Protein-Rich Snacks That Aren’t Protein Bars
Not getting enough protein in your diet? Start eating more high-protein snacks! Here are 10 nutrient-dense snacks that are delicious and easy to make.
Snacking is almost unavoidable, especially when you're at home bored or stressed at work or school! But having snacks doesn't mean they have to be unhealthy. In fact, you should aim to have healthy snacks that are packed with nutrients your body needs, like protein. Protein is one of the hardest macronutrients people struggle getting enough of, but it’s an important one. You might be thinking, "well, I can just have a protein bar or protein shake?". Yes, that's true, both are great ways to boost your protein intake... But your main focus should be fueling up with whole foods first, and reach for that convenient protein bar when you really need it!
With that being said, we've put together a list of 10 healthy high protein snacks that will satisfy your taste buds, are high in protein content, and unlike a bag of potato chips, they will help you live a healthier life, and help with your gains and weight loss goals! But, before we dive in, let's tell you why you should even add these snacks into your diet...
Why should you eat high-protein snacks?
Reaching for your usual snacks, like crackers or a small bag of chips, might not be calorie-dense, but they certainly aren't nutrient-dense. The typical snack tends to be processed and highly palatable, meaning it's appetizing and tasty which often leads to overeating. They also can leave you feeling sluggish, which is not what you want if you're working or getting ready to do your Fit With Iulia workout!
However, snacks high in protein can help boost your energy levels and keep your blood sugars leveled, which means no spikes and drops that leave you feeling sluggish! Also if you have fitness goals you want to achieve, getting a daily adequate protein intake is what helps build, repair, and maintain muscle. So, those that are strength training to build muscle need to pay extra attention to their macros, especially protein. But not only those who want to build muscle need to eat enough protein… Also, those who are working out for weight loss! Protein helps reduce the level of ghrelin (the hunger hormone), keeps you satiated which leads to fewer cravings, and can help boost your metabolism.
That's why having mindful, nutrient-dense snacks around the house or at work is a good idea. It'll help satisfy your cravings and feed your body with an essential macronutrient, it's a win-win! This isn't the only thing you should be doing to make sure you have enough protein to support your goals... Calculate your macros! Calculating your macros will help you determine how much protein (calories, carbs, and fats too) for your particular body type and fitness goals. Then you can start getting a better idea of what to eat not only your meals but your snacks too. Plus, calculating and tracking your macros might make you realize that you might not be getting as much protein as you thought, and that's when our protein-filled snacks come in handy!
10 Healthy High Protein Snacks
We put together a list of high protein foods and combined them with other important nutrients you need like healthy fats, carbs, vitamins to make a delectable, healthy snack! Everyone has different preferences so instead of giving you exact recipes to follow, we'll give you suggestions on how to make sure it has enough protein, and what other ingredients you can include that way you can create it any way you want! Also, they're easy to make so they can be made on the spot or leave them prepped so it's easier for you to reach for them instead of that protein bar in your desk drawer.
The term "superfood" is often thrown around and used for any healthy food, which can make those foods seem less super - Chia seeds are one that holds up to its name, here's why...
These tiny seeds are a complete protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and other important minerals like iron and zinc. The best part is, you don't need massive amounts of it to get enough protein. Just two tablespoons contain 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, and around 9 grams of fat (5 of which are omega-3)! 🤯
You can easily add two tablespoons of chia seeds to your post-workout protein shakes, or make a hearty snack out of it like a chia pudding! We love chia pudding because there are so many different ways you can make it, so you can always change it up and try something new!
What you need:
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds: You can do 3-4 if you want/need more protein.
- Milk of your choice: We suggest trying it with almond milk or coconut milk for a creamier texture! Although we think plant milk goes best with it, it's up to you so use what you like!
- Mix-ins: You can add cocoa powder, cinnamon, honey, vanilla extract, or any other flavorings you like to help sweeten up the base.
- Toppings of your choice: This is the fun part, and also the part where you can increase the protein or add some carbs to the mix. You can add fruit (berries and banana are commonly used), coconut shavings, peanut butter, crushed almonds, hemp seeds, or flax seeds.
Directions: Add two tablespoons into a mason jar or container filled with 1/2 cup (add more if using more chia seeds) of the milk of your choice. Stir it, and then add any of your mix-ins (not toppings), and stir again until everything is mixed well. Leave in the fridge for up to an hour to let the chia seeds soak, but if you have time leave it longer or for best results, overnight. Once it's ready, add your toppings and enjoy!
Energy bites, also known as energy balls, are a trendy healthy homemade snack for good reason. They're easy to make, you can easily pack a few to-go and have them as a pre-workout snack, or have a few after dinner as a little protein-rich dessert! Plus, they're customizable to your taste! There are a few combos you can try, so what you'll need really depends on what you like. You can combine dried fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, or even add legumes like chickpeas! Chickpeas might sound like a weird ingredient to use in a sweet snack, but it's often used in combination with other ingredients like peanut butter, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, and more, to make a tasty chocolate chip "cookie dough".
