Protein isn’t just any old nutrient; it’s your body’s secret weapon for growth, repair, and overall vitality.
Think of it as the superhero of nutrition, the essential element that fuels your body’s cells, muscles, enzymes, hormones, and more.
Imagine feeling full and satisfied while fuelling your body with less energy. That’s the magic of high-protein foods.
A higher protein % (i.e. more protein, with less energy) tends to align with greater satiety. But first, you need to build the foundation of your diet with foods with high protein content.
So, if you find yourself falling short on protein, it’s time to focus on protein-rich foods that pack in more protein per serving.
Once you’re ready to expand your culinary horizons, you can explore our printable PDF high-protein-diet food lists here.
- Why is Protein Per Serving Important?
- High-Protein Meat
- High Protein Seafood
- High-Protein Dairy & Egg
- High-Protein Legumes, Grains, Beans, Nuts & Seeds
- Food Protein Charts
- How Much Protein Should I Eat Per Day?
- Should I Be Concerned About Getting “Too Much Protein”?
- Should I Use Protein Powders to Increase My Protein?
- High Protein Foods Lists
Why is Protein Per Serving Important?
Unfortunately, most food labels and lists simplistically show protein per standardised 100 g serving.
But comparing 100 g of radically different foods like watercress is ridiculous! No one eats 100 g of watercress — you’d literally explode before you could consume the 18 kg (40 lbs) or 360 litres (95 gallons) you’d need to get enough energy from watercress. Meanwhile, most people will eat more than 100 g of steak and get a meaningful amount of energy and protein.
That’s where protein per serving comes into play!
Over the past five years, we’ve gathered half a million food entries from our Optimisers, so we know how much of the most popular foods we eat in one go. This knowledge allows us to calculate the average serving size and, thus, protein per serving.
Why is this important? Because it helps you pinpoint the foods that deliver the protein you need in the amounts we typically eat them.
So, if you want to level up your higher-protein diet game, forget the generic serving sizes and focus on our real-world servings, which will empower you to make informed choices to get the protein you need!
Lean meats are a great source of bioavailable protein in substantial quantities. Our Optimisers tend to get more of their protein from animal-based protein sources than any of the other food groups.
- turkey breast – 82 g/260 g serve
- ribeye steak – 69 g/220 g serve
- lamb roast – 56 g/205 g serve
- ground beef (lean) – 54 g/120 g serve
- sirloin steak – 53 g/185 g serve
- pork chops- 53 g/190 g serve
- chicken breast – 47 g/110 g serve
- pork steak – 45 g/140 g serve
- liver – 40 g/115 g serve
- leg ham – 39 g/150 g serve
High Protein Seafood
Not everyone’s favourite, but seafood is a treasure trove of protein and elusive micronutrients.
- salmon (farmed) – 40 g/165 g serve
- cod – 40 g/150 g serve
- snapper – 39 g/120 g serve
- tilapia – 31 g/115 g serve
- tuna – 25 g/95 g serve
- mackerel – 23 g/90 g serve
- shrimp/prawns – 22 g/80 g serve
- mussels – 19 g/75 g serve
- oyster – 17 g/165 g serve
- scallops – 15 g/65 g serve
High-Protein Dairy & Egg
Dairy products aren’t just about calcium; they’re also a fantastic source of protein.
- Greek yogurt – 15 g/130 g serve
- goat cheese – 14 g/45 g serve
- egg – 14 g/95 g serve
- Jarlsberg cheese – 13 g/45 g serve
- Swiss cheese – 13 g/40 g serve
- cottage cheese – 13 g/90 g serve
- Edam cheese – 12 g/40 g serve
- egg whites – 11 g/90 g serve
- mozzarella – 11 g/45 g serve
- cheddar cheese – 10 g/45 g serve
High-Protein Legumes, Grains, Beans, Nuts & Seeds
Plant-based foods may have a lower protein percentage and bioavailability, but with some extra effort, you can still get protein on a plant-based diet.
- natto – 20 g/100 g serve
- lentils – 13 g/125 g serve
- lupini – 11 g/65 g serve
- peanuts – 10 g/35 g serve
- oatmeal (steel cut) – 10 g/75 g serve
- whole wheat bread – 9 g/70 g serve
- pasta – 8 g/130 g serve
- pistachio nuts – 7 g/30 g serve
- peanut butter – 6 g/25 g serve
- almonds – 5 g/25 g serve
Food Protein Charts
Curious how your favourite foods stack up in terms of protein? Dive into our dynamic chart showcasing popular foods, comparing protein % vs. protein per serving. For an immersive experience, explore the interactive Tableau version (on your computer).
