High-Protein Meals: Benefits and Food Options

Are you interested in boosting your body's ability to gain muscle mass and burn fat? High-protein meals that contain foods like chicken and lentils are an ideal solution.


High-protein meals build muscle, and they help your body burn fat more efficiently. You can create these meals by including more proteins in your eating plan. That includes animal products like beef, ground turkey, feta cheese, chicken and eggs. And if you follow a plant-based diet, choose protein-rich foods like garbanzo beans, tofu, tempeh, lentils and peanut butter. 

If your current diet isn’t giving you the results you want, you may want to think about adding high-protein meals to your eating plan.   

Protein is an essential building block for good health. And high-protein meals can benefit your fitness journey in helpful ways. Fortunately, it’s easy to include more protein in your diet. 

In this article, we will:

  • Explain what a high-protein meal is, and list a typical macro
  • Discuss some benefits of high-protein meals
  • List animal-based proteins to add to your diet
  • Provide plant-based protein foods to include in your meal plan
  • Share insight regarding the maximum amount of protein you should eat each day
  • List high-protein recipes you can add to your diet

What is a high-protein meal?

A high-protein meal is one that’s rich in protein. Many people think protein comes exclusively from animal-based foods like chicken breast or an egg omelet, but in truth, your options are a lot more varied. There are excellent vegetarian protein foods to consider, and they provide just as many benefits as animal-based options. 

When it comes to protein meals, if you want to tip the scales in your favor, you’ll need to consider the balance of your macronutrients. Macronutrients are also known as macros, and they consist of three groups: protein, fat and carbohydrates. 

So, what does the macro of a high-protein meal look like? The typical macro for this type of meal calls for 20 percent or more of the meal’s total calories to come from protein. You can reach this macro by including more protein-rich foods in each of your meals. 

Benefits of high-protein meals

There are excellent reasons for adding more protein to your eating plan. Here are some essential benefits of high-protein meals:

Benefit #1: High-protein meals help curb your appetite

As we’ve mentioned, there are three macronutrients: protein, fat and carbs. Your body responds to each of these in different ways. Research shows that of the three, protein is the most filling. It can reduce hunger and curb your appetite.

Why is this the case? Studies show protein suppresses the body’s production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Additionally, protein ramps up the production of peptide YY, a hormone that promotes satiety. 

Benefit #2: High-protein meals boost strength and muscle mass

Whether you’re talking about vegetarian protein like chia seeds and nut butter or animal protein like beef and ground turkey, research shows these foods have one thing in common: They support strength and muscle-building. This means protein foods provide essential support if you’re looking to pump up your biceps at the gym. And if your muscle mass has decreased due to aging, protein foods can help reverse the decline. 

Studies show that increased protein intake — combined with resistance training — can bring significant gains in strength and muscle mass. And if your goal is weight loss, research shows that adding more high-protein meals to your eating plan can help you maintain lean body mass on your fitness journey. 

Benefit #3: High-protein meals help your body burn fat more efficiently

Your body burns calories as food is digested. This is called the thermic effect of food. But not all foods have the same thermic effect.

Research shows protein burns more calories than fat or carbs. So, if you’re looking to shed body fat, eating more protein foods will support your effort. 

A 2002 study compared a high-protein low-fat diet with a high-fat low-carb diet. The data shows that those on the high-protein low-fat diet burned more energy. And a 2021 study shows that a high-protein total diet replacement led to more fat loss than a conventional diet. 

Benefit #4: High-protein meals support healthy weight loss 

We’ve established that high-protein meals can curb your appetite and help your body burn fat more efficiently. So it’s not surprising that these meals support healthy weight loss. 

1999 clinical trial looked at the effect of two diets on obese participants: high-protein low-fat and high-carb low-fat. The data shows that those consuming lean protein from the high-protein low-fat diet lost more weight than those on the other eating plan. 

Animal-based proteins

Are you interested in raising the protein content of your diet? If so, consider using these animal-based foods to create high-protein meals. We’ve included the protein each food contains per serving:

  • Eggs — about 6 grams (1 egg)
  • Ground turkey — about 22 grams (1 patty)
  • Lean beef — about 22 grams (3 oz)
  • Chicken breast — about 27 grams (0.5 breast, bone and skin removed)
  • Lean pork chops — about 52 grams (1 chop)
  • Tuna — about 43 grams (0.5 fillet)
  • Salmon — about 40 grams (0.5 fillet)
  • Grated parmesan cheese — about 11 grams (1 oz)
  • Greek yogurt — about 17 grams (1 container)
  • Whey protein powder (isolate) — about 25 grams (28 g or one level scoop)
  • Cottage cheese — about 25 grams (1 cup)
  • Feta cheese — about 21 grams (1 cup)

Plant-based proteins

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, there are protein-rich veggie foods that fit your eating plan. Here are some plant-based foods you can use when preparing high-protein meals. We’ve included the protein each food contains per serving:

  • Firm tofu — about 20 grams (1 cup)
  • Tempeh — about 31 grams (1 cup)
  • Lentils — roughly 18 grams (1 cup) 
  • Pumpkin seeds — about 12 grams (1 cup)
  • Chia seeds — about 5 grams (1 oz)
  • Peanut butter — roughly 65 grams (1 cup)
  • Almond butter — about 52 grams (1 cup) 
  • Pea protein powder — about 27 grams (2 scoops)
  • Garbanzo beans — about 39 grams (1 cup)
  • Black beans — about 16 grams (1 cup)
  • Quinoa — about 8 grams (1 cup)
  • Spinach — about 1 gram (1 cup)
  • Broccoli — roughly 2.5 grams (1 cup)
  • Brussels sprouts — about 3 grams (1 cup) 
  • Cauliflower — about 16 grams (1 large head)
  • Spirulina — about 4 grams (1 tablespoon)
  • Tomato — about 1.6 grams (1 large whole)
  • Brown rice — about 5 grams (1 cup)
  • Zucchini noodles — about 1.4 grams (1 cup)
  • Sweet potato — about 2 grams (1 potato)

How much protein is too much? 

Protein is vital for good health. But if you consume excessive amounts of this nutrient, it can be harmful. According to Harvard Medical School, diets that have excessive levels of protein have been linked with a higher risk of kidney stones. 

Also, if you consume lots of protein derived from red meat, the saturated fat that this food contains could increase your risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Fortunately, plant-based high-protein meals don’t carry this risk. 

Right now, the recommended amount of protein is no more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. That works out to a maximum of 125 grams of protein per day for a person who weighs 140 pounds. 

Recipes for high-protein meals

Mediterranean Protein Bowls

Next steps

If you want a simple way to add more high-protein meals that include foods like steak and ground turkey to your diet, subscribe to Fresh N Lean. With our Protein+ meal plan, you can have protein-rich food delivered to your front door.

Each healthy meal on our menu is chef-prepared and dietician-approved, and it’s made with wholesome, organic ingredients. Sign up today and enjoy the convenience of having nutrient-dense high-protein meals shipped to your home or office. 

Fresh N Lean is the nation’s largest organic meal delivery service. Our tasty, chef-prepared cuisine is always fresh and never frozen, and we offer convenient meal plans like Protein+, Keto, Paleo, Standard Vegan and Mediterranean. Choose Fresh N Lean for affordable nutrition, delivered to your doorstep.