Easy High Protein Meals That Are Healthy and Filling
Protein has been at the center of the nutrition conversation for years now. We’ve been told by trainers, doctors, and friends that protein is totally vital to overall health, and they’re not wrong! Many popular diets like Keto and Paleo have also put protein in the spotlight, adding to the buzz.
But there are a few problems that get in your way when trying to add more protein to your daily routine. You might not know the best high-protein foods to buy or how to make meals that properly balance protein with other key nutrients.
Let’s talk briefly about some protein basics and offer a bunch of tasty, healthy, and easy meals you can make to ensure your protein needs are always met.
Why Eat High-Protein Meals?
You’ve probably heard that protein is a key component of good nutrition, but have you ever asked why? It’s not just our muscles that benefit from protein intake, but also our skin, hair, vital organs, and numerous other systems of the body.
Those enzymes that aid digestion, respiration, blood flow, and brain function? They’re made up of building blocks known as amino acids, and all fall into the category of protein. If you don’t get enough of it, expect to feel sluggish, fatigued, and experience a range of side effects that you definitely don’t want to deal with.
Protein is also responsible for keeping our immune systems powerful and combating disease, as long as the source of your protein is clean and lean.
If your fitness goals include losing weight, adding muscle, boosting metabolism, or just living life with more energy and endurance, protein is going to be a major player.
How Much Protein You Need
We’re not saying that protein should be your main focus, but if you’re eating anything like the average American diet, you’re probably not hitting your daily requirements.
Look at the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner lineup we see in grocery stores and restaurants. More often than not, you’re dealing with starchy, sugary foods that may give you a quick burst of energy but leave you unsatisfied hours later.
The beauty of protein is the slow-burning energy that keeps you full for longer and helps keep cravings for sweets at bay.
How much protein is enough? It depends on factors like age and activity level, but experts recommend that you aim for 7 grams per every 20 pounds of body weight. You do the math, and remember that number as you explore new protein ingredients and recipes.
The other way to determine your needs is to determine the ideal percentage of your calories from protein each day. At the very least, try to make sure that 15% of your calories are protein-based, but you can safely bring that number up to 40%, depending on your goals.
Remember the complete macronutrient picture when planning out your meals, and don’t neglect carbs or fat just because you heard about a new diet trend. With the right amount of protein, your meals will have a more natural balance and keep you on the right track—not to mention that it opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to recipes.
The key here is not to get caught up in exact numbers and ratios but to let these protein guidelines move you in a healthy direction that will be sustainable for the long term. Our meal recommendations will make it even easier for you, so let’s get to it.
Meal Ideas for Omnivores
If you’re okay with eating meat, you won’t have much of a problem meeting your daily protein goals. With so many options out there, you can eat something different every single night of the year and still have plenty of new dishes to try.
The meats that appear most often on your plate should be relatively lean (with a low fat content) and versatile. Try to avoid frozen or pre-packaged meats and other proteins and buy fresh whenever possible. Organic is always preferred.
Give Chicken a Go
It may seem obvious, but start by working with chicken as your go-to protein source. It’s affordable, easy to prepare, and packs tons of protein in every bite. Plus, it takes on flavor extremely well, so treat it like a canvas for spices and seasonings, and you’ll never get bored.
If chicken breast sounds a bit dry for your taste, switch things up with thighs and wings that have a bit more fat per serving. These can be cooked in the oven, in a skillet, on the grill, or any other kitchen contraption you might have on your counter (yes, air fryer fanatics, we’re talking to you).
Almost anything can pair well with chicken, from healthy brown rice and broccoli to slightly more indulgent pasta or roasted potatoes. Keep a few reliable salad recipes by your side so you can stay busy while the main course is cooking, and bring some extra crunchy greens to serve at the table.
You can also cook a bunch of chicken in a batch and keep it cool in the fridge for quick dishes throughout the week. Make a grain bowl with fresh veggies and sliced chicken, or include it in a sandwich for an extra protein punch. Master chicken and everything else becomes easier.
Breakfast of Champions
Since you probably won’t want chicken, beef, or fish for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with bacon and eggs. If you’re short on time, you can blend up a protein shake or enjoy a bowl of yogurt before you head out the door.
Some bread products include higher protein content as well, so be on the lookout for those to create healthy, hearty toast in the morning or sandwiches in the afternoon. Even if you’re vegetarian, you can always rely on these easy alternatives to boost protein in a pinch.
Vegan Meals With Protein
Things get a bit trickier when you’re living the vegan lifestyle but still want to ramp up your protein intake. With meat and dairy products out of the picture, you’ll need to discover new ingredients that include plenty of protein and are relatively easy to prepare.
Live for Legumes
Luckily, there are plenty of great picks out there that can easily be configured into complete meals. Legumes are your new best friends, so get comfortable with using beans, lentils, chickpeas, and things like this to make soups, stews, casseroles, and more.
Those legumes will take you far in your protein journey, and there are so many varieties that you won’t be running out of novelty any time soon. Learn to make recipes in a slow cooker with veggie broth and plenty of spices, and you’ll always have an amazing meal that can save in the freezer and quickly reheat.
If you’re missing eggs in the morning and the deli meat style sandwiches at lunchtime, you’ve got a few solid options in the form of tofu, tempeh, and seitan. These ingredients are loaded with protein and have a familiar texture that might remind you of meat. Plus, they are extremely absorbent of all seasonings and sauces, so don’t hold back on the flavor.
Veggies Have Your Back
Believe it or not, there is also a substantial amount of protein in veggies like mushrooms, kale, and broccoli, so don’t skip those, either. They are full of fiber as well, so they will keep you full for a long time, especially if you roast them or sauté in olive oil.
From stir-fries and salads to pastas and burritos, there are plenty of vegan interpretations of classic recipes that include more than enough protein to go around. Don’t forget to buy a bag of quinoa – a tasty ancient grain known for crazy high protein levels.
Learn how to use these key ingredients we suggest, and a world of possibility will open up before you.
Snacks and Supplements
Any change in diet will always beg the question: what is there to snack on? If meat is on the menu, you can find high-protein munchies like jerky and beef sticks, as long as they’re low on preservatives.
For the rest of us, handfuls of almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are a classic snack loaded with protein, as are many types of seeds like hemp and chia.
If you’re craving that savory crunch of chips, puffs, and crackers, there are some high-protein options out there, too. Our Pig Out Pigless Pork Rinds contain 25 grams of protein per bag and come in all the flavors you love. No weird additives, 100% vegan.
For an even bigger blast of nutrients and flavor, our Outstanding Puffs have all the protein you need, plus extras like iron, calcium, and vitamin B12. If you need that protein on the go, these snacks will satisfy.
Read more about the Outstanding Foods mission to get an idea of what we’re all about.
Getting into the protein game can be intimidating at first, but our tips and tricks will simplify everything for you. Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian, or vegan, you’ve got this!