A high-protein, low-calorie diet is essential for individuals looking to achieve their fitness goals, whether building muscle mass or losing weight.
Protein is critical in muscle repair and growth, making it a vital nutrient for anyone engaging in regular workouts. Additionally, a protein-rich diet can help increase satiety and promote weight loss by reducing overall calorie intake.
We’ve compiled a list of high-protein, low-calorie foods that can support your fitness journey. Foods are considered high in protein if they contain at least 15% of their calories from protein, while low-calorie options typically have fewer than 200 calories per 100g serving. These nutrient-dense choices are perfect for anyone striving to optimize their nutrition while maintaining a delicious and diverse meal plan.
Whether you’re a bodybuilder, a fitness enthusiast, or simply looking to improve your overall health, incorporating these high-protein, low-calorie foods into your diet will provide the essential nutrients your body needs for optimal performance and results. So, let’s dive into the list and explore the best protein-packed, low-calorie options to fuel your workouts and support your fitness goals.
Our comprehensive list of high-protein, low-calorie foods has categorized the options into six groups to help you easily find the ideal protein sources for your dietary preferences and needs.
These categories include:
Lean Meats: Featuring various poultry and lean cuts of beef that are both high in protein and low in calories.
Seafood: Showcasing protein-rich and heart-healthy seafood options, such as tuna, shrimp, and cod.
Eggs: Highlighting the protein content and versatility of whole eggs and egg whites.
Dairy Products: Focusing on protein-dense dairy choices, like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and skim milk.
Plant-Based Proteins: Presenting a variety of vegetarian and vegan-friendly protein sources, including tofu, lentils, and chickpeas.
Nuts and Seeds: Offering a selection of nutrient-rich nuts and seeds that provide both protein and healthy fats.
By breaking down our list into these categories, we aim to provide a diverse and comprehensive collection of high-protein, low-calorie foods that cater to various dietary preferences and lifestyles.
Lean meats are an excellent source of high-quality protein while relatively low in calories. Some great options include:
- Protein: 31g per 100g
- Calories: 165 per 100g
Chicken breast is a versatile and lean protein source that can be prepared in various ways, such as grilled, baked, or stir-fried.
- Protein: 29g per 100g
- Calories: 157 per 100g
Turkey is another lean poultry option, perfect for sandwiches, salads, or as the main course during holiday feasts.
- Protein: 27g per 100g
- Calories: 172 per 100g
Choose lean cuts of beef, like sirloin or flank steak, to enjoy a delicious, high-protein meal with fewer calories.
Seafood is not only rich in protein but also packed with essential omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health.
- Protein: 30g per 100g
- Calories: 132 per 100g
Tuna is a convenient and affordable protein source that can be enjoyed in sandwiches, salads, or sushi rolls.
- Protein: 24g per 100g
- Calories: 99 per 100g
Shrimp is a low-calorie, high-protein seafood option that can be grilled, sautéed, or added to pasta dishes.
- Protein: 18g per 100g
- Calories: 82 per 100g
Cod is a mild-tasting, flaky white fish that is delicious when baked, broiled, or used in fish tacos.
Eggs are an inexpensive and versatile high-protein, low-calorie food option.
- Protein: 13g per 100g
- Calories: 155 per 100g
Whole eggs are a complete protein source containing all essential amino acids. They can be prepared in various ways, such as scrambled, fried, or hard-boiled.
- Protein: 11g per 100g
- Calories: 52 per 100g
Egg whites are a low-calorie, high-protein option for those looking to reduce calorie intake. Use them in omelets, frittatas, or as a replacement for whole eggs in recipes.
Dairy products can be a valuable source of protein and other essential nutrients. We also love dairy products because they are usually ready to consume without any preparation needed. If you’re in a rush or you just love a great dairy product, these are some easy high-protein, low-calorie wins.
- Protein: 10g per 100g
- Calories: 59 per 100g
Greek yogurt is a creamy, high-protein snack that can be enjoyed independently or used as a base for smoothies and parfaits.
- Protein: 12g per 100g
- Calories: 98 per 100g
Cottage cheese is a versatile, high-protein dairy product that can be enjoyed as a snack, mixed with fruit or vegetables, or incorporated into recipes.
- Protein: 3.4g per 100g
- Calories: 34 per 100g
Skim milk is a low-calorie, protein-rich option for those who enjoy milk but want to minimize calorie intake. Use it in smoothies, cereal, or as a base for soups and sauces.
Plant-based proteins are suitable for vegetarians, vegans, or those looking to diversify their protein sources.
- Protein: 8g per 100g
- Calories: 76 per 100g
Tofu is a soy-based protein that can be used in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to smoothies. Opt for firm tofu when grilling or pan-frying, and use silken tofu for creamy textures in sauces or desserts.
- Protein: 9g per 100g
- Calories: 116 per 100g
Lentils are protein-packed legumes often used in soups, salads, or as a side dish. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
- Protein: 7.25g per 100g
- Calories: 164 per 100g
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, can be enjoyed in salads, roasted as a snack, or blended into hummus.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and protein, making them nutritious to your diet.
- Protein: 21g per 100g
- Calories: 575 per 100g
Almonds are a crunchy, protein-rich snack that can also be used in recipes or as a topping for yogurt and oatmeal.
- Protein: 17g per 100g
- Calories: 486 per 100g
Chia seeds can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt to boost protein and fiber. They also form a gel when mixed with liquid, making them a popular ingredient for chia puddings.
Top 6 Questions About High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods
Q: Can high-protein, low-calorie foods help with weight loss?
A: Yes, consuming high-protein, low-calorie foods can aid in weight loss by increasing satiety, reducing overall calorie intake, and preserving muscle mass during the weight loss process.
Q: Are high-protein, low-calorie diets suitable for vegetarians and vegans?
A: Absolutely! Plenty of plant-based protein sources, such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, and chickpeas, are both high in protein and low in calories, making them suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Q: How much protein should I consume daily?
A: The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, individual protein needs may vary depending on age, activity level, and fitness goals. Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.
Q: Can I get enough protein from a high-protein, low-calorie diet without supplements?
A: It is possible to obtain adequate protein from whole foods alone, without protein supplements. However, supplements like protein powders can be convenient for those with busy schedules or specific dietary needs.
Q: Are there any potential risks associated with high-protein, low-calorie diets?
A: While a high-protein, low-calorie diet can benefit many people, it is essential to maintain a balanced diet and consume adequate carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Extremely low-calorie diets or excessive protein intake may lead to nutrient deficiencies or other health issues. Consult a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to your diet.
Q: Can I build muscle on a high-protein, low-calorie diet?
A: Consuming adequate protein is crucial for muscle growth and repair. However, building muscle also requires a calorie surplus, meaning you must consume more calories than you burn. A high-protein, low-calorie diet can help preserve muscle mass during weight loss, but to build muscle, you may need to increase your calorie intake while maintaining a high protein intake.
Incorporating high-protein, low-calorie foods into your diet is essential for optimizing nutrition, whether you’re looking to build muscle, lose weight, or maintain a balanced diet.
You can enjoy a diverse and satisfying array of nutrient-dense meals and snacks by choosing lean meats, seafood, eggs, dairy products, plant-based proteins, nuts, and seeds.