Add them to...
Mushrooms also make a great side dish. Just fry them for 2-3 minutes with a little garlic, stirring regularly. Then serve up with chopped chives or spring onions!
10. BLACK BEANS/CHICKPEAS
No list of high-protein foods would be complete without a mention of these cheap, filling and nutritious sources of protein. They are also high in fibre which helps with digestion. Make sure to skip the bagged variety which take ages to prepare, and go for the canned option instead, which you can easily just throw into a meal.
Add them to...
- Mash them then stir into soup to make it thicker and creamier
- Add to rice, cous cous or quinoa in the last few mins of cooking
- Fry with garlic + spices then mash and serve as a side
- Mix into scrambled eggs along with tomato and onion
You’re rolling your eyes at the dullest muscle-friendly food that we love to hate. But broccoli is a clichéd food for fitness freaks for a reason. It packs 4 grams of protein per 100g and barely any carbs or fat.
Per 100 calories, broccoli has 10.8g protein – more than steak (which has 10.4g)!
The key is to offset its blandness with some flavour. If your main dish doesn’t have a lot going for it flavour wise, then plain broccoli could push you into a serious Krispy Kreme binge. So give it some flavour with low-fat hummus, mustard, chilli sauce, or another macro friendly condiment.
"I do not like broccoli... And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!"
- George Bush Snr, explaining why he is more known for politics than lifting.
Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse that make a great addition to curries, soups, stews, pasta sauces and so on. They are bursting with vitamins and minerals, and add texture, fibre and protein. Buy the cooked variety so you can easily just crack a can, rinse them, and add them to a meal.
½ can (130g)
Toss lentils with some of the following for a hearty salad:
Dressing options: vinegar, lemon juice, balsamic, olive oil
13. NUTS / SEEDS
Crushed or whole nuts or seeds are a great way to give a dish a little extra crunch. You want to be careful not to go overboard here as they are also high in fat and calories. But a handful will certainly bring flavour, crunch, and a few extra grams of protein to yoghurt, salads, oats, cottage cheese or a noodle based dish.
14. PROTEIN POWERED OATS
Oats are great because they’re super easy to make and customise. Stirring in protein powder or other additions is a great way to give them a protein kick, creating protein oats (proats to its friends). It also lets you keep it varied, so you can avoid an Oliver Twist type vibe as you tuck into yet another bowl of plain oats.
💡 Pro Tip
Before mixing protein powder into the oats, mix it with a little water to create a thick paste. Then you can be sure no clumps of powder end up in your oats.
Cheese is often held up to be the enemy of being in shape. It’s more that eating loads of cheese (just like an excess of anything) means you will easily rack up the calories and fat. The bottom line is, in moderation cheese can make a great (and delicious) addition to a protein packed diet.
- Cheddar has a little more protein, but also higher fat and calories.
- The leanest is low fat mozzarella, which packs a decent 5.6g protein at only 52 calories
Cheeses Compared (macros per 30g)
*All are low fat options. All contain under 0.6g carbs and under 0.4g sugar.
As complex carbs go, quinoa has a higher protein content than most. Its protein is also better quality – unlike most carbs, quinoa is a complete protein source meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It's also high in fibre to help your digestion.
Quinoa is great for bulking up salads or soups, and can be used instead of rice/cous cous in almost any recipe. For easy flavour add a stock cube when cooking.
Protein per 100g
17. GREEK YOGHURT
If you’re eating cereal, muesli or granola for breakfast stirring in protein powder would probably end in powdery, clumpy disaster. Greek yoghurt has your back. Just spoon in 6 tablespoons of it for a 10g protein boost.
A High Protein Dip
Greek yoghurt works wonders as a dip – you can combine with veggies for guilt-free snacking. It’s a little bland solo, so you can mix in additions:
18. WHEY IN PANCAKES
Protein pancakes don’t need to be a hassle – in fact they can be made in a matter of minutes with just 3 ingredients: Just mash 1 large banana, then mix in 2 eggs along with a scoop of protein powder and fry it up.
💡 Pro Tip
To make your protein pancakes lighter and fluffier, mix in a few extras: ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup oats (blended into a powder), plus ½ tsp. baking powder.
Nutritious, balanced meals should be at the heart of any fitness plan. But when you need something to keep you going, you’ll turn to snacks. Most snacks are sugary, calorific and can derail your progress.
Pick the right snacks though, and you will have an opportunity to increase your protein intake and still enjoy snacking. Win win!
19. PROTEIN BARS
The best protein bars rival chocolate bars for taste while also providing excellent nutritional value. It varies, but you can expect the best bars to provide 20g protein at just over 200 calories, and very little sugar. For convenience and taste they are hard to beat.
What To Look For In a Protein Bar
We've got a whole post dedicated to answering this question. But here's the quick version:
20. NUTS AND SEEDS
As complex carbs go, quinoa will help you boost your protein consumption more than most. Unlike most carbs, quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, and packs more protein than its competitors. It's also high in fibre to help your digestion.
- Peanuts lead the way on protein content. Cashews have slightly less protein / more carbs.
- There’s not a huge difference, and they’re all very nutritious so go with what you like (or a mix!)
Battle of the nuts - macros per 30g
21. HARD BOILED EGGS
Packed with protein and healthy fats, hard boiled eggs make a great option for when you want a quick protein hit. Just boil a few in advance and have a grab-and-go snack.
💡 Pro Tip
Adding vinegar to the water will make the eggs easier to peel once boiled.
1)Put eggs in pot of cold water
2)Place on high heat
3)When water starts to boil, take off heat
4)Cover and wait
5)Time as below
1 Medium Egg, 50g
22. BEEF JERKY / BILTONG
This chewy, dry meat snack is an acquired taste. But if you enjoy it then it’s a great lean snack to have in your arsenal. It is almost all protein with very little in the way of carbs or fat. Just check the label before you buy – some producers add sugar to theirs which can bump up the carbs.
To get an idea of just how high in protein beef jerky / biltong is, just see how it stacks up against these other staples:
Protein per 100 grams
23. PROTEIN SHAKES
A good protein powder is essential if you’re aiming for a high-protein diet – it takes seconds to mix a shake and good quality powders will give you plenty of protein and not much else. Plus they come in a huge variety of flavours to suit every taste.
24. PROTEIN SNACKS
There exists protein cookies, crisps, flapjacks, brownies, mug cakes, chocolate and even sweets! Lots of them are delicious. It’s worth noting that they tend to contain slightly less protein and more carbs/cals than protein bars, so they shouldn’t become your go to. But they are perfect as a treat and to keep things interesting!
Both weigh 80 grams. Protein cookie was the ProSupps MyCookie (pic above). Standard cookie was a supermarket choc chip cookie.