Quick Protein Snacks – Muscle Building Lean Protein Foods


Protein, like carbohydrate and fat, is a macronutrient that our bodies need to provide energy to our cells and muscles. It has a series of functions in our bodies that include cell repair and maintenance. It also has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, unlike simple carbohydrates that send your blood sugar soaring. When your body senses a high blood sugar, it releases insulin, which then sends your blood sugar spiraling downwards prompting you to feed it some quick acting carbohydrate, and the seesaw cycle of high and low blood sugars starts all over again.

Snacks are important as they help to refuel the body. Snacking on vending machine selections can add calories in the form of fats and sugar, and provide little nutrients in the diet. Because protein has a balancing effect on blood sugars, it’s a good choice for a snack. Taken with a complex carbohydrate, like fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, or 100% whole grain crackers, it can stave off hunger pains, keep you energized, and keep you from eating sweets.

Protein is found in both animal and vegetable foods. Animal foods can also provide fat calories so it is best to select leaner cuts of meats or low-fat dairy choices. Below are some examples of low-fat, high protein snacks and are divided into their sources. They can be eaten alone or combined with complex carbohydrates to provide sustained energy.

Vegetable Sources:

  • 8oz soy milk
  • 1oz soy cheese
  • 2T hummus
  • 1oz unsalted nuts (22 almonds or 10 walnuts)
  • 2T all natural peanut or almond butter. Be careful because the nut spreads can lend a lot of calories in fat. A healthier product would be to purchase a non-hydrogenated nut spread where the oil is separated and sitting at the top of the jar.
  • ½ c legumes (chickpeas, kidney, cannelloni, etc)

Animal Sources:

  • 8 oz non-fat or 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 oz low-fat cheeses (less that 5 grams of fat per ounce) such as part-skim milk
  • mozzarella (string cheese), Laughing Cow cheese, fat-free American, soy cheese, Jarlsberg Lite cheese , 50% reduced cheddar cheese.
  • ½ c nonfat or 1% cottage cheese
  • 2T nonfat cream cheese
  • One container of low-fat or nonfat yogurt
  • One egg or ½ c egg whites
  • 1-2 oz of sliced deli meats like turkey, chicken, ham, and lean roast beef
  • Whey protein powder (available in health food stores in health specialty stores)

Another quick option is to eat a sports bar for a snack. Check the food panel to make sure it contains a significant amount of protein and is high in fiber.

Remember, it’s important to eat three balanced meals a day, along with the two to three snack choices from the lists above. The key to a healthy diet is to make sure that you are getting an appropriate amount of calories a day as well as to ensure the proper distribution of these calories between the three major macronutrients, protein, carbohydrate and fat. A registered dietitian can assist you in setting up a personalized menu plan to ensure nutritional adequacy.


About Author

Sophia Kamveris

Sophia Kamveris is a registered dietitian and is licensed in multiple states to provide nutritional counseling. She holds a Masters degree in Human Nutrition and has more than twenty years of experience in the health care industry. See my profile page for more information!


  1. I went to buy some peanut butter today and I really don’t know which one is the best option to buy since there are so many of them available.

    • shapefit

      Hi Stella – Try looking for peanut butter that has “All Natural” on the label and make sure to double check the ingredients on the back since it should only read “peanuts”, and that’s it. If you see a long list of other ingredients, especially added sugar, then find a different brand. A very healthy choice for all-natural peanut butter is “Laura Scudder’s”. If you’re looking for a lower fat and reduced calorie option, look into two products called “PBfit” and “PB2”. These are peanut butter powders that you can easily mix with water to create a creamy, great tasting spread that is much lower in fat and calories when compared to normal peanut butter.

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