There’s nothing worse than feeling hungry all the time. Holding off on eating and ignoring hunger cues can lead to binging or falling off the wagon altogether. Incorporating protein in your diet improves satiety and feelings of fullness. This is essential for losing weight and keeping it off.
Other benefits of a high protein diet include greater calorie burn even at rest, reduced loss of fat-free mass (aka muscle mass), more lean muscle and prevention of weight regain after loss.1 Here’s a list of high-protein foods for weight loss.
If you’re a Jenny member, make sure to touch base with your weight loss coach before adding foods to your plan to ensure you stay on track!
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Chicken breast is one of the most versatile lean protein sources around. A 3.5-ounce serving of chicken breast contains only 158 calories, a whopping 32 grams of protein, and is fairly lean at only 3 grams of fat per serving.2 Chicken breast pairs well with just about anything and is an ideal meal prep component because it holds up well, even after freezing.
Chicken breast is the star of Jenny’s Chicken & Wild Rice Soup that contains 17 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, making it the perfect meal to help keep you full for hours.
This super-food is not actually a grain, quinoa is a seed and packs 8 grams of protein for every cooked cup. Plus, it is one of the only grain-like carbs that is naturally gluten-free and has 5 grams of fiber per serving. This is ideal for a weight loss-style diet.3
When cooking quinoa, try using chicken or vegetable stock instead of water to maximize flavor without added calories.
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Edamame beans are young soybeans that are harvested when they are ripe and green. You can find edamame in both its pod and hulled and can be served hot or cold. Toss them on a salad to boost protein content of a meal or try them steamed with a dusting of sea salt as a protein-rich snack. One cup of edamame contains 18 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber making it the perfect high-protein food for weight loss.4
You can find this plant-based protein superstar in Jenny’s Beef Stir Fry Bowl.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein powder is a high-quality lean protein derived from milk. During the cheesemaking process, the whey and casein are separated. Whey is then dehydrated to be used in powder form. Whey protein sets the standard for supplemental protein drinks. It contains all nine essential amino acids (that must be consumed in the diet) and comes in a variety of flavors. Most whey protein powders contain about 20-25 grams of protein per scoop and little-to-no fat.5
Blend whey protein into a fruit smoothie or bake into your favorite pancake batter or muffin mix for an instant protein boost.
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Eggs and egg whites are the quintessential high-protein foods for weight loss. They’re the highest quality protein around and contain important vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. One large egg has 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. They’re versatile and inexpensive making eggs the ideal protein source to build muscle and boost weight loss.6
Weight loss tip: Boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week and store in your fridge for a quick grab-n-go protein snack.
Canned tuna will never go out of style. A 4-ounce can of tuna packed in water contains about 20 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat.7 Beyond being an excellent protein source, it’s also an inexpensive, healthy non-perishable food (that will last a while in your pantry!). For those days there’s nothing in your fridge to eat - pop open a can of tuna and add to a bowl of noodles with sauce, throw on top of a salad or whip up some tuna salad.
The best thing about Greek yogurt, besides the fact that it’s a nutritious protein source, is that you can eat it as a snack, as a meal or in a recipe. One small container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt has around 16 grams of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.8
Try this sweet treat: Dip fresh strawberries in Greek yogurt; lay them out on a lined baking sheet then place into the freezer overnight or at least 8 hours. Store in an airtight container in the freezer and grab a handful for a refreshing protein bite.
Another rockstar dairy, cottage cheese is an excellent protein source. It is rich in casein, a dairy protein that digests more slowly helping to keep you feeling fuller for longer. This is perfect for a weight loss style diet or when you have prolonged periods of time between meals. One cup of 2% cottage cheese contains 24 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 9 grams of carbohydrates.9
A serving of cottage cheese with berries before bed will keep your muscles fed overnight and is considered an effective post-exercise muscle-building tool.10
Hemp seeds offer a host of health benefits stemming from their nutritional profile. A one-tablespoon serving has three grams of protein and four grams of fat, most of which are omega-3 fatty acids.11 Sprinkling hemp seeds over your salad, grain bowl, or into a smoothie is an effortless way to boost plant-based protein.
Not only is salmon a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, but it’s also protein-dense. A 3-ounce serving of salmon contains 17 grams of protein and 11 grams of healthy fats.12 The combination of healthy fats and protein help to keep you fuller longer.
Weight loss tip: Keep canned salmon stocked in your pantry for a last-minute protein option you don’t have to cook.
One of the best plant-based proteins for weight loss is lentils. One cup of cooked lentils contains 17 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber and almost no fat, making it a lean protein source.13 The hearty serving of fiber will help keep your gut healthy and digestive system working properly.
For a crunchy pop of flavor and healthy fats, top warm lentil soup with shelled sunflower seeds and a dollop of plain nonfat Greek yogurt.
Like most other plant-based protein sources, chickpeas are not a complete protein, but that doesn’t keep them from making this list. A half cup of chickpeas contains a whopping 20 grams of protein. While most people are not eating that many chickpeas in one sitting, even topping your salad with two tablespoons will give you an additional 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.14
Weight loss tip: Make your own high-protein snack mix by combining a tablespoon of roasted chickpeas, pumpkin seeds and roasted edamame.
Bison is the leaner red meat. A 3-ounce portion of bison contains 21 grams of complete protein and 7 grams of healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids. Not only does it have more protein and less fat than beef, but it’s also richer in iron and B12 — all of which are important for energy levels and weight loss.15
Try firing up the grill and cooking bison burgers as you would any other burger.
Weight loss tip: Grab slider buns instead of regular for a lower calorie take on a summer favorite — or wrap the burgers in romaine lettuce leaves for a crunchy alternative to bread.
Nut butters are a great way to boost the protein content of a meal. Both peanut butter and almond butter contain around 6-8 grams of plant-based protein per 2-tablespoon serving. Slathering 2 tablespoons on top of high protein waffles can quickly take your breakfast (or snack) from not enough protein to just the right amount. In addition, you’ll get a good serving of fiber and healthy fats that keep you feeling full for longer.
Nut butters go well with about anything. Keep it simple by pairing a serving with a sliced apple or banana; or blend into a protein smoothie for breakfast or as a post-workout recovery shake.
The Final Word
Incorporating more protein into your diet can be challenging and confusing. Talking to a Registered Dietitian or weight loss coach can help you determine the right protein sources and portion sizes for you and your lifestyle. Take a moment to find your meal plan for weight loss that includes some of our favorite high-protein foods.
1Moon J, Koh G. Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. J Obes Metab Syndr. 2020 Sep 30;29(3):166-173. doi:10.7570/jomes20028
2 USDA Food Database: Chicken Breast
3 USDA Food Database: Quinoa
4 USDA Food Database: Edamame
5 USDA Food Database: Whey Protein Powder
6 USDA Food Database: Eggs
7 USDA Food Database: Canned Tuna
8 USDA Food Database: Greek yogurt
9 USDA Food Database: Cottage Cheese
10 Kim J. Pre-sleep casein protein ingestion: new paradigm in post-exercise recovery nutrition. Phys Act Nutr. 2020 Jun 30;24(2):6-10. doi:10.20463/pan.2020.0009
11 USDA Food Database: Hemp Seeds
12 USDA Food Database: Farm-Raised Salmon
13 USDA Food Database: Cooked Lentils
14 USDA Food Database: Chickpeas
15 USDA Food Database: Bison