A homemade gyro bowl recipe with sauce and toppings.

Looking to up your protein content and get at least 20 grams of protein per meal? 

Protein plays an important role in our overall health and longevity. It is the building block for our muscles, bones, skin, and other tissues in the body. When I first decided to implement a high-protein diet, I was quite overwhelmed. 

But once I cracked the code, I realized it was actually pretty easy to get the amount of protein I needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. And no, you don’t have to drink raw eggs, eat an insane amount of chicken, or replace meals with protein shakes to do it. You can actually enjoy your food and get the protein boost you need. 

In this article, you’ll learn how many grams of protein your body needs per day. You’ll also learn about the best food to incorporate into your diet to hit at least 20 g of protein per meal. 

A homemade gyro bowl recipe with sauce and toppings.
Homemade Gyro Bowls

Why 20 g protein?

I used 20 grams of protein as a benchmark because 20-30g is the minimum recommended amount of protein per meal for the average person. However, people need different amounts of protein depending on factors such as age, weight, health, and activity level. 

According to nutritionist Karen Kennedy, the amount of protein recommended per day is 0.5g of protein per pound of body weight.

So if you were 150 pounds, for instance, 75g of protein per day is recommended. Divide that between 3 meals, and you should aim for 20 grams of protein per meal.

Now you may be wondering, “Is it bad to get 20 grams per meal when I weigh more than 150 pounds?” 

No, not necessarily. This is merely a guideline for an average person. If you are highly active or have a physically demanding job, you may need to increase your protein intake to support muscle growth and repair. After the age of 30, our bodies start to naturally lose muscle mass, so it’s important to increase protein intake as we age. I recommend consulting your own doctor or health professional to determine the right amount for you and your own goals. 

Protein and Its Vital Role in a Low-Carb Diet

According to Healthline, protein is an essential macronutrient in a low-carb diet because when we cut back on carbohydrates, we now only rely on protein and healthy fats for energy. If we don’t get enough protein, our bodies begin to break down muscle tissue for fuel, leading to loss of muscle mass and a slower metabolism. Not ideal.

Eating high-protein meals will not only prevent muscle loss but also help maintain lean muscle mass and even muscle growth if you pair it with resistance training. You’ll feel full and satiated after meals, are less likely to crave carbs, and have the energy to tackle your day.

Need some super easy, low-carb, and high-protein meals to get you started? Check out my 10 High Protein Meal Prep Recipes to help you build a sustainable (and delicious!) low-carb diet.

Asian short ribs in a wooden bowl with garnish over a green tile surface.
Healthy Asian Short Ribs

5 Ways to Get 20 Grams of Protein Per Meal

Whether you’re low-carb, a certified carnivore, or follow a vegetarian diet or vegan/plant-based diet, there’s enough protein to go around for everyone. The following list of foods are high in protein, easy to incorporate into meals, and are just downright tasty. 

You can find most of these items at your local grocery store. I’ve also included some of my favorite brands that I purchase from Thrive Market. Use code SHREDHAPPENS and join Thrive Market today to get 30% off your first order AND a FREE gift worth up to $60!

Add these items to your grocery list and keep them as pantry staples. Tha way, you always have a protein source on hand. I also share some of my favorite recipes you can try with these foods for the perfect starting point.

1. Meat & Seafood

TikTok salmon bowl on a white plate over a gray marble surface.
TikTok Salmon Bowl

The most commonly known source of protein, animal-based sources like lean beef, chicken breast, white fish, and seafood, are all low in carbs and high in protein. Some of the highest protein options include:

2. Dairy Products

Mast o khiar in an orange bowl with a spoon and toppings.
Mast O Khiar (Persian Yogurt Dip)

Plenty of dairy foods are chock-full of protein, but don’t forget all the healthy fats and calcium they provide, too! Dairy is easy to add to any recipe, whether it’s a complete meal or snack.  Some great high-protein dairy options include:

3. Beans

Air fryer pasta bake in air fryer basket with a wooden serving spoon.

Beans are one of the best plant-based foods to supply adequate amounts of protein. They are also high in fiber, making them a great option for improving digestion and keeping you feeling full. Some of my favorite low-carb, high-protein beans include:

  • Pinto beans (8g per 1/2 cup serving): These are commonly used in Mexican dishes. They can be added to salads, soups, and even mashed into a delicious dip.
  • Soy beans (16-20g per 1/2 cup serving): Commonly found in soy milk, tofu, or tempeh, soybeans are a complete protein source and can be used in a variety of dishes.
  • Lupini beans (13g per 1/2 cup serving): The king of all beans, Lupini beans have tons of protein and fiber with barely any carbs. My Kaizen low-carb pastarice, and flour are all made with lupini beans. They pack 20g of protein and 6g of net carbs per serving, making them the best low-carb alternatives on the market.

