Food With No Protein


Food with less protein is a popular topic among dieters and people who are health-conscious. Articles like this Food with Less Protein are designed to give you the information you need to make good choices in your diet.

Food With Less Or No Protein

Here are some examples of how you can take a typical recipe and modify it to lower the protein content:

Festive Turkey Salad
(Original Recipe)(Modified Recipe)
3 cups chopped cooked turkey breast without skin
1/4 cup diced celery
1 cup raw red delicious apples with skin
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3 tbs. low calorie mayonnaise(Cranberry French Dressing)
1/4 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tbs. vinegar
2 tbs. vegetable oilYield: 4 one-cup servings with 2 tbs. dressing on each serving
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey breast without skin
1 cup diced celery
3 cups raw red delicious apples with skin
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3 tbs. regular mayonnaise(Cranberry French Dressing)
1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tbs. vinegar
2 tbs. vegetable oilYield: 6 one-cup servings with 2 tbs. dressing on each serving
Combine first five ingredients in large bowl. Stir well. Cover and chill thoroughly. Serve with Cranberry French Dressing. Dressing: Combine first four dressing ingredients in small bowl, stirring with a wire wisk until smooth. Gradually add vinegar to cranberry mixture, alternately with oil, beginning and ending with vinegar. Stir well with each addition.
National Renal Diet Exchanges: (per serving)
Original RecipeModified Recipe
High Calorie1Fats2
Protein43 gramsProtein9 grams

Adapted from a recipe developed by the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease (MDRD) Study – University of Iowa Center.

Why is a low protein diet necessary?

Protein is needed for growth, upkeep and repair of all parts of your body. Protein comes from the food you eat. When your body digests it, a waste product called urea is produced. If the kidneys are not working well, urea can build up in the bloodstream and may cause loss of appetite and fatigue. Eating a low-protein diet will reduce the workload on the kidneys so that the remaining healthy part of the kidney does not have to work so hard. There are two main sources of protein:

Plant protein such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils).

  • A diet with more fruits and vegetables and less or no animal protein may lower acid in the body to promote kidney health.
  • You will need to eat a variety of plant protein every day as part of a balanced diet to get the complete protein you need.

Animal protein such as fish, poultry, eggs, meat, and dairy products.

  • A diet high in animal proteins like red meat and low in fruits and vegetables increases acid in the body. Acid buildup in the blood due to kidney disease is called metabolic acidosis.
  • You may need to limit dairy products because they are high in phosphorus and they may cause your blood phosphorus level to be too high.

How can I stretch the protein I eat?

You can “extend” protein in recipes so that a small amount seems more satisfying.


  • Use thinly sliced meats – it looks like more.
  • Fill out sandwiches with lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, chopped celery, apple, parsley or water chestnuts.


  • Use lower protein foods such as milk substitutes for cream soups, or rice or pasta to make soups more filling without using too much protein.

Main Dishes

  • Think of vegetables and grains as the “main dish” and meat as the “side dish” or complement to your meal.
  • Try kebabs, using small pieces of meat and more vegetables.
  • Make fried rice with vegetables and less meat or shrimp.
  • Toss together a chef’s salad using crisp vegetables and small strips of meat and egg.
  • When making casseroles, decrease the amount of meat; increase the starch, pasta or rice and use low sodium soups when the recipe calls for soup.
  • Add low-protein pastas and breads to keep protein within limits.
  • Use stronger-tasting cheeses such as sharp cheddar, parmesan or romano – you’ll need much less to get the same amount of flavor.

Calorie Boosters

When you lower the amount of protein in your diet, you may also find the calories are lower. It is especially important to get enough calories to maintain a healthy weight at this time. In order to make up those extra calories, try some of these suggestions:

  • Increase heart-healthy fats: polyunsaturated vegetable oils (made with corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean or sunflower oils), olive oil, mayonnaise-type salad dressings.
  • Use candy and sweeteners: hard candy, gum drops, jelly beans, marshmallows, honey, jam and jelly, and sugar (if you are diabetic, consult your dietitian).
  • Use canned or frozen fruits in heavy syrup.

Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Protein

The type of person that should be eating high calorie, low protein food, are endurance athletes.  

This is because they rely on carbs as their primary energy source, which can comprise up to 60% of their total daily calories.  In order to achieve that level of carbohydrate intake, it means they likely need to decrease their protein to compensate.

Although protein is essential for muscle mass, having a high-protein intake might not be the way to go for endurance athletes. They rely on having a primarily carb-based diet to provide the energy needed for their high level of activity. Also, if you have kidney problems, you need to moderate your protein intake.

