High Protein Food For Weight Loss


high protein food for weight loss – The question of the moment is whether you need to consume lots of high protein foods if you want to shed some pounds. Well, the answer is yes, you do. It is not a fad that eating plenty of high protein foods helps you lose extra pounds of fat. High protein diets have been around for some time however they are only becoming more popular as people grow more and more concerned about their health and well being.

16 Delicious High-Protein Foods That’ll Help You Lose Weight

healthiest foods for weight loss high protein

The first step to losing weight is rethinking your diet.

“Weight loss comes down to energy balance—meaning you have to consistently burn more calories than you eat. High-protein foods help out with both sides of the energy balance equation,” says Kim Yawitz, a registered dietitian and gym owner in St. Louis, MO.

“First, high-protein foods can help boost your metabolism, both short- and long-term,” Yawitz says, adding that eating a protein-heavy meal temporarily increases calorie burn, simply because your body has to work harder to digest and metabolize protein compared to fats and carbs. “Over time, incorporating more high-protein foods can also help protect against muscle loss while in a calorie deficit, allowing you to eat more calories while still losing weight.”

As a bonus, high-protein foods are also highly satiating, says Yawitz, especially when pitted against high-carb foods (bread, pasta, rice, etc.). “In this way, eating more protein at meals and snacks can help you to eat fewer calories overall when you’re trying to lose weight.”

To preserve muscle mass, Yawitz typically recommends starting with 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day on a weight loss diet. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, that amounts to 120 grams to 150 grams per day. “Keep in mind that eating too many calories overall will make you gain weight, even if those calories come from high-quality proteins,” says Yawitz. “You may need to reduce your carb and fat intake, especially if you’re eating a lot more protein than normal.”

Another thing that’s important to keep in mind as you increase your protein intake is to drink more water. “In one small study, athletes on high-protein diets were more likely to be dehydrated than those who ate less protein. In this study, the athletes didn’t feel especially thirsty even when their urine showed markers of dehydration,” she says, noting that drinking water throughout the day can help you feel and function your best even if you don’t feel parched, plus “it may even help with your weight loss efforts.”

Ahead, 16 such high-protein foods that can help with weight loss.



grilled fillet of fish


“I stock my freezer with tilapia, which provides 30 grams of protein per four-ounce serving, and is also low in calories,” says Yawitz. Whether you opt for tuna, tilapia, sardines, anchovies, or something else, “fish is very filling, making it a great choice when you’re cutting calories,” says Yawitz.



salmon on a serving plate on a table


“This is one of my favorite proteins because it not only boasts 19 grams of high-quality protein per 3 ounces cooked, it also boasts EPA and DHA omega-3s,” says Amy Gorin, R.D.N., an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, CT. “These healthy fats help keep you fuller for longer (in addition to helping with heart health),” she says.

“I love to make my own salmon bacon,” says Gorin. Check out Gorin’s recipe for homemade salmon bacon here.



pan fried fish on rustic wooden background


Here’s another fish worth singling out when it comes to being high in protein and a good option for those trying to lose weight. “Mackerel is low in mercury and packs a ton of protein; it has 33 grams per filet,” says Kylie Ivanir M.S., R.D. “Protein increases cholecystokinin (CKK), a hormone related to satiation,” she says.



pistachio nuts


These are one of Gorin’s favorite plant-based foods to load up on “because they are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids that your body is unable to make on its own.” She also likes that pistachios are one of the highest protein nuts, “with a quarter-cup serving providing six grams of protein,” adding that since pistachios contain a trifecta of “protein, fiber, and better-for-you fats, they help keep you fuller for longer which can help with weight management.”


Low-fat cottage cheese

tvorog, cottage cheese or curd cheese


“Just ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 14 grams of belly-filling protein,” says Yawitz. “You can stick to a ½ cup if you need a small snack, or top a double portion with fruits or raw veggies for an easy meal.”


Egg whites

scrambled eggs


There’s good reason egg whites have a good reputation as a protein-rich food that helps with weight management. “By opting to eat egg whites rather than both the white and the yolk you cut down on a significant amount of calories without losing much protein,” says Trista K. Best, M.P.H., R.D., at Balance One Supplements.

“The calories in eggs goes from around 70 to less than 20 when you cut out the yolk and only lose two grams of protein. This continues to be a protein-rich food that can aid in weight loss by both keeping you full and cutting down on calories,” says Best.


