High protein foods for every eater

Getting enough protein through food is important for many bodily systems to function properly. Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which the body can make itself, but others which can only be obtained through food.

In particular, children, adolescents and pregnant people need protein for growth. It is recommended that people get protein from a variety of plant and animal sources, including lean meat and poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, nuts and soy products.

Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

Complete list of high protein foods

Protein can come from both animal and plant sources. In general, foods such as beans, lentils, eggs, meat, poultry, nuts, seeds, seafood, soy products, dairy products and whole grains are sources of protein.

Registered Dietitian Brittany Rogers advises that consuming a protein source with each meal can help meet your daily requirement. Note: “Protein-containing foods can also help you feel fuller.”

Here are the grams (g) of protein in these high-protein foods per 100g (about one-fifth pound or 3.5 ounce) serving:

  • Chicken breast (skinless, cooked): 32 g
  • Turkey breast (skinless, roasted): 30 g
  • Roast Beef (Roast): 28g
  • Pork roast (roast): 27 g
  • Ground beef (unspecified fat content, cooked): 26 g
  • Salmon (baked or grilled): 25 g
  • Halibut (cooked, dry heat): 23 oz
  • Tilapia (cooked, dry heat): 1 oz
  • Cod (cooked): 20 g
  • Pollock (cooked): 19 g
  • Canned tuna (light, in water): 19 g
  • Shrimp (baked or grilled): 17 g
  • Wholemeal flour (not enriched): 15 g
  • Eggs (without added oil or fat): 12 g
  • Cottage cheese (low fat, low sodium): 12 g
  • Edamame (cooked): 12g
  • Greek yogurt (whole milk, plain, about one-third cup): 9 oz
  • Lentils (dried): 9 g
  • Chickpeas (canned, fat-free): 8 g
  • Tofu (soy curd): 7 g

Something to keep in mind is the amount of protein in each serving. Some foods, like nuts and seeds, have high levels of protein but also have more calories per serving. They are often eaten in smaller portions. They might make good snacks on their own or when paired with other foods.

Here are some high-protein foods with smaller portions:

  • Trail mix (one third of a cup): 7 g
  • Mixed dried fruit (1 pack of approximately 50 g): 10 g
  • Hemp seeds (3 tablespoons): 9 g
  • Pumpkin seeds, unsalted (1 oz): 8 g
  • Peanuts, roasted, unsalted (1 oz): 8 g
  • Almonds, unroasted (1 oz): 6 g
  • Peanut butter (1 tablespoon): 4 g
  • Wheat crackers (1 cup): 4 g
  • Almond butter (1 tablespoon): 3 g
  • Sunflower seeds, plain, unsalted (1 oz): 3 g

Vegetarian and vegan protein sources

A vegetarian eating pattern does not contain meat, poultry or seafood. It includes more beans and peas (legumes), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and soybeans (like tofu). Some vegetarian food models may also contain eggs or dairy products. Vegan diets do not include products of animal origin (meat, dairy products or eggs).

Protein requirements for people following vegetarian and vegan dietary patterns are based on needs by age and life stage, as with any other type of dietary pattern.

Limit protein sources higher in saturated fat

It is recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that the amount of saturated fat in the diet be less than 10% of daily calories.

For those who need to lower their cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association recommends that saturated fat be less than 6% of total calories. That’s a maximum of 11 to 13 g of saturated fat on a 2,000-calorie-per-day meal plan. To stay within these limits, it’s important to choose protein sources that are low in saturated fat.

Proteins that are higher in saturated fat include:

  • Fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb
  • Ground beef that is 75% to 85% lean.
  • Processed meats, such as sausages, hot dogs and bacon
  • Cold cuts for lunch, including mortadella and salami
  • Fatty poultry such as duck and cuts with skin still on

How to get more good protein

Most people have no problem getting enough total protein through their diet. However, one group that may not be meeting their protein needs is adults (especially women) over the age of 70.

Different protein sources can provide other necessary nutrients. Up to 90 percent of Americans don’t get enough of their protein intake from fish sources, which are recommended because they are sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Many don’t get enough of their protein intake from nuts, seeds and soy, which provide fiber.

