Protein has all sorts of benefits, particularly when it comes to weight loss, increasing satiety and staving off cravings. If you’re looking to up your protein game, here are some convenient protein-filled foods to have on hand.
1. Lentil or Chickpea Pasta
Traditional pasta made from wheat flour doesn’t contain a whole lot of protein. The good news for us protein-seeking pasta lovers is that there are several healthier, higher-protein options out there! Red lentil and chickpea pastas can provide 20+ grams of protein per serving, more than double that of traditional pasta.
2. Peanuts and Almonds
Compared to other nuts, peanuts and almonds contain the highest percentage of protein, both providing 7 grams per 1-ounce serving. This goes for peanut and almond butter as well. Be sure to keep your eye on the ingredients list. Nut butters should have no more than two ingredients: nuts and salt (if you prefer the salted variety).
As far as grains go, oats are fairly high in protein. If you have a few minutes to spare, old-fashioned oats contain a bit more protein than their quick-cooking counterparts, providing 7 grams (vs. 5 grams from quick-cook) in 1 cup of oatmeal. Frozen, pre-cooked steel-cut oats are another great option to have on hand since they cook up quick and contain the same amount of protein per serving as old-fashioned oats. To add an extra boost of protein, make your oats with milk and/or add a scoop or two of protein powder to them.
Related recipe: Overnight Oatmeal
4. Pre-Cooked Frozen Quinoa
Technically a seed, quinoa eats like a grain but has more than double the protein of traditional rice, providing 8 grams per cup. Boxed quinoa takes about 15–20 minutes to cook, but pre-cooked, frozen quinoa can be ready to eat with just a few minutes in the microwave.
Related recipe: Southwest Quinoa Salad
5. Cottage Cheese
Paired with fruit, cottage cheese makes a great protein-packed breakfast or snack, providing 13 grams of protein per 1/2 cup. Just watch portion sizes, especially if you’re salt-sensitive or have high blood pressure, since it is also fairly high in sodium.
Eggs are a good source of complete protein, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. They cook quickly and can be hard-boiled in bulk for a quick grab-and-go snack or to add satiety to a dinner salad. One large egg provides 6–7 grams of protein.
Related recipe: Smoked Salmon and Eggs
7. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is extra thick and has double the protein of most other yogurts, providing 20–25 grams of protein per cup. It blends well into smoothies and, when paired with fruit and granola, makes for a delicious breakfast or snack. Greek yogurt’s tart flavor also makes a wonderful substitute for sour cream, especially on top of nachos, baked potatoes or stirred into chili.
Related recipe: Greek Yogurt with Apple and Walnuts
One 8-ounce glass of milk has 8 grams of high-quality protein and, like eggs, is also a “complete” protein. If you’re not a dairy drinker, soy milk is a great alternative as it contains the highest amount of protein of non-dairy milks, around 6–8 grams per cup.
Related recipe: Ginger, Berries and Oats Smoothie
Convenient and delicious, most cheeses are good sources of protein, with varieties like Swiss, Monterey Jack and mozzarella containing 8 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving. When snacking on cheese, calories can add up quick so just watch your portion sizes.
Related recipe: Tomato Basil Mozzarella Skewers
10. Canned Tuna or Salmon
One 5-ounce can of tuna or salmon contains around 25 grams of quality protein. It’s a great pantry staple for a quick sandwich, salmon or tuna fritters, or to give a salad a little more staying power.
11. Sardines and Anchovies
Photo Credit: EatingWell
Small but mighty, sardines and anchovies provide 8 grams of protein per ounce. Like cottage cheese, these little fishies can be high in sodium so watch portion sizes and give them a quick rinse with water before eating to wash away some of the extra salt.
Related recipe: Smoky Artichoke-Sardine Salad
12. Canned Beans
Dried beans are economical but take a while to prepare. Though not as low in sodium, canned beans are an inexpensive and convenient source of protein to keep in your pantry. They make great additions to soups and stews or mixed into grains or leafy greens. One ½-cup serving of beans contains nearly 20 grams of protein.
Related recipe: Black Bean Quesadillas
13. Frozen Edamame
Another great protein food to keep in your freezer, shelled edamame, or soybeans, offer 12 grams of quality protein per ½-cup serving. Served warm with a sprinkle of salt, edamame makes a great snack or appetizer, but can be added to a salad or whipped into hummus pretty easily, too!
14. Pre-cooked Chicken Breast
Photo Credit: EatingWell
Depending on the thickness, fresh chicken breast can take upwards of 20 minutes to cook on the stovetop. For nights you’re short on time or just don’t want to go to the trouble, have some pre-cooked chicken breast in the freezer. You can batch-cook a few pounds and freeze them individually or pick up a bag in the freezer section of your grocery store. Ready-to-eat after just a few minutes in the microwave, chicken breast strips are especially great for adding extra protein to quick pasta dishes or salads.
Related recipe: Chicken Waldorf Salad
15. Pre-portioned Fish Fillets
Quick and convenient, single-serve fish fillets, found in the freezer section, offer 20–25 grams of complete protein per 3-ounce serving. All you have to do is thaw and then bake, broil or microwave!
Related recipe: Garlic Roasted Salmon and Brussels Sprouts
16. Soy Crumbles
Photo Credit: EatingWell
Also found in the freezer section, soy crumbles make a great lean protein replacement for ground beef and don’t require defrosting before cooking. Add crumbles to sauces and pasta or sauté with a few spices and serve in a crunchy taco shell with your favorite veggie toppings.
Related recipe: Vegetarian Chili
Looking for more ways to increase your protein consumption? Check out Zipongo’s full collection of delicious, high-protein recipes.