25 High-Protein, Low-Fat Foods to Try

25 High-Protein, Low-Fat Foods to Try

The macronutrients protein, fat, and carbs each play a unique role in our bodies. Protein builds and maintains muscles and bones, fat provides insulation and helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. and carbs energize the body’s cells, tissues, and organs.

But sometimes, balancing these needs can be challenging, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and maintain muscle mass. Following a high-protein, low-fat diet can help achieve both goals. This type of diet not only helps with weight and fat loss but can also protect the muscles and metabolism as compared to a standard-protein diet.

Whether striving to achieve your fitness goals or managing health concerns, these protein-packed, lean foods are a great addition to your diet.

  • Protein: 8 grams (g) per cup
  • Fat: 0.2-2 g

Milk is a significant source of various nutrients, including protein, calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12, and zinc, Jonathan Valdez, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Genki Nutrition, told Health. These nutrients are involved in many bodily functions from muscle and bone health to energy production and immune support.

Milk is great for breaking your overnight fast while sleeping, said Valdez. Pair milk with toast or pancakes or add to cereal, oatmeal, or smoothies.

  • Protein: 16 g per container (5.5 ounces (oz))
  • Fat: 0.6 g

Non-fat Greek yogurt is a perfect grab-and-go food for people trying to lose weight and build muscle. Mix in low-calorie berries or add it to a nutritious smoothie, recommended Valdez. Flavor plain yogurt with your favorite spices or herbs and pair it with dip-friendly vegetables like carrots and bell peppers.

  • Protein: 24 g per cup
  • Fat: 5 g

Similar in nutrient content to Greek yogurt, cottage cheese offers an abundance of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. Research suggests it may even help with feeling full, making it a potential tool for managing hunger. Instead of yogurt, cottage cheese can also be used to eat with your favorite fruits or seasoned to make it into a veggie dip.

  • Protein: 7-8 g per cup
  • Fat: 2.5-5 g

Unflavored plant-based milk is a great alternative for individuals with milk allergy or those who prefer non-dairy options.

High-protein plant-based milk varieties include soy milk, which provides 7 g of protein. Pea milk is another great option, offering 8 grams of protein, Sarah Herrington, MS, CNC, CPT, a nutritionist for Brio-Medical and certified personal trainer, told Health.

  • Protein: 7 g (edamame), 10 g (tofu), 16 g (tempeh) per half-cup
  • Fat: 3 g (edamame), 6 g (tofu), 9 g (tempeh)

Soybean and soy products like tofu and tempeh provide protein and other nutrients and are also associated with health benefits such as cholesterol reduction and lower risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer, Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, president and CEO of KAK Nutrition Consulting and a dietitian with the Department of Wellness & Preventive Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, told Health.

Enjoy shelled, steamed soybeans as a side dish or in salads. Drain and cube tofu and pan-fry along with stir-fry vegetables and rice or noodles. Thinly slice cooked tempeh to add to sandwiches or wraps.

  • Protein: 7-8 g per 3.5 oz. canned beans (various)
  • Fat: 1-3 g

Beans pack a powerful punch: plant-based protein, gut-friendly fiber, and they can help with weight management, said Kirkpatrick. They’re also associated with a decrease in cardiovascular or heart disease risk factors.

All beans are packed with essential vitamins and minerals and can be added to a wide range of dishes. Mix kidney beans into a chili or stew recipe. Add black beans to a taco salad or breakfast burrito.

  • Protein: 9 g per 3.5 oz.
  • Fat: 0.4 g

Lentils are a type of legume, which also includes peas, soybeans, and beans. Packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients, legumes help with feelings of fullness, blood sugar management, and blood pressure control.

Toss quick-cooking lentils with chopped veggies and your favorite spices for a filling salad or simmer lentils with broth and herbs for a satisfying soup or stew.

  • Protein: 9 g per 1 cup
  • Fat: 0.4 g

Unlike the oval or kidney-shaped beans and flat, round lentils, peas are little spheres, smooth and uniform in size. While beans and lentils come in different colors, peas are either green or yellow. Steam shelled peas for a quick veggie side, or toss frozen peas into soups, stews, or rice dishes for extra protein.

  • Protein: 8 g per cup
  • Fat: 4 g

Quinoa is a plant-based protein and whole grains in one. It’s also a gluten-free grain and provides an array of vitamins and minerals, said Kirkpatrick.

