Following a high protein diet is a step towards supporting your overall health and longevity. Whenever you’re starting a new diet plan, it can be tricky to figure out what to eat that’s both tasty, filling, and healthy. On top of that, dinner can be one of the most challenging meals. After a long day, the last thing many of us want to do is cook. Are you looking for tasty, high protein dinner ideas that are healthy? You’ve come to the right place.
Read on to find out about high protein dinner ideas as well as helpful information about creating a high protein meal plan that supports your health and works for your needs. We’ve categorized these high protein dinner ideas into meals for omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans, to help tailor meals to your lifestyle.
High Protein Dinner Ideas for Omnivores
Do you enjoy a balance of meat and plant-based foods? If so, then these dinner ideas are for you.
1. Slow Cooker Chicken Breast
Chicken is protein-packed and versatile meat that can be used in a variety of dinner recipes. To keep fat intake low, opt for chicken breast over chicken thighs, which tend to be high in fat. Chicken breast is packed with protein, relatively low in calories, and low in fat. Preparing chicken breast in a slow cooker is not only convenient but it also ensures optimal texture of the chicken. At the beginning of the day, place chicken breasts in a slow cooker with your favorite low-sugar barbecue sauce. To make a one-pot meal, throw in vegetables like Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and
2. Pasta and Meatballs
Who said that classic Italian pasta dishes couldn’t be high in protein?! First, prepare your favorite pasta. To boost the protein content of this meal, use pasta that is made of chickpeas or lentils. Toss with your favorite marinara sauce and meatballs prepared with lean ground beef or turkey. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Meatballs can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the freezer, to make weeknight meals as quick and easy as possible.
3. Sheet Pan Salmon and Veggies
This quick dinner is a perfect weeknight meal. On one half of the sheet pan, place a filet of salmon seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice. On the other half of the pan, toss a medley of vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. You can also prepare pan chicken and vegetables using a similar approach.
High Protein Dinner Ideas for Vegetarians
Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean forgoing high protein meals. Here are a few examples of high protein vegetarian meals.
You can still enjoy your favorite comfort foods on a high protein, vegetarian diet. Look for whole-grain taco shells and fill them with brown rice, sauteed tofu, black beans, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. Top your tacos with guacamole, salsa, cilantro, and low-fat mozzarella cheese.
Looking for a sour cream substitute to use as a taco topping? Simply swap out sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein and lower in fat.
A frittata is an easy meal to whip up on busy weeknights. Start by sauteing your favorite vegetables in an oven-safe pan or skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Chopped onions, garlic, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and spinach are nutritious options. Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk until well-mixed. When the veggies are softened, add in your eggs. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and a dash of cayenne pepper for spice. Low-fat feta cheese is a great addition for extra protein. Bake your frittata until the eggs are just cooked.
To reduce the amount of saturated fat in your frittata, use primarily egg whites and leave the yolks out.
Fajitas make the perfect family dinner, allowing everyone to assemble their own meal. Plus, it’s easy to make a high protein, vegetarian version. In a large pan, saute tofu, black beans, bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, and onions. Season liberally with chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Create a table spread with warm whole-grain tortillas, guacamole, fresh lettuce and tomato, and low-fat shredded cheese.
3. Vegetarian Chili
Chili is a staple during the winter months. Try this vegetarian version that’s also packed with protein. Create a ground meat replacement using chopped walnuts, mushrooms, and crumbled tofu. Saute the mixture with olive oil, onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Add black beans, lentils, cubed sweet potato, vegetable broth, and diced tomatoes. Season with chipotle chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Simmer the chili until the sweet potatoes and lentils are tender. You can add chopped kale and spinach to your chili to increase the vegetable content.
Enjoy the chili over brown rice and top with scallions.
High Protein Dinner Ideas for Vegans
It’s still possible to follow a high protein eating plan on a plant-based diet. Here are a few high protein recipes for vegans.
1. Mediterranean Wrap
Make sure you choose whole-grain pita wraps to ensure that you’re getting healthy carbohydrates and fiber. Fill your pita wrap with hummus, falafel, and veggies like kale, onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Season your wrap with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs like parsley and basil.
2. Lentil and Vegetable Stew
Lentil and vegetable stew is an easy meal to prepare in bulk ahead of time, so you have dinners ready for the week ahead. Combine a mix of vegetables in a large pot, including mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, broccoli, zucchini, and kale. Pour in brown or green lentils and vegetable broth. Season with cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and basil, and simmer the stew until the lentils and potatoes are tender. Enjoy over brown rice, couscous, or quinoa.
3. Tofu Stir Fry with Brown Rice
A tofu stir-fry with brown rice is a perfect meal for obtaining lots of protein from plant-based sources. In a large pan, saute tofu, onions, garlic, broccoli, carrots, and green beans. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve over a bed of brown rice.
Low Carb, High Protein Dinner Ideas
If you’re also following a low carb diet, we’ve got you covered with these high protein, low carb meals.
1. Chicken Stir-Fry with Cauliflower Rice
Prepare a chicken stir fry by sauteing chicken strips in a pan with olive oil until cooked through. Toss in a medley of vegetables like broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Season with oregano, sage, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Cauliflower is an excellent, low carb alternative to regular rice. Simply use a blender or food processor to chop cauliflower into small pieces. Saute in olive oil and a dash of soy sauce. Cauliflower rice works as a tasty, satisfying side for all of your favorite dishes.
2. Salmon with Pesto Spaghetti Squash
Salmon is a quick and nutritious protein to enjoy for dinner. Pairing salmon with spaghetti squash makes you feel like you’re enjoying a decadent starchy side, but without the carbs. Enjoy your spaghetti squash with a little pesto sauce.