Almond butter

high angle view of butter in jar


“Almond butter, in particular, packs a significant amount of nutrients including monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, fiber and protein. A quality almond butter will have less than two grams of sugar,” Best says. “Protein is also a valuable nutrient when choosing an almond butter. An adequate amount of protein in a serving of almond butter is around six-to-seven grams.”


Whey protein powder

close up of hand holding whey cup on table


“It’s not always easy to follow a high-protein diet, especially if you’re always on the go. I keep whey protein powder and a shaker bottle on hand for days when I struggle to hit my protein goals,” says Yawitz. “Look for a brand that’s third-party tested, and that has at least 25 grams of protein per scoop and not a lot of added ingredients.” Need a good recommendation? These are the best whey protein powders to buy right now.


Grass-fed beef

ribeye steak just off a charcoal grill resting on a wood cutting board, seasoned with rosemary, garlic cloves, butter, cheese, olives and paprika


Mackenzie Burgess, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, recommends choosing grass-fed beef thanks to its higher amounts of nutrients like omega-3s and antioxidants. “Plus, it packs in substantial protein, which helps us feel fuller longer and may help reduce the overall calorie intake for the day,” Burgess says.



cropped hand preparing fried tofu in kitchen,poland


Yes, tofu is the new king of protein. “Tofu is a favorite plant protein because it’s so versatile. It picks up the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with, and baked tofu is so delicious,” says Gorin. “Plus, tofu is a complete vegan protein that provides protein and fiber—a combination that helps to keep you fuller for longer. Half a cup of firm tofu provides 22 grams of protein.”

Soy foods in general are another group of grub to keep in mind if you’re trying to load up on protein and drop weight. “Soy is a high protein food that is beneficial for a weight loss diet because it also contains fiber,” says Banna. “Fiber is important to help you stay full and avoid overeating.” Along with tofu, try edamame, miso, and tempeh (more on tempeh below).



roasted and grilled tempeh slices with grill marks


As Burgess puts it, don’t knock it till you try it. At 31 grams of protein per cup, “tempeh has a firm texture and surprisingly nutty taste. It’s made from fermented soy beans, making it a versatile, protein-packed choice for a meatless meal,” she says. Try sautéing tempeh cubes in a veggie stir-fry or grilling as kabobs, Burgess suggests.


Pea protein powder

scoop of pea vegan protein powder on dark rustic background sport nutrition


“Pea protein powder contains the magical combination for weight loss of both protein and fiber which keep you satisfied, while maintaining energy levels and keeping blood sugar levels stable,” say Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.N. and Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D.N., The Nutrition Twins.

“No more energy crashes and blood sugar dips that result in sugar and salt cravings and unwanted calories from unplanned snacks. Plus, pea protein can aid in weight loss even when calories aren’t restricted, and it also has been found to be more effective than whey protein at fighting against hunger.” Check out our guide to pea protein powders here.



Black lentils

black lentils


“Black lentils pack in 18 grams of protein per cup and the protein aids in weight loss,” says Ivanir. The fiber in black lentils also “slows digestion, keeping us full and reducing cravings throughout the day.”



mixed bean chilli with rice


“The fiber in beans will keep consumers satisfied long after a meal which can prevent overeating,” says Best. If you can, pair beans with rice: “Beans are also rich in protein and eating them along with rice is the best way to get in all nine essential amino acids. Taking in all essential amino acids is necessary for a healthy life and combining rice and beans provides the right combination of amino acids to achieve this.”


Pumpkin seeds

full frame shot of roasted pumpkin seeds


“Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, containing 12 grams per cup,” says Ivanir. “The protein content will keep blood sugar levels in check, aiding in weight loss,” she continues, elaborating that the seeds are rich in fiber, which feeds beneficial microbes in the gut.



close up of glass jar filled with kefir


New to this probiotic beverage? It’s time to add it to your routine regularly. “Just one glass of kefir contains nine grams of protein! Protein decreases neuropeptide Y (NPY), the ‘I’m craving carbs hormone.’ Carbs derail weight loss efforts by spiking blood sugar,” says Ivanir. Look for brands that have no added sugar, she says.

11 of the best high-protein foods for weight loss

quinoa kale salad
Consider using quinoa in place of pasta. 
  • Eating a protein-rich diet can help you reach your weight-loss goals, according to dietitians.
  • Salmon and shrimp can bulk up a meal, and black beans are great for plant-based diets. 
  • Opt for quinoa or whole-grain loaves over white bread, and try adding low-fat dairy to your diet. 

Peanut butter is full of protein and “healthy” fats.

Peanut Butter
Try topping your whole-grain toast with peanut butter. 