Fluff up cooked quinoa and toss it into salads, veggie and legume bowls, or even breakfast parfaits for a protein and fiber boost. Cook quinoa in water or milk, and add some cinnamon, berries, and nuts for a nutritious breakfast porridge.

  • Protein: 8 g per 2 tablespoons
  • Fat: 2 g

Nuts are packed with heart-healthy fats, but for a leaner twist, reach for peanut butter powder, which is roasted peanuts made into a powder minus the oils. Like peanuts and peanut butter, peanut butter powder also provides fiber, which can help keep you full, noted Kirkpatrick.

Blend peanut butter powder in a smoothie for a creamy, nutty taste, or sprinkle it on top of yogurt with fruit and granola for a layered parfait.

  • Protein: 25 g per 3.5 oz
  • Fat: 2 g

Seitan is a plant-based food made from cooked wheat gluten (the protein in wheat). It has a savory flavor and a chewy texture and can be used in various dishes.

Simmer seitan in broth and spices for deep flavor and add it to stews, curries, or noodle bowls. Bake or broil marinated seitan for a meaty texture, perfect for fajitas, kebabs, or burgers.

  • Protein: 6 g per large egg
  • Fat: 5 g

Egg protein, found in egg whites and yolk, has been shown to protect skeletal muscle health and reduce calorie intake in the next meal. Fat, vitamins, and minerals are concentrated in the egg yolks. It’s best to eat the entire egg to get all these essential nutrients.

Although eggs contain fat and cholesterol, eating them in moderation is not associated with heart disease. Whisk eggs with spinach or other chopped veggies to make an omelet or top a salad with chopped hard-boiled eggs.

  • Protein: 27 g per 3 oz (skinless, boneless chicken breast)
  • Fat: 3 g

A component of both the Mediterranean and MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diets, chicken is a healthy source of animal-based protein, said Kirkpatrick. Chicken also provides a good amount of certain B vitamins and minerals like selenium and phosphorus.

Choose lean cuts of chicken, such as skinless chicken breast or tenderloin, and trim visible fat.
Bake or grill chicken for a healthy protein boost, then add them to a grain and veggie salad, stir-fries, or wraps for a balanced meal.

  • Protein: 26 g per 3 oz. (light meat)
  • Fat: 2 g

Turkey provides protein and nutrients and is especially high in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body make chemicals that tell your brain it’s time to sleep, noted Herrington. Turkey deli slices can be added to salads, wraps, and sandwiches. Roast whole turkey breasts in the oven or slow-cook with spices and herbs, then serve with vegetables or sweet potato. Fresh turkey is usually higher in protein compared to deli sliced turkey and light meat is leaner than dark meat.

  • Protein: 22 g per 3.5 oz.
  • Fat: 4 g

Certain cuts of pork are lean, making them excellent sources of protein without excessive fat. These cuts include pork tenderloin and pork loin. Besides protein, pork provides a good amount of certain B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.

Avoid frying pork and choose healthier cooking methods like baking, grilling, or poaching to retain leanness. Bake a lean pork tenderloin with Brussels sprouts and potatoes for a complete meal. Combine leftover pork with black beans, corn, shredded lettuce, cilantro, lime juice, and avocado for a flavorful and satisfying salad.

  • Protein: 23 g per 3.5 oz
  • Fat: 2-6 g

Certain cuts of beef are a lean protein source, like round steak and top loin, noted Valdez. Beef also offers valuable nutrients like iron, zinc, and B vitamins.

Avoid deep frying beef and opt for healthier ways to cook like grilling, baking, and sautéing. Round steak can be added to a pasta dish or served with roasted vegetables and potatoes. Eye of round steak is especially great for stews, soup, or other dishes requiring cubed steak, said Valdez.

  • Protein: 22-25 g per 3.5 oz
  • Fat: 0.5-1 g

Perfect for tuna salad and tuna rolls, tuna provides B-complex vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, selenium, phosphorous, and essential fats, said Valdez. Canned light tuna packed in water, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna are low in fat and deliver over 20 g of protein. Besides tuna sandwiches and salads, toss tuna with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives, on leafy greens for a refreshing salad.

