Protein helps to build and repair lean muscle mass, but from a digestion standpoint, it helps get you full faster and stay full longer, making it necessary to include it at every meal. So, what does that look like on your plate at mealtime? Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, Sports Dietitian and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook says, “The goal is to include 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein (meaning it contains all the essential amino acids) at your main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” To put it practically, that means eating about 3 to 4 ounces of protein per meal or making about one-fourth to one-third of your plate protein. “Then based on your overall protein needs, you can fill in the gaps at snack time by adding foods like string cheese, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, or yogurt,” Goodson explains.
If you are looking to build muscle, Goodson says that your goal should be to maximize muscle protein synthesis in the post-workout window. “This means you should be consuming 15 to 25 grams of high-quality protein (with 3 to 4 grams of that coming from leucine, a branched-chain amino acid necessary for muscle protein synthesis) as soon as possible post-exercise, and ideally within the first 45 minutes.” Quick-digesting protein paired with simple carbohydrates is best. That would be a ready-to-drink post-work-out shake, a smoothie made with cow’s milk, Greek yogurt topped with fruit, or low-fat chocolate milk. Goodson says that you should then follow up that snack with a complete meal containing 20 to 30 grams of protein from foods like lean beef, pork, poultry, or eggs. If you consume more plant-based protein, be sure you are eating a protein combination that is high in leucine.
All the 25 recipes below provide at least 15 grams of protein – many are much higher. If the recipe is only for the protein portion of the meal, then there are recommendations on what to add to complete your plate (usually a whole grain and some veggies). Choose your favorite ones and work your way down the list! Read on, and for more, don’t miss 50 Healthy Dinner Recipes That Take 30 Minutes (or Less!).
Nutrition: 364 calories, 21 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 557 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 37 g protein
Shrimp is a very lean protein providing 18 grams of protein per 3-cooked-ounce serving. It’s also an excellent source of selenium and a good source of vitamin B12. You’ll also find it has inflammation-fighting omega-3 fats. Pair this shrimp scampi with zoodles or whole-grain pasta and a green salad.
Get the recipe from Toby Amidor Nutrition.
Nutrition: 320 calories, 16.5 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 505 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0.5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 39 g protein
(calculated without bun and toppings)
These Air Fryer Turkey Burgers are made with 39 grams of lean protein and are a quick and easy alternative to regular beef burgers. They’re made without breadcrumbs for a low-carb dinner that’s ready in less than 20 minutes.
Get the recipe from Everyday Homemade.
Nutrition: 332 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 1,930 mg sodium, 52 g carbs (22 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 19 g protein
Lentils are one of my favorite plant-based proteins because 9 grams of protein in just half-cup cooked. They are full of fiber, which makes them filling, and they have other important nutrients, like iron and folate. Not to mention that a serving of lentils is extremely affordable—close to just $0.10 per quarter-cup serving.
Get the recipe from Greenletes.
Nutrition: 780 calories, 36 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 910 mg sodium, 69 g carbs (15 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 45 g protein
Lean beef is a nutrient-rich source of high-quality protein. A 3-ounce serving of cooked lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients including B-vitamins, zinc, and iron that support an active and healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition: 378 calories, 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 618 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 31 g protein
Shrimp is a low-fat source of protein and this recipe satisfies one of the two suggested seafood meals weekly. It contains choline, which is necessary for brain and liver health, and is a source of omega-3 fats that are good for your heart and your brain.
Get the recipe from Better is the New Perfect.
Nutrition: 401 calories, 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 629 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (13 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 23 g protein
This baked spaghetti uses silken tofu, chickpea pasta, and textured vegetable protein to fill it with 23 grams of plant protein. The soy (tofu and textured vegetable protein) in this spaghetti is not only a great source of protein, but it may also support weight loss and reduce cholesterol. Plus, the healthy dose of fiber from the pasta means this spaghetti will keep you satiated for hours. Meatless Monday, here we come!
Get the recipe from Easy Chickpeasy.
Nutrition: 430 calories, 14 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 810 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (8 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 39 g protein
These burgers use relatively inexpensive canned tuna, which is low in saturated fat and rich in complete protein as well as several vitamins and minerals and omega-3 fats.
Get the recipe from Better is the New Perfect.
Nutrition: 313 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 212 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 38 g protein
This creamy chicken with spinach and mushrooms is packed with lean protein from boneless, skinless, chicken and Greek yogurt in the cream sauce. Although this dish is low in calories, the protein makes it seriously filling and satisfying.
Get the recipe from Craving Something Healthy.
Nutrition: 460 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 955 mg sodium, 73 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 22 g protein
This fried tofu sandwich features the plant-based protein, tofu. In fact, you get 22 grams of protein per serving! Tofu is a complete protein, meaning it provides all nine essential amino acids.
Get the recipe from Plant Based with Amy.
Nutrition: 481 calories, 311 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 49 g protein
Bottom round rump roast is a lean of beef and is ideal for slow cooking. It’s both high in protein and low in fat compared to fattier cuts of beef. Use to shred for salads, wraps, or enjoy on its own!
Get the recipe from The Oregon Dietitian.
Nutrition: 358 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 807 mg sodium, 57 g carbs (7 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 16 g protein
Beans on your pizza? Yup! This baked bean pizza supplies 16 grams of protein per serving. The baked beans are a wonderful plant protein and also supply fiber to help keep you fuller for longer.
Get the recipe from Plant Based with Amy.
Nutrition: 202 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 504 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 24 g protein
White fish, such as haddock and cod, is low in saturated fat, making it heart-healthy. It also supplies all of the essential amino acids that the body requires as well as some heart-healthy omega-3 fats.
Get the recipe from Better is the New Perfect.
