High-protein, low-carb foods have become popular, thanks to trendy diets like ketogenic, paleo, and Atkin’s. And the reason why this type of diet—eating foods higher in one macronutrient and lower in another—works for some people comes down to the fullness factor.
“Typically, protein-rich foods take longer to digest,” says Kristen Smith, RD, an Atlanta-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “So increasing your consumption of protein-rich foods, increases satiety, and can, therefore, aid in weight-loss because you can become more satisfied by eating less food.” Also, by eating fewer carbs, your body can learn to burn more fat as fuel, while excessive carb intake can cause your body to store more fat, Smith explains. Start your day with these high-protein breakfasts to help you lose weight.
Research also shows that a low-carb diet can help increase your daily energy expenditure (or calories burned) when looking to maintain weight loss. And studies back up the fact that eating plans high in protein can increase satiety and help control the number on the scale.
But two important caveats come up when you turn mostly to high-protein, low-carb foods. For starters, you still need to pay attention to saturated fat—too much is bad for heart health—and those with kidney disease should probably avoid this plan, Smith says.
Also, without many carbs in your diet, you might start craving ingredients like pasta, bread, and potatoes. “If you follow a diet and it provides results but leaves you feeling unsatisfied or craving more, then it might not be the diet for you,” says Angel Planells RDN, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. In other words, make sure you stick to a diet plan that works for you, featuring foods that leave you satisfied, not deprived. For specific ingredient suggestions, we rounded up the high-protein, low-carb foods to add to your meal plan, according to Planells and Smith.
Not just a breakfast food, hardboiled eggs taste great on salads or as a stand-alone snack. Both Smith and Planells recommend it as a top food to choose.
An easy addition to salads, grain bowls, or as a main meal, chicken breast will fill you up thanks to that high-protein content. Aim to keep portions the size of your fist to get your fill and use healthier cooking methods (baked, roasted, grilled, etc.) versus frying.
Another poultry product packed with protein, ground turkey offers a lean alternative to many red meats. Plus, you can put it in tacos, breakfast hash, or turn it into healthy burgers.
Look for cuts with less fat, like sirloin or top round roast, says Smith. This cuts down on the saturated fat while keeping protein high.
A super convenient source of protein, because there’s no cook time! Opt for tuna canned in water and you get all of the protein, without all of the fat from oil. In just three ounces, you’ll find less than three grams of fat.
It’s best to go for a plain flavor than those filled with fruit (aka sugar), as that will cause the carb content to skyrocket. Add your own seasonings, like cinnamon, or a little dash of almond butter.
Toss peanuts in a trail mix or eat them right out of the shell, just make sure you check the sodium on the label. The same goes for peanut butter—look for labels with no sugar, salt, or oil added, Smith says.
If you’re looking for a veggie that offers a few more grams of protein than others, this green will do the trick, says Planells. While it is higher in carbs, it’s important to eat non-starchy greens, so keep it on your list of go-to foods when going high-protein, low-carb.
Grab a stick of mozzarella as a protein pick-me-up when you’re on the move—it’s the perfect savory snack, says Smith. The hit of fat content will help keep you full, too.
Get your fill of high-protein, low-carb foods with an animal-free ingredient. This option, made of soy, offers a high serving of plant-based protein.
Easily tossed into a salad or on top of soup, these little seeds add a slightly nutty flavor and crunchy texture to any dish.
Made of protein-rich chickpeas, hummus offers a dash of the macronutrient in each dip.