Protein is an important part of any healthy diet. Our bodies use protein to build and repair muscle, maintain bone health, regulate hormones, and produce enzymes. It’s also a key source of energy, can be beneficial for weight loss, and may boost metabolic health.
So, if you’re looking for ways to add more protein to your diet, here are 12 high-protein meal ideas to enjoy and more information on why eating protein is beneficial.
What are the benefits of eating more protein?
Understanding how diet can affect your health and lifestyle goals is a useful way to remain in tune with what you’re eating and why.
Some of the key benefits of eating more protein include…
1. Protein can aid weight loss
The three main macronutrients – carbs, fats, and protein – affect our bodies in different ways. Research has shown that protein is by far the most filling of these, partly because it reduces levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. This means it can help you to feel more full with less food.
In this study, increasing overweight women’s daily intake of protein from 15% to 30% resulted in them eating 441 fewer calories every day, without intentionally restricting anything.
2. Protein increases muscle mass
A decrease in muscle mass is common with age. In severe cases, this can lead to age-related sarcopenia, which is one of the leading causes of frailty and bone fracture in older adults.
Since protein is the building block of our muscles, research has shown that alongside staying physically active, lifting weights, and taking part in resistance exercises, eating more protein is one of the best ways to prevent age-related muscle loss.
3. Protein helps to maintain bone health
4. Protein can help to reduce cravings and unnecessary snacking
Food cravings are different from regular hunger cues because they stem from the brain wanting a reward. Some people find that consuming more protein can be an effective way to control their cravings.
One study found that when protein made up 25% of the daily calories of overweight men, their late-night cravings and preoccupation with thoughts of food were reduced.
5. Protein can boost metabolism
Protein has been shown to have a much higher thermic effect than carbohydrates and fats – around 15-30% instead of 5-10% (carbohydrates) and 0-3% (fat).
6. Protein can help to lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. But increased protein intake has been shown to help lower blood pressure.
For example, in this study, increased protein intake significantly lowered systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. It also found that a high-protein diet reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
7. Protein helps your body repair itself after injury
Protein forms the main building blocks of our muscles, organs, and other tissues. As a result, studies have found that eating a high-protein diet can help speed up recovery after injury.
How much protein should I be eating?
The current recommended daily intake of protein is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, a 75kg man is advised to consume around 56g of protein a day and a 60kg woman around 45g.
The amount of protein your body requires will also depend on your lifestyle. Someone who’s working on building muscle mass and strength will need to consume more protein than the recommended average to achieve their goals.
You can find more information on how much protein to eat on the British Nutrition Foundation website.
High-protein breakfast ideas
1. Protein pancakes
Because they’re normally high in sugar and carbohydrates, many people assume that foods like pancakes have no place in healthy eating plans.
However, by upping the protein content of your pancakes, skipping large amounts of added sugar, and using toppings like fruit, dark chocolate, and Greek yoghurt instead, pancakes can quickly become a healthy breakfast.
The main ingredients of protein pancakes typically include oats, bananas, protein powder, milk, and eggs – though recipes will vary and can be tailored to different dietary requirements.
To have a go at making your own pancakes, check out this easy protein pancake recipe from BBC Good Food. Or, if you’re a vegan, you could try making these four-ingredient fluffy vegan protein pancakes from Running On Real Food. And for more topping inspiration, check out Goutso’s list of 9 guilt-free pancake topping ideas.
2. Full English breakfast
If you’re more of a savoury person, you may be a fan of the classic full English breakfast – which is another meal that’s commonly labelled as unhealthy.
But, ditch the large amounts of oil and make a few other healthy swaps, and the full English can quickly become a great high-protein, healthy breakfast option.
You could use low-fat sausages, reduced-sugar baked beans, lean bacon medallions, and low-calorie oil spray. Put together, these simple swaps can make a big difference to your health and protein intake. For example, lean bacon medallions contain around 50% less fat than regular rashers, and two medallions contain around 75 calories and 14g of protein.
This healthy full English breakfast recipe from The NHS contains just 262 calories and 20g of protein per serving. BBC Good Food also has a healthy full English recipe that contains 370 calories and 20g of protein per serving.
3. Greek yoghurt breakfast bowl
Greek yoghurt bowls are delicious, simple to make, protein-packed, and leave you feeling nice and full.
Popular Greek yoghurt brand Fage Total’s products contain just 54 calories and 10.3g of protein per 100g (0% fat version), or 70 calories with 9.9g of protein (2% fat version). Supermarket-own brand Greek yoghurt is also good – just be sure to keep an eye on the added sugar levels of some of these.
Greek yoghurt bowls are also easy to customize to your own taste as you can pick and choose your favourite toppings. Popular options include fresh berries, granola, honey, and seed mixes.
Why not try making one of these simple Greek yoghurt breakfast bowls from The Domestic Dietician? From strawberry, banana, and peanut butter, to pomegranate and honey, these yoghurt bowls are both high in protein and packed full of gut-friendly probiotics.
High-protein lunch ideas
4. Smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese bagel
Smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese bagels are a delicious high-protein lunch option that can be made in under 10 minutes.
Smoked salmon is the main source of protein in this meal – containing around 11g of protein per 50g, and just 93 calories. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers.
Together with cream cheese, avocado, and a bagel, this lunch clocks in at around 430 calories, and 30g of protein. If you wanted to, you could also add a poached egg on top for extra protein.
To make a smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese bagel, check out this recipe from Simply Home Cooked. If you’re not a fan of smoked salmon, you could always swap in other high-protein options like chicken, tuna, or vegan meat substitutes instead.
