7 Healthy Protein-Packed Foods That Aren't Red Meat
As high-fat and high-protein diets get more popular, it could seem like you need to eat more red meat than you can afford.
When it comes to designing your diet, you should remember that red meat is still higher in saturated fat when you compare it to other lean cuts of meat. Not all experts believe that saturated fat can increase your heart disease risk, but research from the Harvard Medical School suggests a key to protecting your heart it to eat less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fats.
Related - Red Meat is Safe and Healthy
If you like red meat, don't worry. It just means you should try a few other types of lean protein to round out your diet. Amy Shapiro, RD, is the founder of Real Nutrition in New York City. She's been noted saying "I don't consider red meat something people can eat freely." She goes on to say a good rule of thumb is to "eat red meat no more than two to three times per week."
So what other foods can you eat that are protein-packed and healthy? Adding some of these foods could help you feel fuller longer, help with losing weight, and helps build lean muscle.
Let's dive into the list of protein-packed foods.
7 Protein-Packed Foods
#1 - Chicken
It shouldn't be a surprise that chicken is number one on the list. It's one of the most popular proteins among bodybuilders.
Chicken is low in calories and saturated fat when you do not eat the skin. So a 3.5-ounce boneless skinless chicken breast contains around 31 grams of protein and 165 calories. Red meat, like a top round cut, also contains 31 grams of protein but contains around 204 calories per 3.5 ounce serving.
#2 - Sardines
Probably not your first choice of red meat alternative, but hear me out. These small fish are overlooked but pack a huge nutritional punch and flavor. You can pick up a can of sardines in flavors like olive oil or lemon if you are afraid of the flavor, or you could buy some and cook them on the grill. One can yield around 26 grams of protein.
Since sardines are an oily fish, eating them will provide your body with a healthy source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Try them for lunch like you would eat a tuna salad.
#3 - Tempeh
When it comes to soy protein, you've probably heard of tofu. Tempeh is similar and it is made from fermented, cooked soybeans. Tempeh is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. A 3.5-ounce serving will yield 20 grams of protein and it is a great substitute for meat in sandwiches.
While I've not personally cooked tempeh, I do feel the need to send a shout out to Papa G's Vegan Organic Deli out in Portland, Oregon. They have a TLT (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato) that rivals the flavor of a BLT and doesn't sit heavy on you. I'm not a vegan or vegetarian, but this place really opened my eyes to the possibility of soy-based protein.
#4 - Shrimp
Who doesn't love shrimp? An often forgotten protein, a 3.5 ounce serving of cooked shrimp offers 20 grams of protein and just one gram of fat for 93 calories. US farm shrimp is rated as "best choice" in terms of sustainability from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program.
Look for shrimp when it is on sale and grab yourself some of this low-calorie high-protein food.
#5 - Whey Protein
Whey protein is a solid choice for a meat replacement. Whey protein contains all essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein. Many whey supplements are also very high in branch chain amino acids like Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine which all have been shown in studies help promote muscle growth and fat loss.
With so many different flavors, you can create your own protein masterpieces. Try some sludge, add some to your oatmeal, or add a scoop to your coffee for a supercharged shake in the morning. One scoop of MTS whey will give you 25 grams of protein and 150 calories.
#6 - Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese has to be one of the most underrated protein sources out there. It is a high-protein dairy food and one cup offers 24 grams of protein.
"Skip the 0% fat and go for the 2%, this helps you feel more satiated," says Shapiro. You can minimize your sugar by looking for unsweetened versions and adding your own toppings like fruit or a nut butter. Or you could just dig in with some pepper and enjoy a nice protein snack before bed.
#7 - Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is another great protein source. It is different than other yogurts because it goes through a straining process that removes the whey. Whey is the liquid that contains lactose, which is a natural sugar in milk.
Greek yogurt is full of calcium, protein, probiotics, iodine, and vitamin B-12. Greek yogurt yields many health benefits such as improved bone health, reduced appetite, improved gut health, and reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, among many other benefits.
A 3.5 ounce serving of Greek yogurt yields around 10 grams of protein and only around 60 calories. There are many Greek yogurts out there, so check your labels and try to avoid the yogurts that have a lot of added sugars. Mix some fruit, granola, or oats in with your Greek yogurt to keep you feeling fuller longer.
Wrapping It Up
Eating a variety of foods is imperative for a healthy diet.
You need to choose different proteins, fruits, and veggies so your body gets the nutrients it needs to thrive. I invite you to try a few new protein sources and see what kind of dishes or snacks you can prepare.