14 High Protein Low-Calorie Foods and Snacks to Lose Weight

As a Registered Dietitian, I’ve realized that most people struggle with getting their daily recommended protein intake. 

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, people should strive to consume 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.64 to 0.91 grams per pound). 

This means that someone who weighs 180 lbs should have between 115 to 164 grams of protein. 

Protein plays a crucial role in the body. It can help increase fullness levels, support muscle mass, and slightly increase the metabolism. 

It truly is a great ally when it comes to weight loss. 

If you have trouble reaching your protein intake but don’t want to add too many additional calories, you can focus on adding high-protein and low-calorie foods. 

Here, we’ll go over the best high-protein and low-calorie foods to include in your meals. 

These options have less than 200 calories and more than 10 grams of protein per 100 grams. 

1) Cottage cheese

  • Calories: 72
  • Protein: 12.4 grams 

One of the best sources of protein that is low in calories is cottage cheese. According to the USDA, Cottage cheese (1%) only has 72 calories and 12 grams of protein. 

Keep in mind that the more fat it has, the higher in calories it is going to be. So, when possible, choose the lowest fat option. 

There are several ways in which you can use cottage cheese, such as with fruit or vegetables. You can also place it in a blender and create a low-fat and high-protein “cream cheese.”

2) Greek yogurt 

  • Calories: 59
  • Protein: 10.3 grams 

Greek yogurt is a very versatile, low-calorie and high-protein option. It only has 59 calories and 10.3 grams per 100 grams. 

There are several ways for you to include Greek yogurt into your diet. You can create healthy, low-calorie dressings for your salads, or if you are looking for something sweet, you can create a healthy ice cream option. 

3) String cheese 

  • Calories: 141 
  • Protein 31.7 grams

String cheese can be a great low-calorie and high-protein snack to have on the go. However, you need to be careful about which type of string cheese you choose. 

The best option that is low in calories is reduced-fat mozzarella cheese. 

You can use string cheese straight from the package, or if you are in the mood for mozzarella sticks, simply coat them with a low-calorie breading, and you’ll have a delicious appetizer that is lower in calories than the normal version. 

4) Eggs

  • Calories: 143
  • Protein: 12.4 grams

Eggs are another excellent source of protein, and the best part is that you can make them lower in calories and higher in protein. 

You can always reduce the calories by only having egg whites. While there is nothing wrong with eating the yolk, it is where most of the fat is located. 

And, since fats tend to be energy-dense (high-calorie content in a small portion), if you want to lower the calories, removing them might be a good option. 

Still, if you decide to keep them because they are a good source of essential nutrients, 100 grams only offers 143 calories and 12.4 grams of protein. 

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5) Canned tuna 

  • Calories: 85
  • Protein: 19.0 grams 

Canned tuna can be a good quick option if you want to increase your protein without lots of calories. 

If you want to add flavor to the canned tuna without affecting the calories, you can add mustard or lemon juice. 

Now, make sure you are careful with the amount of sodium it has. Normally, canned foods tend to be high in sodium. Select those options that hopefully have less than 200 mg of sodium per serving. 

6) Ground beef

  • Calories: 121 
  • Protein: 22.0 grams 

Ground beef is another lower-calorie option to add more protein to your meals.

Keep in mind that the higher the fat content, the higher the calories. So, if you are looking for a low-calorie option that is high in protein, strive to get the 3% fat option. 

There are different ways for you to use ground beef. You can make them into patties or make sauteed ground beef with vegetables for a healthy meal. 

7) Chicken breast 

  • Calories: 165
  • Protein: 31.0 grams

If you are not a big fan of beef or simply want some variety, you can switch to chicken breast. This is also high in protein and low-calorie. 

Now, not all parts of the chicken are low in calories. Some are higher in fat (such as drumsticks), which makes them higher in calories. 