Use Code SHREDHAPPENS to save 20% on any purchase!

4. Nuts and Seeds

A bowl of creamy avocado salsa with crackers.
Creamy Avocado Salsa with Pistachios

Nuts and seeds are my secret weapon for upping the protein content in my meals. They can be enjoyed in milk, nut butters, sprinkled over dishes, or as high protein snacks throughout the day. Some of the best low-carb, high-protein options include:

  • Pistachios (6g per 1/4 cup serving): Full of protein and healthy fats, pistachios make a great on-the-go snack or addition to sweet and savory meals. I love to use Wonderful Roasted & Salted Pistchios is my Frozen Chocolate Covered Raspberries and Creamy Avocado Salsa recipes.
  • Almonds (7g per 1/4 cup serving): Enjoy it as almond milk, almond butter, almond flour (my favorite is Diamond Almond Flour), or in its original form. These Chocolate Coconut Keto Bliss Balls are made with almond butter and taste fantastic!
  • Cashews (5g per 1/4 cup serving): While cashews are higher in carbs than other nuts, they still make a great addition to your low-carb diet. I like to use Aurora Products Organic Raw Whole Cashews.
  • Hazelnuts (5g per 1/4 cup serving): My favorites are these Anna and Sarah Hazelnuts. I like to snack on them or crush them up to add some crunch to salads or desserts.
  • Sesame seeds (6g per 1/4 cup serving): These tiny seeds pack a punch when it comes to protein.  I sprinkle them over this Sweet Chili Halloumi and Gochujang Pasta for a protein boost.
  • Pumpkin seeds (9g per 1/4 cup serving): These are my favorite seeds for snacking on their own or adding to salads and soups. 
  • Chia seeds (3g per 1 tablespoon serving): Great for making chia seed pudding, adding to smoothies, or sprinkling over oatmeal for a protein boost.

5. Protein Shakes or Smoothies

Of course, we can’t forget about a protein shake or smoothie as a quick and convenient way to boost your protein intake. There are many different varieties of vegan protein powders available on the market now. Therefore, it’s easier than ever to get your protein fix without relying on animal products.

Some popular options include:

  • Pea protein (25g per 1 scoop serving): Made from yellow peas, this type of protein is hypoallergenic and easily digestible.
  • Rice protein (12g per 1 tablespoon serving): A good option for those with allergies or sensitivities to other types of protein.
  • Hemp protein (15g per 1/4 cup serving): Contains all nine essential amino acids and is high in fiber, making it a well-rounded choice.
  • Soy protein (25g per 3 tablespoons serving): A complete protein source with all nine essential amino acids. 

On the other hand, if you’re non-vegan, whey protein is also a popular option, with about 24g of protein per 1 scoop serving. I recommend choosing a high-quality whey protein from grass-fed cows if possible.

More of a smoothie person? You can make your own smoothies, OR try Flavcity and get all the nutrients you need conveniently in one package. Just add milk and get 25g of protein and 10g of collagen per serving! You don’t even need a blender, just shake it and take it on the go. 

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What food is the highest in protein?

If we rank by the percentage of protein per gram, some plant-based foods such as seitan (75g per 100g) and spirulina (57g per 100g) are the highest sources of protein. However, when considering serving size and practicality, foods like beef (26g per 100g) and chicken breast (31g per 100g) are more easily accessible and practical options for most people.

What vegetable has the most protein?

The vegetable with the highest protein content is actually a legume – soybeans. They contain about 36g of protein per cup (172g). Other high-protein vegetables include lentils (18g per cup), edamame (17g per cup), and chickpeas (15g per cup).

What snacks have 20 grams of protein?

Many snacks contain 20 grams of protein or more, making them a great option for increasing your daily protein intake. My list of 10 Low Carb and High Protein Snacks and Appetizers is an excellent place to start. Some examples include Greek yogurt with nuts and berries, hard-boiled eggs with cottage cheese, protein bars, and beef jerky. 

You can also easily make protein shakes with 20 grams of protein. Just use ingredients like Greek yogurt, milk, and protein powder. Flavcity’s protein smoothies have 25g of protein per serving. Use code SHREDHAPPENS to save 15%!

A plate of shish taouk on a blue plate over a gray marble surface.
Shish Taouk with Creamy Yogurt Sauce

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