How often have you been so hungry that you drive to the nearest fast food restaurant and order a high-carb, high-fat meal, only to kick yourself later? Well, before another day goes by, let’s look at some of the best quick high protein snacks for those of you who want to get the most out of your nutritional program.
When consuming your daily protein intake, shoot for no more than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (i.e. 160 pounds x 1.0 = 160 grams). While this may not seem like much, believe me, this is a lot of protein so don’t let the numbers fool you! With just a little pre-planning, you can be on your way to a healthier diet. The following are some of the best quick high protein snacks that are easy to prepare and just as easy to carry when you’re feeling hungry or when you’re trying to get in your 4-6 small meals every day.
You’ve heard or read this before but egg whites are great for a quick high protein snack any time of the day! One large egg white has only 16 calories, 0 grams of fat or carbs and 4 grams of protein. If you’re new to eating egg whites, shoot for 1 egg yoke for every 3 egg whites. Eggs are not just for breakfast anymore! You can also make scrambled eggs and load them with fresh vegetables (onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, green beans, etc.) for a fun and fancy meal!
Edamame (Soy Beans)
Eating this powerhouse snack, which is packed with 6 grams of wonderful fiber (recommended 25-30 grams a day) is both tasty and filling (130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein). You can purchase them in the frozen food section of your local grocery store and follow the directions for cooking them along with adding sea salt if you’d like. Edamame can be purchased with or without the shell, but regardless of how you do it, this is a fabulous snack!
With a great macronutrient profile (111 calories, 5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, 16 grams of protein), cottage cheese is extremely versatile and you can eat it plain or take it to the next level by adding in some fresh fruit or vegetables. Try for non-fat or low-fat cottage cheese to reduce the unnecessary amounts of fat that regular cottage cheese contains. Also, you can use cottage cheese in many of your meals as an additional ingredient.
Tuna (canned, frozen or fresh)
Tuna is a great source of protein with approximately 42 grams per can. Plus, one can of tuna in water only contains about 191 calories, 1 gram of fat and 0 carbs! But remember to purchase tuna in water not oil or you can easily triple the fat content! Tuna salad can be consumed as a stand alone, along with a bed of lettuce, or with other vegetables for a more filling meal.
Peanut butter is a quick snack that provides a high dose of muscle building protein! 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 7 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs and 190 calories, depending on the brand you choose as well as if it’s a reduced fat version. Peanut butter can be spread on whole wheat bread, apples and celery or it can be added to your protein shakes as well as added in with baked goods. Many peanut butter products on the market contain artificial ingredients such as corn syrup and additional oils, which should be avoided. When shopping for peanut butter, try to choose one that contains only peanuts and salt. These usually come under the name “100% All Natural”, but always make sure to double-check the ingredients on the food label before purchasing.
Chicken is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the necessary essential amino acids. One chicken breast without skin contains approximately 25 grams of protein. Chicken can be cooked ahead of time which allows you quick access to lean protein that you can easily add to salads, pasta or eat it alone for a quick protein pick-me-up. Make an open-faced chicken sandwich by using lettuce as your bread. You can also add onions, bell peppers and seasoning to make a chicken salad in a bed of lettuce.
Turkey is also considered a complete protein, which means it contains all of the necessary essential amino acids. One ounce of turkey breast has 53 calories, 0 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein. Try to stay away from the pre-packaged sliced turkey as they tend to be loaded with extra calories and sodium. If possible, swing by your local deli counter and have them slice you up some fresh turkey breast that you can eat later. If you’re a ground turkey eater, be aware that although ground turkey breast is leaner than the 7% ground turkey, it can be a bit drier in taste. Turkey, like chicken, can be cooked ahead of time and stored. Make an open-faced turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole or as a salad by adding in your favorite vegetables.
This little container has been getting a lot of big press lately! Greek yogurt is higher in protein than your staple yogurts and may be easier on your digestion for those who are lactose intolerant. Plain Greek yogurt can be used in lieu of mayo for your salads. You can add flavored or plain Greek yogurt to your protein shakes to give them more of a “tart” taste (I love this). You can also mix Greek yogurt with an avocado and some salsa for a wicked guacamole snack!
Protein Bars and Shakes
Ah, this is the staple for anyone who works out! Protein bars and protein shakes are convenient when you’re time deprived, can be carried anywhere, no cooking is required and you have a wide variety of flavors to choose from. The down side is that if you’re not careful you can be consuming a protein bar or shake that is very high in sugar, fat, carbs and calories. So before you make your next (or first) purchase, read the nutrition labels carefully and remember that protein bars and shakes are high in protein and very low in carbs, and not the other way around.
An easy way to carry your protein powder around with you is to place the powder into a plastic baggie. Keep a clean, empty water or juice container (or shaker bottle) in your car or at work. This makes it easy to get in a quick protein snack without having to stop during the day to eat a whole food meal.
Keep in mind that these food tips are just a small suggestion for choosing high protein snacks. You can add fresh vegetables or fruit to your meals as a way to meet your daily fruit and vegetable requirements. Make sure you drink plenty of pure water (1 gallon per day), get in your weight training workouts (2-3 days a week) and do cardio 4-6 days a week while staying focused on reaching your fitness goals!