No matter what your wellness goals are — weight loss, weight management or weight gain — nutrition is important. In fact, it’s 80 percent of the wellness puzzle while exercise accounts for about 20 percent. Now, we aren’t saying that you shouldn’t exercise, but when it comes to reaching your goals, the foods you put into your body should be your primary focus.
The best way to lose weight is by focussing on high-protein, low-carb foods. This gives your body the energy it needs and forces you to be more mindful of the high-calorie ingredients you’re adding to your diet, e.g. oatmeal, multigrain bread, bananas, sweet potatoes, rice, legumes. Sure most of those ingredients are healthy, but like most things, they should be enjoyed in moderation.
Don’t worry, we aren’t saying, “No more bananas and sweet potatoes!” We also aren’t telling you that you should go keto or ultra low-carb. It’s all about being more mindful of the macronutrient balance in your meals and any unnecessary added ingredients (i.e. sugars, artificial flavors, sodium, etc.).
How much protein should I consume?
Your suggested daily protein intake varies based on your goals, activity level, age, current muscle mass and current status of health. The minimum amount you need to prevent malnutrition and illness is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 g/lb) according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). However, we must mention that this RDA number was originally developed to prevent malnutrition and that the amount of protein you need to survive is different from the amount you need for optimal health and performance.
According to the RDA, a 30-year-old woman who weighs 80 kilograms (176 lb), would need 64 grams of protein per day to prevent malnutrition. The equation for this is 80 kg x 0.8 g = 64 g.This number is likely too low for this individual because the RDA equation doesn’t account for age, muscle mass or activity level. Sedentary, relatively healthy adults might be fine with 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, but endurance runners or strength training athletes will require more protein to fuel their muscles and power their workouts.
Here are our recommendations:
- Sedentary lifestyle: 11-15% of daily calories from protein
- Someone who exercises regularly: 15-20% of daily calories from protein
- Competitive athlete: 20% of daily calories from protein
- Bodybuilders: 35% of daily calories from protein, or around 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight
High-protein food list
To get the protein you need, there are a number of lean, low-carb proteins you should incorporate into your meals. The most obvious high-protein foods include:
- Nuts and seeds
Protein foods list for weight loss
The list of great high-protein, low-carb food sources goes on. Let’s break it down by common 8fit meal plans — standard, vegetarian and vegan (also suitable for plant-based foodies). First up, the standard, omnivore diet.
These sources of protein are great to incorporate into your diet if you want to lose weight, but also work for weight management and weight or muscle gain:
- Beef: A 4-ounce strip steak has about 25 g of protein. Opt for organic, grass-fed beef it’s accessible to you because it’s naturally leaner and free of hormones.
- Pork: The same 4-ounce serving of pork has about 24 g of protein and fewer calories than beef. The best cut of pork is lean, pork tenderloin.
- Chicken: Perfect the cook on your chicken breast and you’ll have a go-to high-protein dish for life. A 3-ounce piece of lean chicken breast has about 25 g of protein.
- Turkey: Turkey is a versatile animal-based protein that is high in omega-3 fats. Skip the deli counter and grab unprocessed turkey breast instead. You’ll get 16 g of protein in a 4-ounce ground turkey burger (like our Greek Turkey Burger pictured below).
- Eggs: This inexpensive, high-protein food is high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. One large egg contains about 6 g of protein.
- Salmon: Fish like salmon is a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving has about 17 g of protein. Choose wild, fresh salmon if possible.
- Halibut: Like salmon, go for wild halibut if it’s accessible to you. It has just about the same amount of protein as salmon (16 g in a 3-ounce cut), but fewer calories.
- Canned tuna: Get 16 g of protein in 3 ounces of canned tuna. As with most packaged foods, we suggest opting for versions without additives — in tuna’s case, that means choosing an unsalted version canned in water instead of oil.
High-protein vegetarian foods
Vegetarians can eat off protein-rich foods off of this list and the plant-based list in the section below.
- Mozzarella cheese: Go ahead, have some mozzarella. A 1-ounce serving has about 7 g of protein and only 1 g of carbs. Buy high-quality, fresh mozzarella when possible.
- Greek yogurt: Plain, low-fat Chobani includes 17 g of protein per serving. Add some nuts and fruit for added fat, fiber, and protein.
- Ricotta cheese: A ½ cup-serving of ricotta cheese has 14 g of protein and 6 g of carbohydrates, making it a great low-carb, high protein food to stir into pasta, scramble into eggs or to serve with fruit.
High-protein vegan foods
This list of foods is suitable for plant-based foodies and vegans alike. We’ll explain the difference real quick: If you follow a plant-based diet, you eliminate all animal-based proteins from your diet. Veganism, on the other hand, is deeply rooted in animal rights and is centered around eliminating all animal products from diets and everyday life including fur, wool, silk, honey, and products tested on animals.
Here are some great high-protein foods that are suitable for all diets, especially the plant-based ones:
- Spinach: There’s a reason why Popeye ate so much of this stuff. A single cup of cooked spinach has only 41 calories and 5 g of protein.
- Black beans: A great source of plant-based protein and fiber, black beans have 15 g protein per 1 cup serving.
- Seitan: Seitan is a low-carb, high-protein food made from wheat and a 2.5-ounce serving has 4 g of carbs and about 17 g of protein.
- Tofu: Tofu packed with nutrients and a 4-ounce serving contains around 8 g of complete protein and only 2 g of carbs depending on the variety you buy (silky, firm, extra firm, etc.).
- Peas: Peas are a great way to add protein and a healthy dose of carbohydrates to your meals. Cook 1 cup of peas and get 8 g of protein.
- Edamame: A 1-cup serving has 14 g of carbs, 18 g of protein and a whole lot of fiber and iron.
- Pistachios: A ½ cup serving of shelled pistachios have 6 g of protein. Opt for an un- or lightly salted version. Add pistachios to your diet with our Turmeric Latte.
- Almonds: ¼ cup of almonds contains about 8 g of carbs and 8 g of protein. Combine almonds with a small serving of fruit for the perfect pre- or post-workout snack.
- Pumpkin seeds: A handful of pumpkin seeds — or ¼ cup — has about 4 g of carbs and 8 g of protein. Next time you’re looking for a snack, try our Rosemary Garlic Popcorn and Pumpkin Seeds recipe.
Interested in high-protein, low-carb meals? Sign up for 8fit to get your customized meal plan today.