In this article, you will learn the top 10 foods that I recommend when people need to increase their calories, but without adding too much protein.

Before we begin talking about those foods, we first need to define what is considered to be a high-calorie and low-protein food. 

What Defines A Food High In Calories and Low In Protein?

Defining High Calorie

A high-calorie food needs to have a lot of calories (obviously), but the key part is looking at the number of calories per serving, as it needs to have a lot of calories in a small volume.

In this case, I typically consider food to be a high-energy dense food (high calorie) when it has more than 100 calories per 100 grams of product. These are usually foods like dried fruit, avocado, and nuts. 

On the other hand, low energy-dense foods are things like veggies. While still healthy to eat for all their vitamins and micronutrients, they don’t have a lot of calories per volume.  In other words, you’d have to eat a lot of veggies in order to equal the same amount of calories that come from a handful of nuts.

Defining Low Protein

In terms of defining a “low protein food”, it would be something that has less than 7 grams of protein per serving size. 

Food that has 7g of protein per serving would be one large egg, 1 oz of chicken, or 1 cup of milk.

So, anything less than this would be considered “low protein”.   

Are you bulking properly?

High Calorie Low Protein Foods: 10 Options

The best foods high in calories but low in protein are:

  • Cereal
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Potatoes
  • Honey
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Donuts
  • Coconut Oil

1. Cereal


Cereal is one of the most common breakfast foods available. It is easy to make, giving you the energy you need in the morning. In 100 g of cereal, you can find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 384
  • Carbs: 91.3 g
  • Protein: 4.3 g
  • Fats: 0.4 g

As you can see, breakfast cereal is very energy-dense since it has over 300 kcal for 100 g of product. It has only 4 g of protein, making it an ideal food to add when looking to increase your calories without adding too much protein.

When making cereal, and you are looking to control your protein intake, make sure to have it with almond milk or coconut milk instead of cow milk. Almond and coconut milk don’t have any protein in their composition, while cow milk has 8 g of protein per cup (250 mL). 

2. Brown Sugar

Sugar is an excellent choice when looking to add calories without adding protein. Since sugar is carb-based, the amount of protein found is very minimal. In 100 g of brown sugar, you have the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 380
  • Carbs: 98.1 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g
  • Fats: 0.0 g

Whether it is brown sugar, raw sugar, or white sugar, they all have more or less the same nutritional composition. In 100 g of product, you have less than 1 g of protein. This can be considered protein-free—ideal for increasing the calories without any protein. 

3. Cranberry Sauce

Jellies, jams, and sauces are another great option when trying to increase the calories without adding protein. In 100 g of cranberry sauce, you can find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 160
  • Carbs: 40.6 g
  • Protein: 1.0 g
  • Fats: 0.0 g

I’m this case, in 100 g of cranberry sauce, you find only 1 g of protein. This is considered to be a deficient protein intake. Regarding jams and jellies, the caloric content might vary between them. Still, they are all very high in calories and contain almost no protein. 

4. Raisins

Raisins for muscle gain

Just like sugars, fruits are mainly carb-bases. This is a great option to increase your calories with low protein. Not all fruits are energy-dense though, but most dried or dehydrated fruit are. Since raisins are dehydrated, they are very energy-dense. In 100 g of raisins, you can find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 301
  • Carbs: 80.0 g
  • Protein: 3.3 g
  • Fats: 0.2 g

Raisins are an excellent option for a snack that can provide you with sufficient energy if you have an endurance-based workout. It only has 3 g of protein per serving size, making it an ideal food high in calories and low in protein. 

5. Dates

Dates for Bodybuilding

Like raisins, dates are an excellent option for a food that is high in calories and low in sugar. In 100 g of dates, you can have the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 277
  • Carbs: 75.0 g
  • Protein: 1.8 g
  • Fats: 0.2g

Dates are a good option for those that want to add something sweet to their diets. It has a caramel taste that goes along with a bowl of oatmeal or with some almond butter. Since it is a dehydrated option, it gives you plenty of calories without adding too much volume and protein:

6. Potatoes

Potatoes are often used by people that want to add calories to their diets without adding protein. In 100 g of potatoes, you can find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 198
  • Carbs: 46.1 g
  • Protein: 4.3 g
  • Fats: 0.1 g

Since potatoes are primarily composed of carbs, they are a good option for those that need an energy boost before a workout. Have it without the skin to provide fast-acting energy to avoid any bloating. 

Since potatoes are also low in protein (which might upset the stomach while working out), some runners use mashed potatoes with salt during their race to provide quick energy. If you decide to try it, make sure to avoid adding any fat, like butter, and remove the skin. 

7. Honey


Honey is an excellent sweetener to use. In 100 g of honey, you find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 304
  • Carbs: 82.4 g
  • Protein: 0.3 g
  • Fats: 0.0 g

As you can see, honey is very high in calories and provides almost no protein. This is one of the top choices for providing energy during a workout in case you feel fatigued. Additionally, honey seems to have immune properties that help prevent you from getting sick. 

8. Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Although most of the foods we have seen are carb-based, here is an option that is high in calories, low in protein, and high in fat. Dark chocolate is the way to go for those who crave something sweet. In 100 g of dark chocolate (55%), you find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 546
  • Carbs: 61.6 g
  • Protein: 4.9 g
  • Fats: 31.3 g

Dark chocolate is very high in calories. You find over 500 kcal per 100 g of product. Although it does contain some protein, it is not enough to be considered high in protein. However, the more chocolate solids it has (over 70% chocolate), the more protein it will have. 

9. Donuts


Donuts are a tasty treat to have that are high in calories. In 100 g of donuts, you can find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 417
  • Carbs: 57.4 g
  • Protein: 4.5 g
  • Fats: 19.9 g

Donuts are a great option when you need to add on calories without adding too much protein. However, since donuts are fried, they contain many fats. A high fat intake could potentially increase bloating in some people.

With over 400 kcal per 100 g of product, donuts are an excellent option for increasing their calories without adding protein. 

10. Coconut Oil

Finally, coconut oil is another healthy fat that offers a lot of calories without adding protein. In 100 g of coconut oil, you can find the following nutritional information:

  • Calories: 892
  • Carbs: 0.0 g
  • Protein: 0.0 g
  • Fats: 99.1 g

Additionally, coconut oil, high in MCT (medium-chain triglycerides), has fat-burning properties. It helps increase oxidation, which helps take the fat you already have in your body and use it as an energy source.

Another benefit of coconut oil is that it offers no protein. 

Sample Menu: High Calories, Low Protein

If you don’t know how to build a menu with these foods, here is a sample menu for you to get an idea of how to build it:

MealsCaloriesProtein (g)
Breakfast  100 g of oats  50 g peanut butter  1 scoop whey protein  150 g Strawberries
Snack  100g Raisins  50g Dark chocolate

Lunch  75 g Cranberry Sauce  150g Potatoes

Snack  100g Dates  20g Honey  245 mL Coconut milk
Dinner  15g Coconut oil  100g Donut (dessert)


Remember that this is just an idea of how the foods stated above can be eaten during the day. 

You still need some  healthy fat sources like avocado, olive oil, and olives; and even though you’re on a low protein diet, some protein will still be beneficial. 

Regarding the protein intake, you need to determine how many grams per day you need to consume depending on your goals or any conditions that you might have. 


A variety of protein foods, including egg, salmon, beef, chicken, beans, lentils, almonds, quinoa, oats, broccoli, artichokes, yogurt, cheese, and tofu

Protein is an essential macronutrient, but not all food sources of protein are created equal, and you may not need as much as you think. Learn the basics about protein and shaping your diet with healthy protein foods.

What Is Protein?

Protein is found throughout the body—in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way.

Protein is made from twenty-plus basic building blocks called amino acids. Because we don’t store amino acids, our bodies make them in two different ways: either from scratch, or by modifying others. Nine amino acids—histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine—known as the essential amino acids, must come from food.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight. [1]

  • For a 140-pound person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
  • For a 200-pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

The National Academy of Medicine also sets a wide range for acceptable protein intake—anywhere from 10% to 35% of calories each day. Beyond that, there’s relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet or the healthiest target for calories contributed by protein. In an analysis conducted at Harvard among more than 130,000 men and women who were followed for up to 32 years, the percentage of calories from total protein intake was not related to overall mortality or to specific causes of death. [2] However, the source of protein was important.What are “complete” proteins, and how much do I need?

It’s important to note that millions of people worldwide, especially young children, don’t get enough protein due to food insecurity. The effects of protein deficiency and malnutrition range in severity from growth failure and loss of muscle mass to decreased immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and death.