Proteins that are often mixed with other foods higher in sodium and saturated fat are another concern. Replacing processed meats and higher-fat meats with seafood can help make a shift toward adding more variety to your protein intake.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends these food and snack choices for getting more protein in your diet:

  • Grilled cuts of beef such as sirloin, top round, or flank steak added to salads or sandwiches
  • Canned tuna, crab or salmon
  • Chicken, poultry, chickpeas or black beans added to salad
  • Chillies or stews with kidneys or pinto beans
  • Pepper boiled eggs
  • Lentils as a side dish
  • Peanut butter or nut butter spread for fruit, vegetables, or whole-grain crackers
  • Split Pea Soup
  • Trail mix, including nuts or sunflower seeds

Protein requirement of athletes

Athletes have increased protein requirements that are up to or even more than double the recommended amount for their age and gender. A protein intake of 100 g per day is sometimes recommended for athletes. That would be about three servings of beef or poultry, four to five servings of fish or seafood, or eight eggs.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that 1.4 to 2.0 g of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight may be sufficient for most people who exercise. For elite athletes or bodybuilders, 2.3 to 3.1 g of protein per kg of body weight may be needed.

Grocery store inspiration: High protein foods and snacks

The sheer number of food choices available at the supermarket can lead to overwhelm. Rogers offers these tips to help you focus when you go grocery shopping:

  • Choose lean poultry, such as 95% or 99% fat-free, and season to add more flavor.
  • Choose whole-grain meats, such as fresh, shaved turkey breast, grilled chicken or tuna (rather than processed meats like deli meats).
  • Choose nonfat, lactose-free Greek yogurt as a snack or meal, and add flavor with cinnamon, smooth nut butters, or fruit.
  • Choose firm tofu and find a simple recipe to prepare it.

Knowing your protein sources and getting creative in the kitchen are also important. Substitutions or adding protein to a favorite food, for example, could add protein from various sources.

“I like to make tofu scramble as an alternative to an egg scramble, or mix tofu into a savory soup, like butternut squash, to add more protein,” says Rogers.

How much protein do you need?

The recommended amount of protein you need each day varies based on your age, gender, activity level, and stage of life.

Protein in grams by age group per day, as recommended by the USDA, is:

  • Children under 4 years: 13 g
  • Children from 4 to 8 years: 19 g
  • Children from 9 to 13 years: 34 g
  • Females over 14 years of age: 46 g
  • Males from 14 to 18 years: 52 g
  • Males over 19 years of age: 56 g

(Note that terms for sex or gender are used from the source cited.)

Pregnant people and proteins

Pregnant people have a higher protein requirement. Pregnant people are recommended to increase their protein intake to around 60g per day. This equates to about 20% to 25% of calories consumed in a day.

Too much protein?

A higher protein intake may pose risks for people with certain health conditions. If you are interested in a high protein diet, consult a doctor first. For example, high levels of protein could make existing kidney disease worse. “Ask your doctor if you have any specific protein restrictions, advises Rogers.


Most people get enough protein in their diet. However, protein sources should be varied and many people don’t get enough protein from seafood. Adding a protein source to every meal and snack can help you consume enough protein and feel fuller after a meal.

Pregnant people and athletes may need more protein, and people over the age of 70 will want to pay attention to make sure they’re getting enough.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read about our editorial process to learn more about how we fact check and keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Tessari P, Lante A, Mosca G. Essential amino acids: main regulators of nutrition and environmental footprint?Ski Rep.2016;6:26074. doi:10.1038/srep26074.

  2. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Food Data Center.

  3. United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th edition. December 2020.

  4. The American Heart Association. The lean over the fat. 2023.

  5. Department of Agriculture. Consumers miss out on the benefits of fish.

  6. Department of Agriculture. Vary your protein routine.

  7. Jger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise.J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:20. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8

  8. University of California San Francisco. Eat immediately before and during pregnancy.

By Amber J. Tresca

Amber J. Tresca is a freelance writer and speaker covering digestive conditions, including IBD. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16.

#High #protein #foods #eater

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *