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High Protein Foods That Are Low In Calories

every day chicken and broccoli

Chicken and broccoli, chicken and broccoli! Eating the same high protein foods every day can get boring!

Sure you can do a million things with chicken, but it’s still chicken. I’d like to suggest a few alternative high protein foods that are low in calories and delicious. These aren’t mystery foods; you’ve heard of them all, but when was the last time you cooked with them? Introduce some variety into your daily protein intake regimen by learning to cook with the following foods. They’re not just tasty and packed with protein, but they’re good for you too!

*These high protein foods are not in any particular order.*

High Protein Food #1 – Shrimp

Yummy high protein dish - Low carb, low calories, high protein

I stumbled across this tasty looking dish. Peanut Shrimp Stir Fry. 31g protein per serving but only 250 calories. Double up on that!

Assuming you’re not allergic, shrimp is a great alternative source of protein without a lot of calories. Shrimp is low-fat, low-carbohydrate and is also an excellent source of selenium, omega-3 fat, astaxanthin, and even B12. For a 4oz serving of shrimp you get a whopping 24 grams of protein but only about 11o carlories. That same serving of shrimp also has about 20% of your RDA of choline and iron. Lucky are those who live on the Gulf Coast and can get shrimp for a couple bucks a pound. /jealous

As with all seafood, make sure you prepare shrimp correctly by cooking thoroughly.

High Protein Food #2 – Turkey

Yes turkey, the other, more expensive chicken – it’s not just for Thanksgiving. Turkey, like chicken, is low in fat while high in protein. It’s easy to prepare and can used in practically anything you would use chicken for. Another benefit is that if you tire of cooking day in and day out, a large turkey will last you for a week at least.

4oz of turkey breast without the skin will give you 34 grams of protein at only 150 calories. Eating the leg gives a little bit less protein at 31 grams per 4oz, and the thigh less still at 21 grams. So even the worst part of the turkey is still an amazing protein source. Turkey is loaded with tryptophan, selenium, and all the B vitamins.

Learn more than you ever wanted to about the health benefits of turkey here. It’s a long read!

High Protein Foods #3 – Tempeh

high protein foods like tempeh make it possible for vegetarians to get their mass on

The vegan’s favorite choice for high protein food – tempeh. Check out this recipe from The Hearty Vegan using spicy tempeh sausage.

Tempeh is an Indonesian fermented staple made from soybeans. Tempeh is high in fiber, low in saturated fat, has no cholesterol and is comparable to beef in percentage of protein. In addition to being made with soybeans, it is also made from black eyed peas. Black eyed pea tempeh has 11 grams of protein per 4oz and only 1.5 grams of fat and 180 calories.

Tempeh is a great alternative to tofu for vegetarians and those who just prefer to consume less meat products. Tempeh is also gluten free. So if you haven’t tried tempeh yet, give it a shot.

High Protein Food #4 – Salmon

high protein salmon and dragon noodles from budget bytes

At my house, we eat Grilled Salmon with Dragon Noodles as often as once a week. It is incredibly satisfying. Sure beats a rice pilaf.

My personal favorite. There is a lot of talk about the amazing omega-3 benefits of salmon, but there are other health benefits as well. One area of health benefits involves the protein and amino acid content of salmon. Several studies have found that salmon contains small bioactive protein molecules called bioactive peptides that may provide special support for joint cartilage, insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. Salmon is also loaded with Vitamin D and B12.

Salmon is super high in protein. By eating a tiny 3oz serving of fresh Atlantic salmon, you get 22g of protein, 7g of fat, zero carbs and only 155 calories. Sadly, wild-caught salmon is a bit pricey to have on the menu every day or I probably would eat it every day. As a salmon fan, I suggest sticking to the wild fish and not the farm-raised (just preference – it tastes better.)

High Protein Food #5 – Tofu

A versatile soybean product, tofu continues to show potential for reducing the risk of some cancers. Tofu can be used as a meat substitute for practically any dish, used just as a high-protein snack, and even used in desserts. Tofu sounds a lot like tempeh, doesn’t it? Read about the differences.

Tofu is available in many varieties, but to give you an example of macro nutrients, 4oz of firm tofu has about 160 calories, 16 grams of protein, and no significant amount of fat or carbs. You can find countless recipes online for tofu dishes. Tofu really is about as versatile as any meat you can think of… maybe more so.

High Protein Foods #6 – Pork Loin

high protein pork loin

Herb Roasted Pork Loin from Budget Bytes. Yes I am a fan of the recipes there. Some of us are on a budget.

A little fattier than all the previous high protein foods listed, pork loin is a cut of meat from a pig, created from the tissue along the top of the rib cage, and then usually cut into chops or steaks. Bleh, who cares where it comes from; it’s pork, it’s delicious.

Pork loin has about 23 grams of protein for every 3oz. Not bad for only 200 calories. Sigh, it also has 12 grams of fat. The good news is that is also has potassium, iron, B-vitamins, Vitamin D, and magnesium. Pork is simple to cook. Just grill it and eat with some rice and vegetables; or try the recipe above.

Other high protein foods to try

  • Tuna and Halibut
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Eggs (stick with the whites)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Broccoli (very protein dense for a vegetable)
  • Nuts (if you don’t mind all the fat)
  • Lean Beef (90%+)
  • Whey Powder (duh)
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