  • Protein: 17-19 g per 3 oz
  • Fat: 4-5 g

Salmon provides protein, heart-healthy omega-3 fat, and various nutrients. However, some varieties are leaner compared to others, noted Herrington. For example, farmed Atlantic and king salmon contain about twice the fat as sockeye and wild salmon.

Salmon can be grilled, broiled, baked, or air-fried. Dress it up with simple flavors like lemon, salt, and pepper, or get creative with spices. Flake it on salads, pair it with rice, or add it on top of whole-grain and avocado toast.

  • Protein: 12-20 g per 3.5 oz
  • Fat: 0.4-1.7 g

While salmon and tuna are known for their high omega-3 content, other fish still provide omega-3, protein, and nutrients. Lean varieties include white-colored fish like haddock, pollock, and tilapia. Make fish tacos with grilled or air-fried fish, shredded cabbage, red onion, avocado, pico de gallo, sliced radishes, and cilantro.

  • Protein: 20 g per 3.5 oz
  • Fat: 0.5 g

Shrimp is a good source of protein and nutrients like vitamin B12, phosphorus, and choline. It’s low in fat and the majority of it is healthy omega-3.

Pre-cooked shrimp, chilled, with a light cocktail sauce, is a simple way to enjoy shrimp, said Herrington. Stir-fry shrimp with veggies, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and grated ginger and serve over rice or toss with pasta and spring vegetables for a comforting meal.

  • Protein: 25-43 g per 3.5 oz
  • Fat: 0.9-6 g

The world of pasta has expanded far beyond traditional wheat-based options. Today’s varieties include high-protein options made from plant proteins like edamame, lentils, and chickpeas.

High-protein pastas come in different varieties, each with a unique taste and texture, so experiment to find the one that suits you. Blend chopped tomatoes or roasted veggies with garlic, herbs like basil or oregano, and a squeeze of lemon juice for an easy flavorful sauce to go with your pasta.

  • Protein: 5 g per slice
  • Fat: 0.5-2 g

High-protein bread is an effortless way to add extra protein to your diet, especially when you’re in a hurry or don’t feel like cooking. You can enjoy it in a simple sandwich or as toast.

These breads increase their protein content by adding protein-rich ingredients like seeds and legumes. Look out for brands that offer 5 g or more protein per slice.

  • Protein: 15 g per serving (1/2 cup dry mix)
  • Fat: 2-2.5 g

Protein pancake mixes can be easily incorporated into your morning routine. All you have to do is add water to the mix. Whey and/or pea protein boost the protein in these protein pancake mixes. Pair your protein-powered pancakes with nutritious toppings like nuts, fruits, or yogurt.

  • Protein: 11-15 g per serving (1.25-1.33 cup)
  • Fat: 1.5-1.7 g

Whey protein, pea protein, or soy protein are commonly added to high-protein cereals, boosting the protein levels. They can vary widely in their ingredients and nutritional makeup but look for those bearing protein on the label. Compare nutrition facts labels and opt for those with more fiber and fewer added sugars.

Power up your cereal with high-protein milk and add fruit, nuts, or seeds to increase fiber and healthy fat.

  • Protein: 26 g per 39 g whey protein, 19 g per 22 g pea protein
  • Fat: 2 g

Whether you prefer plant-based or animal-based protein powder, it’s best used as a supplement to a diet rich in whole protein foods like lean meats, eggs, and legumes. Choose powders with 3 g of fat or less per serving and avoid those with added sugars and artificial sweeteners. Blend protein powder with water or milk and smoothie ingredients for a convenient nutrition boost.

Individual recommendations for macronutrient intake vary widely and depend on factors like age, weight, activity level, and medical conditions.

Protein recommendations are 10-35% of calories and a recommended daily intake of 0.8 g per kilogram (kg) of body weight is the minimum to prevent deficiencies. However, research shows that a daily intake of 1.2 g/kg slows down age-related muscle and bone loss. Other studies report that healthy adults can tolerate a daily intake of 2 g/kg or more.

Recommended fat intake is 20-35% of daily calories and for carbs is 45-65% of daily calories. Consult a healthcare provider like a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.

From lean meat and eggs to legumes and protein-rich breakfast carbs, these foods deliver essential nutrients without weighing you down. Center your meals around protein and make sure to have protein-rich snacks as well, even if it’s just a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt. Variety is important for nutrition and keeping your taste buds happy, so mix up your meals with different protein options.