Peanut butter is low in carbs, and it can be a great source of protein and “healthy” fats. 

“My favorite high-protein food for weight loss is peanut butter,” registered dietitian nutritionist Rebecca Stib told Insider. “Per a serving (which is typically 2 tablespoons), you’ll get about 8 grams of protein.”

Start your day with some nutrient-dense eggs.

Scrambled Eggs
Eggs are incredibly versatile and can be eaten at any meal. 

“Eggs are a great food for weight loss,” registered dietitian Jenn Fillenworth told Insider.

They’re full of vitamins and minerals, and one egg contains about 6 grams of high-quality protein with all of the essential amino acids.

Incorporate salmon into your diet.

salmon salad eating fish mediterranean diet
Salmon also has omega-3 fatty acids. 

“One of my absolute favorite foods for weight loss is salmon,” Fillenworth told Insider.

Although salmon is a fatty fish, she explained that eating the right kind of fat doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to gain weight.

The fish contains essential omega-3 fatty acids, which you have to get from your diet since the human body can’t produce them.

Black beans are a great plant-based protein for weight loss.

Black beans
Black beans can also help with constipation. 

“My favorite plant-based protein for weight loss is the black bean,” Fillenworth said.

She told Insider that in addition to being high in protein, black beans are also high in fiber, so they can help relieve constipation and bloating — which could be attributed to some weight gain.

Opt for low-calorie lean meats, like chicken breasts.

cooking chicken
Lean cuts of meat can help with weight loss. 

“When looking for the best high-protein foods for weight loss, think low-calorie and high-quality ingredients,” registered dietitian Sabrina Russo told Insider.

She said the first things that come to mind are lean meat, poultry, and fish. These are all great sources of complete protein with little carbs and fat. 

Try switching from white to whole-grain carbs.

sliced bread
Choose whole grains over processed white bread. 

“High-protein seeds and whole-grain products are another great option,” Russo told Insider.  

Try incorporating whole-grain pasta or high-protein crackers into your diet, as these grains help keep you full without as many calories as processed white carbs.

Eat low-fat dairy products.

Greek Yogurt
Make sure not to get yogurt with lots of added sugar. 

“Low-fat dairy products are also examples of high-protein foods that may be beneficial for weight loss,” Russo said.

She suggested opting for plain, low-fat, or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese.

You can also enjoy plain yogurt with fresh berries for some natural sweetness.

Add some cottage cheese to your diet.

Cottage Cheese and Fruit
You can top your cottage cheese with fruits and nuts. 

“At 23 grams of protein per cup and less than 200 calories, this protein-rich dairy product is a great addition to any meal,” registered dietitian Staci Gulbin told Insider.

A cup of a lower-fat cottage cheese with 1% milk fat can even have around 28 grams of protein.

Although a serving of cottage cheese is fairly high in sodium, you can look for low-sodium or no-added-sodium brands. 

Use quinoa as an alternative to rice or pasta.

Top quinoa with vegetables for extra nutrients. 

“This gluten-free seed is a delicious and healthy alternative to rice or pasta,” Gulbin told Insider.

A serving contains approximately 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of gut-friendly fiber.

Nuts are another great plant-based protein option.

Mixed nuts
Almonds are an easy on-the-go snack. 

“Nuts are a great portable and nutritious addition to any healthy lifestyle plan,” Gulbin told Insider.

Almonds, pistachios, and peanuts average around 6 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving with about 3 grams of gut-friendly fiber.

Add shrimp to your shopping list.

shrimp alfredo
Adding shrimp to any meal will bulk it up with protein. 

“Shrimp is an extremely low-calorie filling protein,” said registered dietitian Summer Yule. 

It’s also an excellent source of iodine, she added, which we need to support our thyroid health and manage our metabolism.

6 Best High-Protein Foods for Weight Loss, Say Dietitians

The quality of the protein you choose matters, so we put together a list of the best and worst proteins for weight loss.

eating protein

It’s close to impossible to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way without focusing on getting enough protein in your daily diet. For one, protein helps you feel satiated for longer periods of time and reduces your hunger hormones. Protein also has a higher TEF (thermic effect of food) than fat or carbohydrates, meaning your body burns more calories when you eat it. And on top of that, protein can help you build muscle mass.

Even though eating enough protein is crucial for healthy weight loss, the quality of your protein matters a lot as well, especially because there are plenty of low-quality, nutrient-scarce proteins out there.

Read on to learn about the best and worst proteins for losing weight, and for more healthy weight loss tips make sure to check out Our Dietitians Swear By These Weight Loss Tips.




