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?

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.

Studies also show that eating more protein can help to prevent muscle loss during weight loss.

3. Protein helps to maintain bone health

Many long-term studies have revealed that protein offers major benefits when it comes to bone health.

Research indicates that people who follow a high-protein diet tend to maintain bone mass better as they age, and have a lower risk of fractures and developing osteoporosis.

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 to reward itself. 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.

Our article, 12 tips for coping with food cravings, has more tips on managing this.

Protein can boost metabolism

5. Protein can boost metabolism

When eating, your metabolism is temporarily boosted because the body uses calories to digest food – a process known as the thermic effect of food.

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 the 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 about how much protein to eat on the British Nutrition Foundation website.

High-protein breakfast ideas

1. Protein pancakes

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, skipping large amounts of added sugar, and using toppings like fruit, dark chocolate, and Greek yoghurt, 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 make your own, check out this easy protein pancake recipe from BBC Good Food. Or, if you’re vegan, you could try making these four-ingredient fluffy vegan protein pancakes from Running On Real Food. And for topping inspiration, check out Goutso’s list of 9 guilt-free pancake toppings.

2. Full English breakfast

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 14g of protein.

This healthier full English breakfast recipe from The NHS contains 20g of protein per serving.

3. Greek yoghurt breakfast bowl

Greek yoghurt breakfast bowl

Greek yoghurt bowls are delicious, simple to make, protein-packed, and should leave you feeling full.

Popular Greek yoghurt brand Fage Total’s products contain 10.3g of protein per 100g (0% fat version), or 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 easy to customise to your taste preferences as you can 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 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. 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 30g of protein. If you wanted to, you could also add a poached egg 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

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 17g of protein per serving; this broccoli and stilton soup contains 24g of protein; and this red lentil and chickpea soup has 13g of protein.

If none of these recipes excite you, 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, you won’t be stuck for choice.

6. Easy turkey wraps

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 of 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 an impressive 41g of protein per serving. 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 high-protein wrap recipes from Brit + Co.

High-protein dinner ideas

7. Chicken and halloumi skewers

Chicken and halloumi skewers

There’s something special about a meal with a barbecued feel. These oven-grilled chicken and halloumi skewers offer that tasty flavour, as well as plenty of protein.

Every 100g of chicken breast (without skin) contains around 30g of protein, while halloumi contains around 20g of protein per 100g.

With colourful vegetables like peppers and courgettes dotted in between, grilled halloumi and chicken skewers make a highly nutritious meal. To up your protein intake further, you could serve your skewers with one of these 14 protein-packed salads from Tasty – the three-bean salad, for example, contains an impressive 56g 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 from Lee Kum Kee.

8. Cheesy beef and cauliflower casserole

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 31g of protein per 100g, compared to 20% fat beef mince which contains 18g of protein.

These changes can make a big difference. For example, this cheesy lean beef and cauliflower casserole from Eating Well contains and 26g of protein per serving. For an extra treat, you could serve this meal with tortilla chips and sour cream (or Greek yoghurt for added protein!).

You could also swap in turkey or pork mince, or make it vegetarian or vegan by using plant-based alternatives like Quorn mince and Violife cheese instead.

9. Prawn and broccoli pasta

Prawn and broccoli pasta

Prawns have a high protein content, despite being very low in calories and 100g of large king prawns contains around 15g of protein.

This mouthwatering lemon and broccoli shrimp pasta from Slender Kitchen takes just 30 minutes to make and contains 36g of protein per serving. 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

Chocolate peanut butter chia protein pudding

Not only is chia pudding delicious and indulgent, but chia seeds are packed full of protein, fibre, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and plenty of essential minerals and antioxidants.

One serving of this chocolate peanut butter chia pudding from A Saucy Kitchen contains 9g of protein. And, even better, to make it 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 seed 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

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 20g of protein, these 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.

If you follow a plant-based diet, why not try this vegan protein cheesecake from Annelina Waller? One serving contains an impressive 22.5g of protein.

12. Dark chocolate and strawberry frozen yoghurt bark

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 frozen yoghurt bark recipe from My Fussy Eater contains 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 fruits?

Final thoughts…

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?

For more recipe inspiration, head over to the food and drink section of our website where you’ll find everything from gluten-free recipes to low-carb recipes and dinner ideas for one.

Or, head over to Rest Less Events to see what cooking demonstrations we have coming up.

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.