Nutrition: 443 calories, 24 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 451 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 32 g protein
Bison is a very lean cut of meat and a great source of protein, boasting 24 grams of protein per three-ounce serving as well as essential micronutrients such as iron, zinc, selenium, and Vitamin B12. When cooked in the air fryer, it preserves the taste while using less fat and oil, making it a healthier dish.
Get the recipe from Bucket List Tummy.
Nutrition: 400 calories, 13 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 730 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (2 g fiber), 34 g protein
This healthier chicken pot pie recipe is modified from traditional recipes to provide fewer calories, fat, and sodium while delivering more lean protein, fiber, and flavor! It’s made in individual, single-serve portions to make serving easy and make sure everyone gets equal portions of the good stuff!
Get the recipe from Heather Mangieri Nutrition.
Nutrition: 680 calories, 26 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 1,220 mg sodium, 91 g carbs (9 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 24 g protein
The organic extra-firm tofu featured in this stir-fry recipe provides complete protein, along with satiating fiber and health-protective isoflavones. Plus, when squeezed of excess liquid, the tofu can brown up nicely to provide hearty, 100% plant-based goodness—no meat required.
Get the recipe from Jackie Newgent, RDN.
Nutrition: 170 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber), 17 g protein
These street-size fish tacos are not only an excellent source of protein, but they are also swimming with taste and nutrition. A serving size of two small tacos provides 17 grams of protein, mainly from the white fish. Cod, mahi mahi, tilapia, and halibut are all examples of white fish, which are high-protein, low-fat fish with a firm texture that’s perfect for tacos. White fish is also typically a good source of selenium for immune support, and B vitamins for energy. For convenience and cost savings, use a frozen fish and simply thaw it before cooking.
Get the recipe from Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN.
Nutrition: 230 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 440 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (8 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 18 g protein
This hearty, chunky soup features ground turkey combined with three cans of different beans which pack the dish with 18 grams of protein per serving plus 8 grams of heart-healthy and blood sugar-friendly fiber!
Nutrition: 218 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 306 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (11 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 24 g protein
The protein in this meal comes from black soybean spaghetti and vegetables. These are plant protein sources that are healthy because they include fiber, potassium, and other important nutrients plus phytochemicals which help prevent chronic diseases.
Get the recipe from Melissa Altman-Traub, MS, RDN, LDN.
Nutrition: 143 calories, 4.4 g fat, 183 mg sodium, 2.7 g carbs, 19 g protein
Did you know that scallops are more than 80 percent protein? Plus scallops are lean—low in fat! Three ounces of scallops contain about 90 calories, 17 grams of protein, less than 1 gram of fat, and 25 percent of the daily value for selenium. Serve with mango chutney, steamed greens, and your favorite whole grain.
Get the recipe from Layne Lieberman, MS, RDN, CDN, LDN author of Beyond the Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets of the Super-Healthy.
Nutrition: 426 calories, 14 g fat (5.8 g saturated fat), 33 g carbs (11.7 g fiber, 41 g protein
This delicious recipe for building lean muscle packs a punch of two complete protein sources from chicken and feta cheese. These protein sources have a higher amount of the branched-chain amino acid leucine, which is key to lean muscle growth.
Get the recipe from Jim White Fitness.
Nutrition: 222 calories, 6 g fat, 742.2 mg sodium, 11.3 g carbs (1.3 g fiber, 3.7 g sugar), 29 g protein
This recipe uses ground chicken breast, which is a lean, affordable, and versatile high-quality protein. You get all the flavors of buffalo chicken with an impressive 29 grams of protein per serving. Serve with roasted sweet potato and a green salad on the side.
Get the recipe from Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, CSCS.
Nutrition: 668 calories, 30 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 1,699 mg sodium, 88 g carbs (15 g fiber, `7 g sugar), 18 g protein
One of my favorite meal prep hacks is to make a huge batch of Baked Sesame Tofu Bites on the weekends using either firm or extra firm block tofu. I keep them in the fridge to use throughout the week as a meal anchor in nourishing bowls (like this one) or as a protein-rich salad topping if my kids don’t eat them all. Tofu is brimming with protein and easy to cook up. Plus, eating soy-rich diets may be protective against chronic lifestyle diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.
Get the recipe from Malina Malkani Nutrition.
Nutrition: 236 calories, 9 g fat (3.7 g saturated fat), 607 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (1 g fiber), 27 g protein
Chicken is a nutritious protein to include in your diet as it’s low in saturated fat and a good source of selenium, niacin, and vitamin B6. This version of chicken parmesan is much lower in fat and saturated fat than traditional chicken parmesan. It’s a great option to provide ample protein within 30 minutes. Serve with whole-grain pasta and a large tossed salad.
Get the recipe from Sound Bites Nutrition.
Nutrition: 221 calories, 7 g fat, 1 g carbs, 35 g protein
Chicken breast is an excellent source of lean protein. A 3-ounce portion of skinless chicken breast provides only 128 calories, 3 grams of total fat, and just 1 gram of saturated fat while delivering 26 grams of filling protein. When compared to higher fat meats such as 85% lean/15% fat ground beef, chicken has a quarter of the fat which reduces calories while making it an excellent and filling choice for those who wish to maintain or lose weight. Pair these chicken skewers with couscous and steamed broccoli or enjoy over a salad.
Get the recipe from Melanie Marcus, RD.
Nutrition: 180 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 135 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 18 g protein
Salmon packs a powerhouse of protein along with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This recipe works well in the oven or on your Barbecue. The beauty of this recipe is that you don’t have to use exact measurements. If you like your topping a little sweeter, just add more syrup. If you’re the tangy type, go heavier with the vinegar. And if you’d like more kick, include more horseradish sauce. No matter how you prefer it, this dish is a low-calorie way to get lots of flavor.
Get the recipe from Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN.