Once you decide to transform your lifestyle to a healthier version, or if you want to lose some excess weight, much of the advice you receive will revolve around boosting your protein intake while keeping your calories low.
Why is it so important to eat high protein low calorie meals? Surely you could just eat lots of salads, fruits, and other vegetables, right?
Of course, fruits and vegetables form part of a balanced diet and tend to be low in calories, but bumping up your protein intake is what will help you become or stay healthy.
Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, so you end up eating less calories overall. If you’re just eating salads, you’re more likely to snack on something unhealthy later or overeat on something that’s healthy but full of calories.
Protein also builds and maintains muscle, boosts metabolism so you’ll burn calories throughout the day, and can even boost your mood which reduces sweet cravings.
Ready to get started? Here are 26 high protein low calorie meals.
Red meat is probably the easiest way to get a big protein hit. It gets a bad rap for its saturated fat content and causing issues with cholesterol levels. However, as long as you don’t have existing cholesterol, blood pressure, or heart problems, Heart Beet Kitchen knows that red meat every so often is perfectly fine especially if opting for high-quality, leaner cuts.
Creme de la Crumb knows that the only way to stick to a healthy lifestyle is to make it super tasty! This jambalaya is bursting with protein and flavor, without breaking the calorie bank. Pay attention to the ingredient list and don’t skip anything because the spices are all important in Southern cooking.
As mentioned earlier, red meat is a wonderful source of protein but not suitable for everyday eating. Taking a low calorie meal like minestrone soup and amping up its protein level is a good way to increase protein intake without increasing fat intake, which is exactly what Skinny Fitalicious does. A simple tweak like adding in protein-packed chickpeas does the trick.
Not Enough Cinnamon knows the value of warming spices in delicious dinners. Chicken is a great source of lean protein, making it a favorite of the healthy eaters. Moroccan spices will please your palette, and the chickpeas and couscous continue to add to the protein content.
Unicorns in the Kitchen teaches us that tagine isn’t the only chicken dish served in Morocco. The main spices needed are turmeric, cardamom, cumin, cayenne, and paprika. Mixed together they create a warm and musty flavor that’ll make you think you’re dining in a souk.
Chili is basically a perfect meal for every person and occasion. It can be changed up depending on what you need. For example, ground beef can be used but if you want a leaner meat you can use chicken or turkey instead. If you’re vegetarian but are still looking for high protein, then beans can be used. The spice levels are easily controlled when cooking from scratch, as are the salt levels (store-bought packs are basically flavored salt!).
I Heart Eating is a prime example of how versatile chili can be. The recipe above was for chicken, this one uses turkey which is a cheaper and sometimes leaner meat choice. It adds in pumpkin which gives inspiration for all sorts of add-ins depending on the season. Do you have leftover pumpkin from Thanksgiving? Throw it in the chili! Leftover sweet potato? Into the chili! In summer do you have an abundance of corn or zucchini? Throw it in the chili!
Making up ‘protein bowls’ is an easy way to consume protein healthily. Modern Honey gives a great recipe for making a burrito bowl using grilled chicken. Of course, grilling means no added oil which cuts back on fat quite dramatically. Then it’s basically added to a bowl of chopped ingredients you’d use to make a burrito, so think cubed avocado, corn, salsa, black beans, etc…
Olive and Mango share an absolutely sumptuous recipe for a tropical chicken bowl. The chicken is flavored with homemade jerk chicken seasoning, grilled, and served atop a bowl of grains with avocado and ‘pineapple chow’. It’s a must-try recipe!
This one’s for all those fast food lovers that are desperately trying to eat healthily even though McDonald’s keeps calling at you on the freeway… Stay strong, and check out this recipe for a cheeseburger bowl from Wholesome Made Easy. They pack a whopping 30 grams of protein per serving, and won’t put you into cardiac arrest. Win-win!
The Pinning Mama shows us how to take a meal we adore - in this case, BBQ chicken - and turn it into something acceptable to eat without being seen as ‘glutinous’. When taking favorite flavors and turning them into salads or grain bowls, it’s all about minimizing carbs and looking at what we are using to season and flavor the dish. So look out for using BBQ sauce with minimal amounts of sugar or preservatives.
How do you feel about chocolate and peanut butter for breakfast? Unless you have a severe nut allergy, I’m guessing you feel good. Eat The Gains makes it a possibility with this yummy recipe that can be thrown together in five minutes. Breakfast can be a hard one in terms of squeezing in protein, especially if you’re bored of eggs, so this yogurt bowl is a Godsend. 40 grams of protein per serving! That’s got you intrigued, hasn’t it?
13. Protein Oats
While we’re on the subject of breakfast, here’s another one. Bake and Bacon affectionately refer to their protein oats as ‘proats’ and it basically involves adding peanut butter, protein powder, and chia seeds for a giant punch of protein to start your day.
If you’re more pressed for time in the mornings, overnight oats can be a lifesaver. Turn your regular jar into a ‘proat’ version with this recipe from Bowls Are The New Plates. The protein is added through chia seeds and protein powder, and the calories are kept to a minimum by opting for almond milk over dairy.
Skinny Fitalicious couples notorious diet food cabbage with beef to create an Asian-fusion salad bowl perfect for lunch or dinner. The cabbage ensures plenty of volume with minimal calories, and the beef hits you with the protein. Sriracha is added to the sauce for the beef, ensuring you have plenty of flavor to enjoy.
Fufu’s Kitchen offers a quick and simple salmon bowl, with plenty of spice to keep your taste buds interested. The salmon is lightly blackened giving an absolutely wonderful taste, so delicious that basically the rest of this list is pointless because this is a meal you’re going to want to eat every night.
Healthy Fitness Meals gives us a lesson in clean eating with this refreshingly light salad incorporating chopped cucumbers, olives, grilled chicken, and the well-rounded protein quinoa. Not forgetting, of course, the feta cheese which is signature to any Greek salad.
Fit Healthy Momma shares how to whip up a salad bowl with a massive 43 grams of protein per serving. How is that even possible, I hear you ask. Anything is possible if you just think about it for a minute! For example, Quest protein chips are used for the ‘taco’ element of the salad. This significantly boosts the protein content in place of something like Doritos. Minor substitutions can up the protein content of many recipes.
Take us away to the tropics! If you can’t actually afford the plane ticket, this is kind of the next best thing. Just close your eyes with each mouthful and you’ll almost be able to hear the ocean, and surfers catching waves… The pineapple salsa is key to the flavor, adding that tangy sweetness really bringing the islands to your table.
Butter Be Ready knows it’s all about seasoning when you’re eating clean. Plain grilled chicken, or poached white fish, every night is dull. No one is going to stick to that. But take your chicken (or fish) and throw on a layer of tasty seasoning like Harissa paste and it completely transforms the meat into something enjoyable and exciting.
This bowl uses a teriyaki marinade, giving yet another idea for ways to season your protein and keep it interesting. The College Housewife uses raw veggies in the bowl so the only cooking is the salmon, which takes mere minutes, and the quinoa. This is one of those meals that you’ll eat and it’ll taste so so good, but your body will feel so clean and healthy afterwards.
This recipe from The Kitchn is influenced by the East, with Asian flavors and sesame seeds sprinkled over the top. A bit like the cheeseburger bowl, it takes a Western fast food classic (beef and broccoli from Chinese takeout) but removes all the unnecessary and unhealthy fat and sugar from the sauce, leaving it with all the flavor but much cleaner.
23. Dragon Bowls
A dragon bowl is basically a name for a bowl of grains topped with raw or cooked vegetables, protein, and a sauce or dressing. It’s a bowl made from ingredients you have in the house, and anything goes as long as you follow the rules of layering grains, veggies, and protein. Nutrition in the Kitch shows how to make them, as well as sharing a delicious tahini and red curry dressing.
Fit Mitten Kitchen shows us that you don’t need meat to make a bow brimming with protein and power. All of the goodness comes from the chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and undervalued vegetables like sweet potato and broccoli. Whereas the flavor comes from the fantastic ginger-tahini dressing.
Unlike the other burrito bowl recipe on the list, this one is made with slow-cooked shredded beef. To counteract the additional calories beef adds, riced cauliflower is used as the base. A great volume food, Low Carb Life says to eat as much as you like! The shredded cheddar, avocado, and freshly chopped cilantro add a punch of flavor.
Meat steals the limelight when it comes to protein, but the right green vegetables contain more protein than you’d think. For example, there are 11 grams of protein per 100 grams of edamame, which is double that of green peas. They are packed full of other important nutrients as well, plenty of vitamins and tons of iron. This bowl focuses on all those important greens and is drizzled in a tasty tahini dressing.
And below you will find the full recipe for my Spicy Chicken Chili
26 Delicious High Protein Low Calorie Meals
- 2 lbs raw 99% fat-free ground chicken
- 1 can 28oz diced tomatoes
- 1 can 5.5oz tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 diced red pepper
- 1 diced green pepper
- 1 diced yellow pepper
- 1 diced red onion
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 2 cloves fresh diced garlic
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon chili powder feel free to add more to taste
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup franks hot sauce
- Brown your ground chicken in a large pan on the stove.
- Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook on high for 4 hours or low 7-8 hours, stirring a few times if possible.
- Makes 12- 1 cup servings, will freeze well.