There are many ways to make these tiny energy bites, so look around your pantry for inspiration, combine your favorite healthy ingredients, and bake them or throw them in the fridge (depending on what you use)!
Hummus and veggies
Something as simple as cutting up some veggies and having a dip like hummus can really help increase your protein and at the same time give you other vitamins you need. Hummus is typically packed with healthy ingredients like chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon, and other spices. Chickpeas are where this dip gets most of its protein and fiber, this is the stuff that will keep you full and support your digestive tract!
Although making your own hummus is ideal, most don't have the time! You can always prep some on the weekends, but one from the grocery store will do the trick! Just remember to look at the ingredients list to make sure there aren't any added sugars or other ingredients you might not like. Depending on what kind of hummus you get, a 1/3 cup serving (82 grams) contains up to 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber!
What you need:
- 1/3 cup of your favorite hummus: A serving size is two tablespoons, but those two tablespoons are going to give you very little protein and won't keep you full very long. This is why we suggest 1/3 cup, if that's too much, feel free to cut it down to 1/4 cup.
- An array of vegetables: Cut up your favorite vegetables! We suggest baby carrots, red bell pepper slices (packed with vitamin C), or cucumber slices.
Directions: Have your veggies cut and prepped, and hummus portioned into 1/3 cup servings. That way you can put them in a container and have it ready for you in the fridge to just grab and snack!
Greek yogurt with fruit
Any kind of yogurt makes for an ideal high protein snack, but we specifically went with greek yogurt because there are some slight differences between its counterpart, low-fat yogurt. Regular yogurt typically has fewer calories, less protein, and slightly more calcium. Greek yogurt has more protein (20 grams per cup), less sugar, and a creamier texture. Either way, both types are packed with probiotics, high in calcium, and are a great source of protein!
Greek yogurt has almost as much, if not more, protein than processed protein snacks, but they provide your body with better nutrients that keep your digestive health in top shape and improve your bone health! Plus, it's delicious, filling, and easy to prep!
What you need:
- One cup of Greek yogurt: Pick a plain yogurt to avoid unnecessary sugar and preservatives.
- Healthy and delicious toppings: We suggest a handful of granola, berries, and cinnamon to boost the antioxidant properties. But this is your chance to get creative, you know your taste buds so go with stuff you like! You can add fruit on top, honey, chia seeds, coconut shavings, granola (preferably one with not too many added sugars), nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, etc.
Directions: Add one cup of yogurt in a container, add your toppings, and enjoy! If you're prepping, store it in an airtight container to enjoy later at work or home.
Sometimes you need a healthy salty snack to satisfy your cravings! Mixed nuts are a great choice, but it's good to switch up your snacks to make sure you don't get bored with them. That's when edamame beans come in! These are immature soybeans that are high in protein, vitamins, minerals, and make for a quick savory snack! One cup (155g) can contain up to 17 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat and fiber, and very little carbs and sugar compared to other salty snacks. They also contain other nutrients and almost half of your daily need for vitamin K!
What you need:
- One cup of edamame beans: Many grocery stores have them pre-cooked or frozen.
- Spices and seasonings of your choice: You can keep it simple and add some sea salt or really enhance the flavor by adding other seasonings like garlic, coconut aminos, chili powder. There are so many ways to enhance the flavor!
Directions: Boil the edamame for 5-10 minutes, drain, and let cool. You can either leave the beans in the pods or not. Either way, once they're cooled sprinkle them with sea salt or other spices and enjoy! If you really want to spice it up, after boiling them, cook the beans on a stovetop with some olive oil, crushed garlic, and sea salt and saute for a few minutes until it's cooked to your desire.
Homemade trail mix
Upgrade your handful of nuts with a filling homemade trail mix! Can you buy trail mix at the store? Yes, but sometimes they have way too much sugar and less of the stuff you need - Protein. Making your own at home will allow you to customize it at home with better options like including more nuts that are higher in protein like almonds, pistachios, cashews, or seeds like pumpkin seeds (they have a good amount of protein and magnesium). It will also allow you to control the amount of added sugar, instead of using milk chocolate and sweetened dried fruit, you can use dark chocolate chips, yogurt chips, coconut shavings, and chopped dates or raisins. Depending on what you add, a 2-ounce serving can provide you with 8 grams of protein!
What you need:
- 3 nuts or seeds of your choice: We suggest using almonds, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds. We suggest making it in bulk that way you can grab and go, so use about 1/2 cup per nut.
- Add-ins: Use any of the add-ins we listed above! Just be mindful of the serving, especially if using dried fruits and dark chocolate chips or yogurt chips. Our suggestion is to use two tablespoons of add-ins of your choice.
Directions: Combine the nuts of your choice with your add-ins and store them in an airtight container. If you want to enhance it, roast the nuts at 400 degrees for 10 minutes to get a toasted flavor.
