Looking for Higher-Protein Foods Under 200 Calories? Start With These 11 Tasty Options
Our bodies use protein to build and repair muscle, which is one reason why protein powders are so popular in post-workout shakes. But when you’re looking for other sources of protein — particularly those that don’t add loads of extra fat and calories — where should you start?
How much protein (and how many calories) you need is different for everyone. But there are rules around what can be called “high protein.” A food needs to provide 20% or more of the daily (DV) or 10 grams based on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, a food product’s protein content isn’t generally listed on the label as % Daily Value (%DV). Instead, you have to use the number of grams as a guide. (It will be listed if the food packaging makes a claim about protein.)
To be called a “good source,” a food needs to provide 5 to 9.99 grams of protein, while an “excellent source” provides 10 grams or more.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 per gram. The trick to finding foods that are higher in protein but lower in calories is to choose cuts and varieties that are lower in fat.
What are the benefits of these foods? “They can contribute to weight loss,” says Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., RDN. “Protein is very filling, so you won’t be hungry in an hour, and protein helps stabilize blood sugar levels.”
Here’s a list of 11 tasty foods to reach to up your protein intake while keeping an eye on your calories.
1. Egg Whites
Each large egg white typically has 18 calories and 4 grams of protein. Three would help you hit that “excellent” (egg-cellent!) benchmark. Scrambled for breakfast or a quick lunch with veggies, egg whites are tasty and versatile.
2. Plain, Nonfat Greek Yogurt
A cup of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt has 149 calories and 25 grams of protein. The key is avoiding flavored varieties, which have added sugar (and added carbs and calories).
3. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
A cup of 2% cottage cheese has 183 calories and 24 grams of protein. Cottage cheese was basically the Greek yogurt of the 1970s. Try swapping the two or making one of these tasty cottage cheese recipes.
Sprinkled over a salad, these fiber-rich pulses are a cheap and healthy food. A 1/2 cup of cooked lentils has 115 calories and 9 grams of protein. There are also nearly 8 grams of fiber — for some real bang for your buck.
5. Chicken Breast
Three ounces of chicken has 122 calories and 24 grams of protein. When choosing grilled chicken, don’t eat the skin and opt for white instead of dark meat.
Deli slices are a quick protein snack, but roast turkey is a better alternative with less additives and sodium. Plus, you can slice it up yourself. Three ounces of turkey meat have 125 calories and 26 grams of protein, which you can toss over a salad or roll into a wrap.
Flaky white fish like cod provides lean protein and is lower in calories than other types of fish. Three ounces of cod provide 71 calories and 17 grams of protein. And, there are loads of benefits to eating fish.
8. Canned Light Tuna in Water
Canned tuna is a classic, budget-friendly shortcut for a fast protein meal in a pinch. Three ounces of canned tuna have 73 calories and 17 grams of protein.
This healthier tuna salad is perfect for a quick meal that’s packed with protein and flavor.
9. Firm Tofu
Edamame isn’t just an appetizer at sushi restaurants. These young soybeans are a plant-based complete protein. A cup of edamame has 129 calories and 13 grams of protein.
11. Roasted Pork Loin
While pork products like bacon and prosciutto have lots of ribbon-y fat, boneless pork loin is a lean cut. Each 3-ounce portion has 122 calories and 22 grams of protein.