If you’re a fan of seafood, you may want to consider adding more fatty fish like salmon to your weight loss plan.

“A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help promote satiety among certain populations, and salmon is one of the best sources of this healthy fat,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility. “Data shows that the inclusion of fish, like salmon, as part of an energy-restricted diet resulted in  weight loss after 4 weeks vs. a similar diet without seafood, highlighting that the addition of seafood to a nutritionally balanced energy-restricted diet may boost weight loss.”


Whey protein powder

making protein powder smoothie, fitness supplements

If you’re looking for a healthy protein powder to throw into a delicious shake, you may want to try whey protein.

“Whey protein can boost fullness quickly, as it contains all the essential amino acids and is absorbed quickly in the body,” says Courtney D’Angelo, MS, RD, author at Go Wellness. “There have been numerous studies conducted with whey protein and weight loss, with most studies concluding that whey protein reduces fat and increases lean muscle mass. It has also been found that whey protein helps you stay full longer and reduces food cravings throughout the day.”

The main difference between whey protein and many other types of protein powder is that whey protein has dairy, so you can try a plant-based powder if you’re dairy-free.



cooked lentils

Because lentils are technically grain legumes (also known as pulses), people may not think of them as a high-protein food. But lentils are a good source of protein and other helpful vitamins and nutrients.

“Eating lentils can give the body a boost of fiber, antioxidants, and important micronutrients, and data shows that eating lentils can help people lose weight, even when diets are not calorie restricted,” says Manaker. “Subbing out lentils for fatty meat choices can be an approachable way to support weight loss.”


Casein protein powder

man making protein powder shake at the gym

Another popular type of protein powder is casein protein, which D’Angelo says is also great for helping you with your weight loss goals.

“Casein protein is very similar to whey protein in that it’s also milk-based and contains all the essential amino acids, but the major difference is that casein protein is absorbed slowly in the body,” says D’Angelo. “This means that you’ll be feeling fuller for a longer period of time compared to whey protein, and while casein protein is not as good for increasing muscle mass, it is more effective than many other protein sources.”




“Increasing daily consumption of nuts is associated with less long-term weight gain and a lower risk of obesity in adults, so replacing 0.5 servings a day of less healthful foods with nuts may help prevent long-term weight gain and obesity,” says Manaker.

When it comes to nuts, walnuts are known as being some of the best to help aid in weight loss efforts. “Consuming walnuts has been linked to increased satiety, which may help people lose weight in the long run,” says Manaker, “and walnuts are the only tree nut that is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid.”


Low-fat Cottage Cheese

cottage cheese

You may not think of cottage cheese as a protein-heavy food, but choosing the right type of cottage cheese can give you a huge protein boost with very little fat and sugar.

In a standard cup of 2% cottage cheese, you’ll get over 24 grams of protein, with 5 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar from the lactose. If you want to add some natural flavors to it, you can add your favorite fruit or a drizzle of honey.

Worst Proteins for Weight Loss

Although protein foods can support weight loss, some are better than others. The following protein foods may not be the best foods to add to your diet if you’re looking to be healthier and lose weight.


Worst: Sausage

grilled sausages

“Many varieties of sausages can be loaded with saturated fat and can be highly caloric, factors that don’t help in the weight loss department,” says Manaker. In fact, “data also shows that consumption of ultra-processed foods, like many sausages, is linked to weight gain.”

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to red meat sausage, you can try a chicken or turkey sausage, or a plant-based sausage option. However, it’s still important to look at the nutrition label because even these products can be loaded with sodium, fat, and weird preservatives.


Worst: Sugary protein bars

protein bars

Just because something is labeled as a protein bar doesn’t mean it’s a nutritious choice. Many popular protein bars on the market are just loaded with added sugar, sodium, and fat. So yes, you’re getting a protein boost, but there are healthier protein options to snack on.

For example, a PowerBar Protein Plus Chocolate Brownie Bar is packed with 9 grams of fat, 330 calories, and 21 grams of sugar! So you’ll get 30 grams of protein with this bar, but at what cost?


Worst: Rice protein powder

protein powder

One of the lesser-known protein powder varieties is rice protein. While some people on a plant-based diet may opt for this one, D’Angelo argues that it may not give you the best weight loss results.

“Rice protein may not be the best for weight loss because this plant-based protein is considered incomplete due to its low levels of the essential amino acid lysine,” says D’Angelo, “and most studies on rice protein have seen little to no muscle mass difference and very little weight loss results if any.”

Samantha Boesch

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