Boiled eggs on salad, example of high-protein, low-calorie food
High-protein, low-calorie food like eggs is a tasty way to start the day.
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High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods: Tasty Dishes

06/13/2023
6 minutes

We all know it’s important to eat healthy, stay in shape, and keep active. Choosing high-protein, low-calorie foods can help you keep your diet healthy and the calorie count low. That’s because proteins keep you fuller for longer and a low-calorie count means you can lose pounds or maintain your current healthy weight. So, what’s the best way to incorporate low-calorie protein into your diet and lifestyle?

Who Needs High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods?

Although in the past endurance athletes typically used carbohydrates to provide their bodies with the fuel they needed, many sportsmen and women now follow low-carb diets

The need for carbohydrates for energy has been challenged in recent years: 

  • Current thinking is that the body has extensive fat reserves that can be used, if necessary, by athletes who follow a high-protein, low-carb diet.
  • Research suggests that a low-carb diet can increase fat burning and contribute to boost energy producing cells.
  • Another reputed advantage of high-protein, low-carb foods is that protein helps build muscles and strengthen bones, which is important for a sporty lifestyle
Plates with high-protein, low-calorie foods
High-protein, low-calorie foods: a wide range of options to combine

What Does Low-Calorie Protein Mean?

If you’ve heard about “high-protein, low-calorie foods”, you might be wondering what the difference is between protein and calories. 

  • Proteins are macromolecules that the human body uses to build muscle and bones.
  • Calories, on the other hand, are the units used to measure the energy provided by food. 

Protein is often prioritized over calories by bodybuilders, for instance, because if their bodies have enough protein but not enough calories, they will lose weight rather than muscle mass.

Even if you’re not an athlete or bodybuilder, you might be wondering
how to reduce calories without reducing protein so that you can retain or build lean muscle and reduce fat.

The answer is to choose high-protein, low-calorie foods where possible. For instance, you can enjoy lean meat like chicken or turkey or go for veggie options like lentils.

Example of high-protein, low-calorie food: lentils
Lentils are a good veggie option for high-protein, low-calorie food.

What Are High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods?

A diet is considered high in protein if 20% or more
of the total daily calories come from protein. 

Some sources of protein, like cheese, are higher in calories, but there are lots of foods that are high in protein and low in calories.

Top Ten High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods

  • Chicken breast: The 30.1 g of protein per 100 g in chicken breasts make it a really filling food. It’s such a versatile meat; you can bake, fry, or stuff it with all manner of delicious fillings. It also combines well with all sorts of spices and other flavours, from chicken Jambalaya, to chicken Jalfrezi, or with summer vegetables or milder flavours like mustard.
Chicken, example of a high-protein, low-calorie food.
Grilled chicken, part of a high-protein, low-calorie food.
  • Turkey: Another meat that works well in a range of dishes, turkey packs a protein punch with 29.1 g of protein per 100 g. Much like chicken, turkey works really well with a range of flavours and can be cooked in lots of different ways. For delicious high-protein, low-calorie dishes, try Mediterranean turkey-stuffed peppers or a turkey curry

     
  • Tuna: With 24 g of protein per 100 g serving, tuna is another tasty option. Try pan seared tuna steaks with a cucumber relish, a light tuna Niçoise salad, or make tangy tuna burgers with soy sauce and ginger.
Example of high-protein, low-calorie food: tuna
Example of high-protein, low-calorie food: tuna
  • White fish: With 22 g of protein per 100 g, white fish options, like cod, bass, haddock, tilapia, and snapper, are also low calorie. White fish is delicious fried or pan-seared and can also be used in soups or baked as part of a fish pie. The next time you’re on the coast, why not try a fish restaurant for a high-protein, low-calorie night out?

     
  • Shrimp: Low calorie and with a more than respectable 18.3 g of protein when cooked, shrimp is a tasty option you can make into a meal or a snack. Why not throw some shrimp on the barbie the next time you have some friends around and the weather’s good?
Grilled shrimp salad in white plates, example of high-protein low calorie food
ry grilled shrimps as a low-calorie protein-rich addition to your diet.
  • Tempeh: This plant-based protein made from naturally fermented soybeans is often compared to tofu. Tempeh has 16.1 g of protein per 100g serving and can be cooked in a variety of ways, from steaming, to boiling, frying, or baking. Mix it up with your favourite veggies in a healthy tray bake!
Example of high-protein, low-calorie food: tempeh
Tempeh, a high-protein, low-calorie food
  • Eggs: You can poach, fry, scramble, or boil them and eat them at any time of the day. Eggs are versatile and high in protein, with 12.5 g of protein per 100 g. Hard-boiled eggs make great high-protein, low-calorie snacks, and they’re “portable” too!

     
  • Lentils: They are the stars of any vegan or vegetarian diet and for good reason. Lentils offer 9.02 g of protein and are bursting with vitamins and minerals, as well as being a high-protein, low-calorie food. Super versatile, you can cook lentils in soups or dhal, bulk out a Bolognese or add them to curries and casseroles.

     
  • Low-fat cheese: As long as you choose a low-fat version, cheese can still be a part of a high-protein, low-calorie diet. A good example is cottage cheese. Low in calories, it still has protein, and there’s so much you can do with it. It goes really well with fish like salmon. Try it with spinach and cherry tomatoes for a mouth-watering taste combo.
Cheese cubes with olives, onions and tomatoes in a bowl
Low-fat cheese can be added to a high-protein, low-calorie diet.
  • Low-calorie protein shakes: These are a great option for a low-calorie snack on the go, when you don’t have time to cook. The high protein will keep you fuller for longer and give you the energy you need to power through that workout. You can get them in a range of flavours, and they’re great for just before you hit the gym.

How Can You Incorporate High-Protein, Low-Calorie Foods into Your Diet?

Good habits start at home, so if you’re aiming for a high-protein, low-calorie diet:

  • Try to incorporate some of the above suggestions into your meals.
  • Adding more lean meat, like chicken and turkey, and veggie options, like lentils, will put you on the path to healthier eating without much effort.
  • Bonus: You’re sure to find new flavours that you’ll love. 

When it comes to eating out, vegan restaurants in London, or in Manchester are a good place to start as many vegan foods are also high-protein, low-calorie foods

  • Lentils and fermented foods like tempeh are high in protein but really low-cal, so you can eat them without worrying about your waistline! 
  • Organic restaurants, with their focus on healthy food, can be another great place to find low-calorie protein dishes. 

If all this talk of high-protein, low-calorie foods and healthy eating has got you thinking about changing your diet, maybe it’s time to find out more about vegetarianism

There’s now a vast selection of restaurants in various cities that offer:

Discover the restaurants in London with suggestions that match your diet.


If that’s still a step too far, perhaps becoming a flexitarian is more your style?
It offers all the benefits of healthy eating without having to completely give up meat!

More on high-protein, low-calorie foods

White fishes, tuna, and shrimp are all high in protein and low in calories. Or try plant-based options like lentils if you’re looking for high protein without the calories.

Yes! There is a wide range of high-protein, low-calorie foods to make it easy to incorporate into your daily diet. Try chicken, turkey, tuna, shrimp, or fish. If you want options to suit a vegan or vegetarian diet, lentils and tofu are also versatile and delicious while still being high in protein and low in calories.

Opt for high-protein, low-calorie foods like lentils, tofu, tempeh, fish and shrimp, and meat like chicken and turkey. Eggs and low-fat cheese are other options to try.

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