The Ultimate Guide to Know High Protein Low Calorie Foods

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Mohanned Alazzawi

Medical Doctor & Cofounder at CalorieAid

Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t have room for more calories but need more protein? We all have been there, and I personally get out of such a tight spot by introducing high protein low calorie foods into my diet. In this article, I will go over the dos and don’ts when you deal with these types of foods, and I will also show you examples that you can incorporate into your diet. All of what I am going to discuss today is a part of my diet for the last 6 years and an essential part of what CalorieAid does, so let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

What are High Protein Low Calorie Foods?

High protein low calorie foods are foods that have 60% or more of their calories come from protein. They are low in carbs, low in fat, and low in every subcategory of these macronutrients (e.g. they have low fiber and low cholesterol).

High Protein Low Calorie Foods Nutrition

High protein low calorie foods are simply what the name implies. However, Being low on macronutrients doesn’t mean that they’re low on micronutrients as well, and they might contain a good amount of them. If you’re on a low-calorie diet, these foods will become stable in your pantry, and a go-to option in every meal.

For a food to be classified as a High protein low calorie food, it needs to have certain macronutrient ratios just as I mentioned earlier. Take for example boneless skinless chicken breast, it has 31 grams of protein per 100 grams and the calories from protein constitute 75% of the total chicken breast calories.

High Protein Low Calorie Diet Effect on your body

First of all, let’s draw a distinction between High Protein Low calorie foods, and high protein low calorie diet. The first can be incorporated effectively into any diet, and the latter is a diet that relies heavily on protein and is devoid of other macronutrients. Now let’s focus on the diet part, Is such a diet good for you? A high protein low calorie diet can be good for you or not depending on your fitness goal to achieve your optimal body composition.

  • Weight Gain. If you’re trying to build muscle, a diet that is high in protein and low in calories is not a good diet for you. There are two main reasons why you should choose another diet. First of all, calories are essential to the muscle building process and are used as fuel for muscle during the workout and recovery. Secondly, these foods are low in fat, and the fat is an essential block in building muscles. With that being said, some muscle-building might actually occur if you are training regularly.
  • Maintenance. For the same reasons above, this won’t give you good results. You need to follow a well-balanced diet if you want to maintain your body composition.
  • Weight loss. With the right macronutrient ratios, this could be a good diet for you if you’re cutting fat at the gym. You might also gain some muscles as I mentioned before. However, you shouldn’t go very low on carbs and fat. Make sure that your diet is healthy and well-balanced.

Any high-protein diet has many advantages. It reduces hunger and provides you with protein which is an important muscle-building Ingredient. However, going too low on carbs and fat can cause many problems. This includes the inhibition of absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, weight loss plateauing, and many other problems. See this article if you want to build a healthy diet.

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High Protein Low Calorie Foods List

Here are some items that can be good options when considering adding high protein low calorie foods to your diet.

Chicken Breast165313.60
Turkey Breast159322.60
Egg Whites52110.20.7
Greek Yogurt (non or low fat)59100.43.6
Cottage Cheese 1% fat721212.7
Lean Fish (e.g. Cod)82180.70
Ground Beef, 5% Fat1362150
Tofu (Certain Types only)4181.10.3

What’s left out of this list is protein shakes. I didn’t include it because every brand has its own nutritional label. Don’t leave them out of the equation, there are some pure protein shakes out there. There are also protein powder options for vegans that are purely plant-based.

Most of the high protein low calorie foods come naturally from animal sources and rarely from plant-based ones. The reason for that is that foods from plant-based sources usually contain a lot of carbs, while the ones from animal sources usually contain fat. As you know, you can find lean cuts of meat but you can rarely find carb-free plant sources (or even fat-free). If you are looking for vegetarian or vegan options, Seitan and Certain Types of Tofu are your best plant-based high protein low calorie foods.

Cooking High Protein Low Calorie Foods

Fat in the foods is what keeps the food moist and tender. High protein low calorie foods can be tricky to cook since they can get dry easily, regardless of the method you cook them. Ironically, to avoid drying these foods while cooking you need to add fat, or learn some advanced kitchen techniques. If you don’t like the food because of how it tastes, you won’t be able to stick to your diet in the long run. This will result in an ineffective diet that won’t make you achieve your fitness goals. However, these foods are still better than fatty ones because you can control the amount of fat that goes into your meal and tailor it to your specific daily nutritional needs.

Meal Planning

Here are some meal plans that are high in protein and low in calories. I am using high protein low calorie foods at the center of these easy recipes and adding a minimal amount of carb and fat, by adding foods with low calories and high volume into the mix.


Use any of the proteins I mentioned above with a mix of vegetables and a light broth. Aim for light soups if you’re not going to puree the vegetables. The lighter the soup, the less fat it contains. Sometimes you have to cook the protein separately to avoid drying it out if you have the time. Add spices and herbs to the mix to make it flavorful and interesting. Think chicken and veggie soup or a hearty beef stew. These will make for an amazing lunch or dinner.


Some of these proteins can be grilled nicely along with veggies like onions and tomatoes and others. You can use a low-fat marinade like the yogurt-based ones to avoid drying out the proteins. Chargrilled proteins and vegetables have a unique delicious smokey flavor that always makes you come for more.


Pan-sear or grill these proteins like ground beef or chicken with a little bit of neutral oil and add them to a healthy veggie mix. Use low-fat dressings with herbs and different spices to add flavor to your salad. Dividing these salads into small bowls can make for a great snack when you’re a little bit hungry and looking for a quick fix.


Laying a bed of veggies in a roasting pan and topping it with a protein like chicken and beef is a little bit tricky but can be done. The problem as I discussed before is drying out the protein, and to fix this you have a couple of options. You can either time the roasting perfectly and pre-cook the veggies which is a little bit hard, or you can marinate the meat in a low-fat marinade which can also enable you to add all sorts of herbs and spices.

Protein Shakes

Can be a great snack, anytime or obviously after a workout. They are simple and easy to prepare and can be taken on the go if it is needed. You can also throw them in a blender and add fruits to enhance the flavor.

Unless I had a really heavy lunch and want to go easy on calories for dinners, I take more liberty with fat and carbs. Knowing your macro ratios and constructing a balanced meal is a must for a healthy diet.

Using these above guidelines can help you as well when eating out or ordering from a fast food restaurant. However, it would be a little bit harder to judge the menu because restaurants tend to add more fat and carbs to their food to make it taste good. With that being said, you can still find options that can fit your caloric needs.


High protein low calorie foods, although not many, can make a fantastic addition to your healthy diet. However, you shouldn’t go very low on carbs and fat and maintain good macro ratios for a healthy diet. Although hard to cook, they can be really tasty if prepared correctly. There are various ways to cook high protein low calorie foods, and you can get really creative with that. Now I want to hear from you. What secret magical item do you have in your pantry that transforms your healthy diet and makes a difference in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments below, and share this article with someone who wants to start a healthy lifestyle journey.

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