Explore this chart of nutrient density vs. protein percentage to discover the most nutritious high-protein foods. Use the tabs across the top to show more foods and subsets of plant-based, animal-based protein sources and seafood.
How Much Protein Should I Eat Per Day?
The minimum amount of protein we need is a hotly debated topic.
- According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, adults need at least 0.8 g/kg body weight or 10% of total energy intake.
- The upper limit of the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range for protein has been arbitrarily set at 35% of calories based on typical intakes.
- Meanwhile, 1.0 g per lb or 2.2 g per kilo body weight is a general rule of thumb for bodybuilders who want to optimise their protein intake for muscle building.
As shown in the chart below, our analysis of 835,733 days of data shows a bliss point for protein at 12.5%, which aligns with the maximum energy intake — think ultra-processed junk food. If we get less than this, we’ll crave higher protein foods. But once we get above this, we eat less while meeting our protein needs more efficiently.
No. Most people don’t need to worry about consuming too much protein. Your appetite tightly regulates your protein intake based on your needs.
Protein is a poor energy source, so once you have the protein you need, your appetite for high-protein foods shuts down. For more details, see Can Eating Too Much Protein Kill You? The Truth About Rabbit Starvation.
As shown in the frequency distribution chart below, most people gravitate toward the tastiest, most seductive kryptonite foods that align with maximum energy intake. The average protein intake for the US and other countries where processed food is readily available is around 15%.
However, if you’re already getting enough protein and want to increase satiety to aid weight loss with less hunger, your focus needs to shift to getting the protein you need with less energy. That is a higher protein % or protein-to-energy ratio.
You might think that consuming a higher protein percentage equates with more protein. But the relationship is not that simple. There seems to be a natural limit to our protein intake that we hit at around 40% of our total energy intake.
Based on this analysis, we’ve set our Optimal Nutrient Intake for protein at 40%. Once you’re getting more than 40% of your energy from protein, it’s time to focus on ensuring you’re getting enough of the other essential nutrients from your food.
When we look at the average of all 835,733 days of data, we see that protein intake tops out at 130 g of protein. Once you push your protein above 40%, you’re not eating more protein; you’re just consuming less energy.
While the data shows trends and gives us fascinating insights about protein, there is no one-size-fits-all prescription. The amount of protein you need will depend on various factors, such as your activity levels and muscle mass.
In our Macros Masterclass, we guide our Optimisers to tweak their diet incrementally, shifting their focus from carbohydrates and fats to prioritise protein. The result? Increased satiety, eating less, and shedding unwanted pounds with less hunger and unsustainable willpower struggles. Rather than jumping to extremes, we show you how to use your current foods to achieve greater satiety.
Should I Use Protein Powders to Increase My Protein?
Protein powder is a convenient way to increase protein intake, especially if you’re active and need more protein. However, protein powders are effectively pre-digested, providing less satiety than protein-rich whole foods, not to mention less nutritious and often more expensive.
If, like most people, you’re looking to increase satiety and manage hunger, whole-food protein sources will be a better option most of the time. For more on the pros and cons of protein powders, check out The Best Protein Powder for You: A Comprehensive Guide.
NutriBooster Recipe Books
Looking for recipes that make nutrient-rich protein foods a star player in your meals? Download samples of our high-protein NutriBooster recipe books:
Before you go, grab our printable PDF high-protein-diet food lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.
Once you get adequate protein and want to increase satiety for weight loss, you can focus on increasing your protein percentage with our protein-rich foods.
If you’re looking to fine-tune that delicate balance between protein and energy, don’t miss our exclusive Macros Masterclass.
- Protein Power: Visualizing 30g in Everyday Foods
- Get the Most Nutrients for Your Money: How to Eat a Nutritious Diet on a Budget
- Nutrient-Dense Meals and Recipes: Eat Better, Feel Better
- Foods That Keep You Feeling Full: The Ultimate List of High-Satiety-Index Foods
- The Best Protein Powder for You: A Comprehensive Guide
- Can Eating Too Much Protein Kill You? The Truth About Rabbit Starvation
- NutriBooster Recipe Books
- Macros Masterclass