Coaching clients on how to get more protein into their day is one of the most common things I do in my coaching practice. These conversations range from teaching clients about which foods have the most protein and how to prepare those proteins, to finding ways to eat more protein-packed snacks. Snacks are an especially common area of conversation because the foods we commonly think of as snacks are often low in protein.
When I say the word “snack” what are the first things that come to mind? Chips? Cookies? Crackers? Possibly you are thinking, “Noooooooo Reed, I thought about fruit.” Which is great, but still low in protein. Even common “healthy” snacks like granola bars, dried fruit and nuts are fairly low in protein.
The challenge with most snack foods is that they are high in carbohydrates (some are high in fats as well), but low in protein. Carbohydrates serve as a great fuel source for the body, but don’t satiate the way protein does. Protein is especially important if you are working to lose weight or gain muscle.
You Probably Aren’t Eating Enough Protein
Many people underestimate the amount of protein they are actually getting each day. I have had many clients begin food logging and realize that they are far below their expected protein consumption. As with anything in the nutrition realm, there is debate over how much protein the human body actually needs. But we do know that protein helps in the maintenance and building of muscle mass and it is highly satiating. These are two things that greatly benefit both weight loss and weight maintenance.
Let’s do a little math to understand about how much protein the average person may seek to consume over the course of a day. Let’s name our client Jill. Jill is in her 30s, works at a desk most of the day, but goes on a walk twice a day with her dog and crushes it in the gym 5 times per week. Jill is looking to maintain her good health and physique along with keeping herself fueled for her workouts. Let’s say Jill is consuming 2,000 calories per day (a baseline commonly used on food packaging) and her macronutrient split is 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein and 30% fat (a moderate-carb macro split that serves many people in a maintenance phase well).
There are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein, so if Jill is consuming 30% of her 2,000 calories in the form of protein that is…
2000 calories x 30% protein = 600 calories / 4 calories per gram = 150 grams of protein per day
Okay, so now we know that Jill is trying to consume 150 grams of protein per day, but what does that actually look like? If Jill is eating breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a mid-morning and afternoon snack, that is 5 opportunities to consume protein each day. 150 / 5 = 30 grams of protein at each of her snacks and meals. She could also consider bumping her meals up to 40 grams of protein and her snacks down to 15 grams of protein.
Here is a possible scenario for Jill’s daily protein intake (this does not include carb or fat-dense foods to allow you to simply focus on the amount of protein-dense food necessary to consume 150 grams in a day):
- Breakfast: 2 eggs + a protein shake
- Snack: greek yogurt cup
- Lunch: 6oz chicken breast
- Snack: protein bar
- Dinner: 6oz salmon fillet
Jill’s other option is to increase the portion of protein-dense foods she is consuming at her major meals and worry less about protein-dense snacks, but the reason this does not work in Jill’s favor is because…
- Jill likely won’t want to eat massive portions of meat all the time, at all of her meals.
- Protein-packed snacks will keep her satiated between meals, rather than eating carb-dense snacks that often lead to grazing for more snacks.
The Benefits of Getting Protein in at Snack Time
Hopefully it now makes some sense as to why protein-packed snacks are so advantageous to your goals! And here’s the good news, your snack doesn’t have to be as boring as gnawing on a piece of chicken breast. There are tons of tasty and healthy protein-packed snacks on the market these days, plus I’ll share some ideas of simple foods you can combine for a tasty snack, high in protein!
My Favorite Savory Protein-Packed Snacks
- Bada Bean Bada Boom Roasted Bean Snacks (7g protein/serving of beans) These roasted fava bean snacks come in all sorts of flavors ranging from sea salt to mesquite BBQ. They pack a delightful crunch and a healthy amount of protein. Enjoy them straight out of the bag or try them on top of a salad for an extra crunch!
- Wilde Chicken Chips (10g protein/serving of chips) “Chicken” and “chips” are two words that I never thought I would see together, but here they are on the front of a package. As odd as this sounds, these chips are really quite delicious!
- Popcorners Flex Protein Chips (10g protein/serving of chips) Dare I say it, these might be the most addicting on this savory protein-packed snack list. I have caught myself numerous times in the past year enjoying multiple servings of these protein chips and in turn feeling so satiated that I barely wanted to eat my next meal. The amount of protein in these chips is no joke.
- EPIC Meat Bars (13g protein/Chicken Sesame BBQ bar) EPIC brand has all sorts of meat-based products, of which my absolute favorite is the Chicken Sesame BBQ bar. It is delightfully savory and packed with protein, for the perfect mid-afternoon snack.
- Stryve Beef Sticks (14g protein/beef stick) These beef sticks come in a variety of taste-bud tantalizing flavors and are made with super clean ingredients. A must-have in your purse or bag for whenever you need a quick and tasty protein-packed snack!