Also, make sure you have the chicken breast without the skin. The skin is high in saturated fats, which is not good for the heart, and it adds unnecessary calories. 

8) Halibut 

  • Calories: 91
  • Protein: 18.6 grams

Fish is always a great high-protein and low-calorie option. However, since fish (like Halibut) are low in fat, they tend to be very bland. 

So, if you want to enjoy it and not have a boring dish, take advantage of different herbs, spices, and lemon juice. 

One great way to have halibut without increasing your calories too much is by cooking it with lemon juice, garlic, and just half a teaspoon of olive oil. 

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9) Salmon

  • Calories: 142
  • Protein: 19.8 grams

If you find Halibut too bland, the best next option is salmon. Besides being a low-calorie and high-protein option, it has the advantage of being high in healthy fats. 

One of the benefits of salmon is that it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These can help promote brain function and reduce inflammation. 

Since salmon is very flavorful, you don’t need many ingredients to cook it. But, if you are looking for a healthy option, marinate it with low-sodium soy sauce, garlic, lemon juice, and ginger. 

10) Shrimp 

  • Calories: 85
  • Proteins: 20.1 grams 

Shrimp is a great source of lean protein, and it is also high in essential nutrients, such as vitamins B12, selenium, and iron. 

As a result, they can help support immune function and reduce inflammation.

Pasta and shrimp is a match made in heaven. For a lower-calorie option, instead of having regular pasta, you could switch to zucchini noodles. 

Cooking shrimp with zucchini noodles will create the ultimate low-calorie and high-protein meal. 

11) Pork loin 

  • Calories: 127
  • Protein: 22.4 grams

People often have the idea that pork is not a good protein option. However, it all depends on the cut of the pork. 

Pork loin is a great lean option that is worth adding to your diet. 

There are several ways you can make pork loin. One of my favorite ways is to use a crock pot. 

The crock pot allows you to cook meals without any additional fat, and you can leave it cooking, all while you do other house chores. 

Have it along with some mashed cauliflower (instead of mashed potatoes), and you’ll have a delicious, low-calorie meal. 

12) Turkey 

  • Calories: 148
  • Protein: 19.7 grams 

Turkey is another great lean source of protein. One of the great things about turkey is that you can use ground turkey or turkey breast slices. Either option is low in calories and high in protein. 

I recommend staying away from deli turkey since it tends to be high in sodium and preservatives. 

With turkey, you can make turkey chili, meatballs, and patties. The sky is the limit when it comes to using turkey to elevate your protein requirements. 

13) Edamame 

  • Calories: 121
  • Protein: 11.9 grams

We’ve gone through several options that are low in calories and high in protein. However, most of them come from animal sources, and there are great plant-based sources that are worth adding. 

Edamame is a low-calorie and high-protein option that can be part of your main meals or as a snack. 

You can make poke bowls with edamame, or you can place them in the air fryer to have a delicious, crunchy snack. 

14) Tempeh 

  • Calories: 195
  • Protein: 19.9 grams

Finally, tempeh is another great source of protein that won’t increase your calorie intake. Tempeh is fermented soybeans. So, besides being a good source of protein, it is also a source of probiotics. 

Probiotics can help promote good gut health, improve digestion, and strengthen immune function. 

To boost its flavor, try marinating tempeh in different herbs, spices, and condiments. It can truly be a great experience. 


High-protein and low-calorie foods are ideal for those who struggle to reach their protein requirements. 

Whether you are on a weight loss journey or simply trying to eat healthy, all these foods not only are a great source of protein, but they also contain essential nutrients that can improve overall wellness. 

Make sure to add as many as possible to your diet. The more variety you get, the more nutrients the body receives.

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  1. Jäger, R., Kerksick, C.M., Campbell, B.I. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 20. 2017.
  2. Campbell, B., Kreider, R. B., Ziegenfuss, T., La Bounty, P., Roberts, M., Burke, D., … & Antonio, J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), 8. 2007.

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