Nut butter with an apple or banana
Fruit is nature's candy and makes for a very refreshing and tasty snack, but unfortunately, they contain little to no protein. One way to increase the protein, and healthy fats, for your daily fruit needs, is by adding nut butter! Let's look at peanut and almond butter for example. Two tablespoons of almond butter have 7 g protein, 6 g carbs, 17 g fat. Peanut butter has 7 g protein, 7 g carbs, and 16 g fat. Most nut butter contains around the same amount of protein, and also contains B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin E, and trace minerals!
What you need:
- Two tablespoons of almond or peanut butter: Look for raw almond butter or peanut butter with no sugar added.
- An apple or banana: We chose these fruits because they pair the best with nut butter, and have other important nutrients! Like apples contain a lot of fiber and antioxidants that help improve gut health. Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin C and B-6!
Directions: Slice or cut your desired fruit and serve with a side of two tablespoons of your choice of nut butter. You can even add a little honey and cinnamon to boost the flavor!
Quinoa is known for being a superfood due to it being one of the few plant foods that contain a sufficient amount of all nine essential amino acids. Plus, it's high in protein, fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, antioxidants, and more. However, quinoa is an acquired taste... But we have an unconventional way you can enjoy this gluten-free superfood – adding a touch of sweetness and toasting it!
What you need:
- 1/3 cup of quinoa
- A tablespoon of healthy mix-ins: Some good sweet combos you can use are shredded coconut, ground flaxseed, chopped nuts, maple syrup, honey, cinnamon, and coconut oil.
Directions: Mix the quinoa with your favorite healthy add-ins and then toast them in the oven at about 400-425 degrees for 10 minutes. You can use it as a yogurt topping, mix it in with your homemade trail mix, or eat it by itself!
Roll-ups, not fruit candy, are a nutritious savory snack that can be made in many different ways! They typically consist of slices of turkey breast (or other deli meats), cheese, and veggies. They're essentially a sandwich minus the bread, so it's naturally low-carb and gluten-free! Depending on what deli slices you use, and whether you use cheese or not, one wrap can provide you with up to 5 grams of protein.
Have fun with it! Most people just roll up some turkey, cheese, and call it a day. Spice it up with some cucumbers, spinach, bell peppers, to add some color, flavor, and fiber!
What you need:
- 3-4 slices of sliced turkey: Depending on the type of turkey breast you get, 3-4 slices usually contain about 9-10 grams of protein. This will make you 2-3 wraps, so use as many slices you need for however many wraps you want to make.
- 2 slices of cheese or dairy-free cheese: You don't need cheese, but it can increase your protein!
- Spread: Instead of mayonnaise, use basil pesto, hummus, or mashed avocado! These ingredients are even tastier than mayo and will give your body better nutrients.
- Veggies: Use any you like, and don't skimp on them! Use lettuce leaves or cucumber slices to wrap up everything. Use thinly sliced bell peppers, tomatoes, or any other veggies you'd like.
Directions: Grab your base, so lettuce or cucumber, and place it on a stable surface. Spread your hummus, pesto, or mashed avocado. Add the cheese on top of the spread, then your deli slices. Top them with your veggies and wrap it up neatly - Use a toothpick so it holds up!
Cottage cheese toast
Cottage cheese is known for being high in protein, that's exactly why it's on this list! Half a cup contains 14 grams of protein, and is rich in other nutrients including calcium! Although you can eat cottage cheese by itself or with some fruit mixed in, we wanted to elevate this protein-rich food by including whole-grain toast and other toppings that not only enhance the flavor but make your snack more nutrient-dense.
This cottage cheese toast can be made in various ways - Sweet or savory! So feel free to mix things up, on days you're craving something sweet use sweet toppings, and vice versa.
What you need:
- Half a cup of cottage cheese: It can be any kind, just make sure it's plain.
- Bread: We suggest a whole-grain bread, but you can use any.
- Sweet toppings: The two fruits we think that go best are peaches or berries. Drizzle some honey or cinnamon on top for a hint of sweetness.
- Savory toppings: There are various options to choose from! We think sliced avocados, cucumbers, or tomatoes go best, and don't forget to add some seasoning!
Directions: Add half a cup of cottage cheese and spread it evenly on your toast. If half a cup is too much for your toast just leave it on the side and eat with leftover toppings. Add your toppings, and enjoy!
Having homemade nutrient-dense snacks like the ones listed above will help you when those pesky cravings kick in (if they do, here are 5 ways to fight off cravings) or when you just need a snack to get you through the day! While at the same time boosting your protein intake and providing your body with other nutrients that processed protein snacks can't. This doesn't mean you should give up all protein powders and bars, in fact, protein powder can be very helpful for post-workout. It's just best to prioritize whole foods over processed foods, and most people eat healthy nutritious meals, but neglect to do the same with their snacks. Mindful snacking will lead to fewer cravings, better health, and better gains 💪