3. Burrito Bowl
This Mexican dish is normally packed with carbs. Try this tasty low carb version by creating a burrito bowl. Layer a large bowl with fresh tomatoes, sauteed onions, zucchini, sweet potato, spinach, kale, corn, and grilled chicken. Top with salsa, guacamole, lime juice, and cilantro.
4. Protein-Packed Salad
Chowing down on a big salad is an effective method for getting both tons of veggies and high-quality protein. First, prepare a base of chopped greens, such as arugula, kale, spinach, and lettuce. Mix in grilled chicken or salmon fillets. Toss with a low-fat, low-sugar dressing of your choice.
The Benefits of a High Protein Diet
A high protein diet offers numerous benefits, regardless of whether you also prefer omnivorous, low carb, or plant-based diet plans.
Getting plenty of nutritious, protein-rich food on a daily basis is crucial for your overall health and well-being. Let’s dig into how protein benefits your health.
When we consume dietary protein, the body breaks down protein particles into individual amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed through the membrane in the digestive tract and travel throughout the body to be used in a wide range of biological processes. There generally two types of amino acids that the body uses: essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids. The body is able to synthesize nonessential amino acids when they are lacking in dietary sources. On the other hand, the body requires balanced ratios of essential amino acids on a daily basis in order to function optimally.
The body utilizes essential amino acids in nearly all biological processes, from producing hormones and neurotransmitters to synthesizing muscle tissue. Getting ideal ratios of essential amino acids helps support a healthy body composition, healthy metabolic processes, and longevity.
As a rule of thumb, it’s important to make sure you plan your meals based on the essential amino acid content. Here are high-quality protein sources and tips for ensuring that you’re getting the essential amino acids that your body needs.
- Eggs: Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Egg whites are a particularly good source of essential amino acids, without the calories and fat. Egg yolks provide the majority of saturated fat, cholesterol, and calorie content in eggs. To get optimal ratios of essential amino acids without the saturated fat and calories, stick mainly to egg whites and forgo the yolks.
- Low-fat dairy: Dairy is an excellent source of protein and provides optimal ratios of essential amino acids. Just be sure to choose low-fat or nonfat dairy products, to make sure that you’re keeping your saturated fat intake low. Excellent options are nonfat Greek yogurt, low-fat mozzarella cheese, and skim milk.
- Lean meats: Lean meats like chicken breast and turkey breast are rich sources of protein and offer optimal ratios of essential amino acids.
- Fish: Fish provides lots of high-quality protein as well as anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. In order to boost both your protein intake and omega-3 intake, enjoy fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring.
- Combining vegetable proteins: In contrast to meat and dairy products, a single vegetable protein source does not offer optimal ratios of essential amino acids. Instead, when obtaining essential amino acids from vegetables, it’s crucial to consume a variety of plant-based proteins throughout the day. Examples of plant-based proteins include nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and soy products.
- Supplementation: A high-quality supplement can help provide you with the essential amino acids your body needs, without having to perfectly plan your meals and diet. Furthermore, high-quality supplements can offer essential amino acids without excess calories, sugar, and additives. Aging adults may particularly benefit from supplementation since high-quality supplements are easier to digest and provide amino acids in their individual form. Always check with your doctor before starting any new supplements to ensure that they work with your medications and health conditions.
Tips for Implementing the High Protein Diet
Being equipped with tips for staying on a high protein diet plan will help ensure that you stay on track.
1. Meal Prepping
High protein meal prep is a convenient method for ensuring that you are staying on a high protein meal plan. Try establishing a habit of preparing dinner ingredients or dinners for the week on Sunday. For example, maybe you chop vegetables so that they’re easy to cook in the evenings. Or, prepare a large one-pot meal that you can enjoy all week.
2. Keeping High Protein Snacks on Hand
Hunger can strike at any time, and keeping high protein snacks on hand helps curb your hunger between meals. Having trail mix, nonfat Greek yogurt, or a protein bar can help you avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks like chips and candy.
3. Knowing How to Navigate a Menu
If you are eating at a restaurant or ordering takeout, knowing how to order can make all of the difference. Most restaurants will be happy to make substitutions to help you stay on your meal plan. Here are a few tips for staying on a healthy, high protein diet while eating out.
- Chicken and salmon are your best bets. Chicken and salmon dishes will usually be the dishes that are highest in protein on the menu. Plus, salmon offers anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in addition to high-quality protein.
- Ask for brown rice over white rice. If you’re ordering a chicken stir-fry, for example, some restaurants make it possible to switch out white rice for a healthier brown rice side dish.
- Swap out starchy sides for veggies. Many restaurant meals come with sides like fries, baked potatoes, pasta, or bread. Ask if it’s possible to swap out these starchy side dishes for steamed or sauteed veggies.
- Order dressing on the side. Ordering a salad topped with grilled chicken or salmon is an excellent choice when eating at a restaurant. However, high-fat cheese and creamy salad dressings can sabotage your health goals. Ask for the dressing on the side and request that they hold the cheese. The type of salad dressing also makes a difference – a balsamic vinegar-based dressing will usually be the best option.
- Save half of your meal for tomorrow. Lots of restaurant meals contain more calories than you think, from hidden butter and oils. To help keep your calorie intake within a healthy range, save half of your meal for dinner or lunch tomorrow.
Conclusion: Tasty, High Protein Dinner Ideas
Following a high protein meal plan is beneficial for your health by supporting muscle synthesis and longevity. Having high protein dinner ideas on hand helps you stay on track with your diet. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous, there are always methods for ensuring you’re getting the right amount of protein in your diet with optimal ratios of essential amino acids.