5. High-protein soup
Soup is a classic go-to lunch option. It’s warm, comforting, filling, and easily customisable. While soup may not initially seem like the most protein-packed option, it’s very easy to make it so.
For example, this easy roast chicken soup from BBC Good Food contains just 155 calories per serving and 17g of protein; this broccoli and stilton soup contains 340 calories and 24g of protein; and this red lentil and chickpea soup has 222 calories and 13g of protein.
If none of these recipes stir your tastebuds, you’ll find plenty of other high-protein soup options on the BBC Good Food website. From beef goulash soup to Japanese ramen noodle soup and Thai salmon soup, you won’t be stuck for choice.
6. Easy turkey wraps
If you’re after something other than a sandwich for lunch, why not try making a wrap?
Wraps are delicious, filling, and an easy way to pack in protein at lunchtime. Loading your wrap with turkey can make a nice change from the usual go-to, chicken. It’s also a healthier option than processed foods like ham and canned lunch meat, which have been associated with an increased risk of cancer by the World Health Organisation.
These easy turkey pinwheel wraps from Project Meal Plan contain 485 calories per serving and an impressive 41g of protein. They’re easy to make in advance, so are perfect for anyone on the go or with little time on their hands.
For more recipe inspiration, you’ll find everything from steak wraps to black bean wraps in these 38 healthy wrap recipes from Brit + Co.
High-protein dinner ideas
7. Chicken and halloumi skewers
Even when the sun isn’t out, there’s something special about a meal with a barbecued feel. These oven-grilled chicken and halloumi skewers offer that same tasty flavour, as well as plenty of protein.
With colourful vegetables like peppers and courgettes dotted in between, grilled halloumi and chicken skewers make a highly nutritious meal. To further up your protein, you could serve your skewers with one of these 14 protein-packed salads from Tasty – the three-bean salad, for example, contains an impressive 23g of protein.
Alternatively, why not try making these grilled halloumi and chicken kabobs from Food Renegade, or these chicken and halloumi skewers with crispy oregano and lemon from Delicious? If you’re vegan, you might enjoy these tofu and vegetable kebab skewers.
8. Cheesy beef and cauliflower casserole
Sometimes we all need some comfort food, and this hearty casserole offers just that.
For added health benefits, it’s worth using low-fat alternatives like lean beef mince and low-fat cheese. Lean 5% fat beef mince, for example, contains around 170 calories and 31g of protein per 100g, compared to 20% fat beef mince, which contains 252 calories and 18g of protein.
These changes can make a big difference. For example, this cheesy lean beef and cauliflower casserole from Eating Well contains only 351 calories per serving and 26g of protein. For an extra treat, you could serve this meal with tortilla chips and sour cream (or Greek yoghurt for added protein!).
9. Prawn and broccoli pasta
Prawns have a high protein content, despite being very low in calories. 100g of large king prawns contains around 65 calories and 15g of protein.
This mouthwatering lemon and broccoli shrimp pasta from Slender Kitchen takes just 30 minutes to make and contains only 385 calories per serving, as well as 36g of protein. For an extra kick, you might like this king prawn pasta with chilli and garlic from Feed Feed.
Other high-protein seafood options that you could use salmon, tuna, mussels, and squid.
High-protein dessert ideas
10. Chocolate peanut butter chia protein pudding
One serving of this chocolate peanut butter chia pudding from Saucy Kitchen contains just 264 calories and 9g of protein. And even better, all you really have to do is mix the ingredients together and wait!
The great thing about chia pudding is that you can add almost all your favourite ingredients. Aside from peanut butter and chocolate, other toppings that work especially well include berries, vanilla chai, coconut cream, and cinnamon. You can browse these 32 chia pudding recipes from Greatist for more inspiration.
For a plant-based alternative, why not try this sweet, creamy, and nutritious vegan chia pudding recipe from Simple Vegan Blog?
11. No-bake protein cheesecake cups
If cheesecake is your go-to dessert, you’ll want to try these no-bake protein cheesecake cups.
By swapping digestive biscuits for rolled oats and double cream for light cream cheese or Greek yoghurt, not only does this dish pack more protein, but it’s also lower in fat.
With 462 calories and 20g of protein, these high protein no-bake cheesecake cups from Healthy Fitness Meals contain around 15g extra protein per serving than regular cheesecake. Even better, there’s no baking involved – all you’ll have to do is leave the dessert to chill in the fridge for a while.
If you follow a plant-based diet, why not try this vegan protein cheesecake from Annelina Waller? One serving contains only 280 calories and an impressive 22g of protein.
12. Dark chocolate and strawberry frozen yoghurt bark
If you’re craving something sweet, crunchy, and low-calorie, this dark chocolate and strawberry frozen yoghurt bark might be for you. Despite being extremely simple to make, this colourful dessert is a real crowd-pleaser.
This dark chocolate and strawberry frozen yoghurt bark recipe from My Fussy Eater contains only 99 calories and 6g of protein per serving. Involving four easy steps (and simply waiting for the yoghurt to freeze); this is the perfect dessert to whip up if you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen.
If you like, you can play around with the toppings too. For example, why not try adding some nuts for extra crunch, or different coloured fruits?
Protein forms an essential part of any healthy diet. Not only can it boost general health, but it also plays a key role in achieving lifestyle goals like weight loss, staying fit, and building muscle, so why not try one of these protein-packed recipes today?
What are your favourite high-protein meals? What makes you want to eat more protein? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.