However, it’s uncommon for healthy adults in the U.S. and most other developed countries to have a deficiency, because there’s an abundance of plant and animal-based foods full of protein. In fact, many in the U.S. are consuming more than enough protein, especially from animal-based foods. [3]

It’s All About the Protein “Package”

When we eat foods for protein, we also eat everything that comes alongside it: the different fats, fiber, sodium, and more. It’s this protein “package” that’s likely to make a difference for health.

The table below shows a sample of food “packages” sorted by protein content, alongside a range of components that come with it.Table: Comparing protein packages

table comparing protein packages Food /[Category] Protein (g) Saturated Fat (g) Mono-unsaturated Fat (g) Poly-unsaturated Fat (g) ALA (g) Marine Omega-3 Fats (g) Fiber (g) Sodium (mg) Sirloin steak, broiled (4oz) [Red Meat] 33 4.6 4.9 0.4 0.4 0 0 66 Sockeye salmon, grilled (4oz) [Seafood] 30 1.1 2.1 1.5 0.3 1.0 0 104 Chicken, thigh, no skin (4oz) [Poultry] 28 2.7 3.9 2.0 0.1 0.1 0 120 Ham steak (4oz) [Red Meat] 22 1.6 2.2 0.5 0.5 0 0 1,439 Lentils (1 cup, cooked) [Legumes] 18 0.1 0.1 0.3 0.3 0 15 4 Milk (8oz) [Dairy] 8 3.1 1.4 0.2 0.3 O0 0 115 Almonds, dry roasted, unsalted (1oz) [Nuts] 6 1.2 9.4 3.4 0 0 3.1 1

To call out a few examples:

  • A 4-ounce broiled sirloin steak is a great source of protein—about 33 grams worth. But it also delivers about 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • A 4-ounce ham steak with 22 grams of protein has only 1.6 grams of saturated fat, but it’s loaded with 1,500 milligrams worth of sodium.
  • 4 ounces of grilled sockeye salmon has about 30 grams of protein, naturally low in sodium, and contains just over 1 gram of saturated fat. Salmon and other fatty fish are also excellent sources of omega-3 fats, a type of fat that’s especially good for the heart.
  • A cup of cooked lentils provides about 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber, and it has virtually no saturated fat or sodium.
person making a workout shake including protein powder

What about protein powders?

Powdered protein can come from a variety of sources, including eggs, milk (e.g., casein, whey), and plants (e.g., soybeans, peas, hemp). Some protein powders contain protein from multiple sources; for instance, a vegan option might include protein derived from peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and alfalfa. Like other dietary supplements, protein powders are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for safety. They can often contain non-protein ingredients, including vitamins and minerals, thickeners, added sugars, non-caloric sweeteners, and artificial flavoring. If you choose to consume protein powder, it is important to read the nutrition and ingredient labels beforehand, as products may contain unexpected ingredients and large amounts of added sugars and calories.

Research on Protein and Health

Available evidence indicates that it’s the source of protein (or, the protein “package”), rather than the amount of protein, that likely makes a difference for our health. You can explore the research related to each disease in the tabs below, but here’s the evidence-based takeaway: eating healthy protein sources like beans, nuts, fish, or poultry in place of red meat and processed meat can lower the risk of several diseases and premature death.Heart disease

Icon of a globe with a fork and spoon on the sides; representing eating sustainably for the planet's health

Just as different foods can have differing impacts on human health, they also have differing impacts on the environment. Agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally, the accumulation of which is driving climate change at a rate unprecedented in human history. However, not all foods have an equal impact. Production of animal-based foods tends to have higher GHG emissions than producing plant-based foods—and dairy and especially red meat (particularly beef, lamb, and goat) stand out for their disproportionate impact.Protein ScorecardSource: World Resources Institute,

To give you an idea, this “scorecard” from the World Resources Institute illustrates the differing GHG emissions per gram of protein from both animal and plant-based protein foods. [25] Making just one pound (454 grams) of lamb generates five times more GHGs than making a pound of chicken and around 30 times more than making a pound of lentils. [26] In the U.S. alone, beef accounts for 36% of all food-related GHG emissions. [27] Beyond emissions, it’s also important to note that food production places an enormous demand upon our natural resources, as agriculture is a major contributor to deforestation, species extinction, and freshwater depletion and contamination.

Bottom Line

Protein is a key part of any diet. The average person needs about 7 grams of protein every day for every 20 pounds of body weight. Because protein is found in an abundance of foods, many people can easily meet this goal. However, not all protein “packages” are created equal. Because foods contain a lot more than protein, it’s important to pay attention to what else is coming with it. That’s why the Healthy Eating Plate encourages choosing healthy protein foods.

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