- Chomps Beef & Turkey Sticks (9g protein/beef stick) Chomps sticks are another meat stick option that is totally delicious and 100% worthy of your pantry or purse. These sticks also come in a variety of flavors and offer a turkey option as well for those who want a snack that is high in protein while staying lower in fat.
- Southwest Egg Muffins (10g protein/egg muffin) These egg muffins are packed with protein and have >1g of carbs… yes, basically no carbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love carbs, but sometimes you just want a tasty dose of protein and a little fat. These egg muffins are super simple to make and perfect for quick breakfasts and snacks!
- Turkey Roll Ups (~10g protein/serving of deli turkey meat) Take a piece of deli turkey meat and smear a little cream cheese in the middle with a slice of cucumber, roll it up and enjoy! You can also try a smear of mustard instead of cream cheese and a pickle slice instead of a cucumber slice – also super delicious.
- Hard Boiled Eggs (~7g/egg) This one is a classic. Hard boiled eggs are an excellent food to meal prep for quick snacks throughout the week. There is something so delightful about a hard boiled egg with a crack of pepper and a dash of salt on top.
My Favorite Sweet Protein-Packed Snacks
- RxBar Protein Bars (12g protein/bar) These have been a staple in my cupboard for years now. Many of you likely know about this brand, but it is totally worth calling out as a great option for a protein-packed snack. They have tons of flavors and continue releasing more as they grow in popularity. They now even have protein nut butters and oatmeal packets! The protein in these bars comes from egg whites and they have a chewy texture that I personally love (though I know it can be polarizing for some).
- No Cow Protein Bars (~20g protein/bar) These are a dairy-free protein bar that I discovered years ago and still love today. Made with plant-based protein and only a few grams of net carbs per bar, No Cow Bars are an excellent way to keep you on track toward your goals. And the best news is that they are both clean AND delicious!
- Primal Kitchen Collagen Protein Bars (15g protein/bar) I am a HUGE fan of collagen, so the fact that these bars pack both collagen and good taste is a double win for me! Made with gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free ingredients, these paleo bars make a great snack for those who are trying to avoid potentially inflammatory foods.
- Rise Protein Bars (~20g protein/bar) These protein bars are made with 5 clean ingredients or less and they come in a both whey-based and plant-based options. With tons of delicious flavors, ingredients you can pronounce and the option for animal or plant-based protein, these bars get a massive gold star!
- Greek Yogurt with Berries (~18g protein/serving) Unsweetened greek yogurt with berries is a great snack, packed with protein (as long as your tummy is okay with some dairy). My personal favorite is the Fage brand 5% milkfat version that is so decadently creamy it can even curb an ice cream craving if you drizzle a little honey on top!
- Protein Shake (~20g protein/serving) Many of you may have heard the words “protein shake” and simply thought about mixing whey with water in a blender bottle. Bleh. That brings me back to my college workout days where many a blender bottle of chocolate whey were consumed. Get a little fancy with it and blend up your protein powder with some frozen fruit and unsweetened almond milk!
Some Protein-Packed Snack Recipes From Yours Truly
- Cookie Dough Protein Balls (5g protein/ball) This recipe is made with 6 clean ingredients and tastes exactly like cookie dough. I’m not even kidding. This recipe creation instigated a jump-for-joy sort of moment in my kitchen after taking my first bite. This is a must-add to your list of protein-packed snacks!
- Oreo Protein Balls (6g protein/ball) Another delicious protein ball that tastes totally decadent, but is packed with good ingredients. If you love sandwich creme cookies you are definitely going to want to give this recipe a try!
- Healthy Chocolate Fruit Dip (7g protein/ 1/4 cup serving) This fruit dip is made with only 4 ingredients and tastes way more indulgent than the macros show. It’s creamy, chocolatey and tastes absolutely perfect with berries dipped in it. Whether you are looking for a tasty and healthy recipe for your kiddos, brunch guests or yourself, this healthy chocolate fruit dip is sure to hit the spot.
- Mint Chip Shake with Collagen (8g protein/shake) Love shamrock shakes? Enjoy that smooth, creamy, mint flavor in a healthy shake made with collagen, banana, avocado and even spinach (that you won’t taste) plus some tasty add-ins for incredible flavor! It never hurts when your protein shake is topped with a few dark chocolate chips either 😉
- High Protein Chocolate Muffins (6g protein/muffin) These muffins are simple, tasty, moist and definitely something you will want to have on hand for hungry moments. This recipe is absolutely perfect for your next meal prep – these high protein muffins store easily and are incredibly delightful for breakfast or a snack.