High-protein snacks can satisfy hunger between meals and provide nutrients as part of an overall healthy diet. High-protein snacks may be plant- or animal-based. They can include whole foods rather than processed foods.
This article discusses the benefits of high-protein snacks, including for building muscle, and provides 20 high-protein snack ideas to help you meet your daily protein goals.
Benefits of Protein Snacks
High-protein snacks provide several health benefits. Protein can play a role in weight loss or weight management by helping to regulate appetite and improve metabolism.
Protein can help you feel fuller longer in between meals. Compared to carbohydrates, protein takes longer to digest. This promotes a feeling of satiety (a satisfying fullness) beyond that of a high-carbohydrate snack.
While fat also takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, protein contains just 4 calories per gram compared to 9 calories per gram of fat. Still, including fiber and some healthy fats as part of your high-protein snacks will provide even more satiety to keep your tummy feeling content.
Protein may help stabilize blood glucose (sugar) levels. Combining protein with some carbohydrates in a snack can help prevent spikes in blood glucose levels after eating.
20 High-Protein Snack Ideas
Below are 20 high-protein snack ideas that can help you meet your daily protein goals.
Chia seeds are tiny, round seeds often touted as a “superfood” due to their stellar nutrient profile. Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds provides around 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, and other nutrients, such as calcium, zinc, and copper.
Mix your chia seeds with 4 ounces of cow’s milk to add 4 more grams of protein when making chia pudding. For a vegan option, you can substitute soy milk for an extra 3.5 grams of protein. Top your chia pudding with chopped nuts, fresh berries, and ground cinnamon to add a pop of color and additional nutrients.
Edamame are immature green soybeans packed with protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and iron. Their tough, green, fuzzy shells are edible, though likely hard to chew on. Most often, edamame is eaten shelled. They can be enjoyed hot or cold.
About 4 ounces of shelled edamame provides about 94 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and just over 9 grams of plant-based protein. Add a kick of flavor by sprinkling some seasoning on top of the shells, such as sea salt, garlic, ginger, or chili powder.
String Cheese and Almonds
String cheese is an easy and portable snack option. Add in some nuts, such as almonds, and you have a variety of nutrients, including protein, filling fats, and dietary fiber—making this pairing a perfect high-protein snack.
One ounce of raw almonds and 1 ounce of part-skim mozzarella cheese together contain 250 calories, 13 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber.
Eggs are a straightforward, simple source of protein. Hard-boiled eggs, in particular, are an easy-to-make and portable snack option. Two large whole eggs provide around 145 calories and 12.5 grams of protein. They are also a good source of vitamins A, D, and E, iron, choline, and folate.
For an easy grab-and-go snack, keep your peeled, hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. Eat them as is, or slice and add to a piece of whole wheat toast or on top of salad greens.
Cottage Cheese and Berries
Low-fat cottage cheese is an excellent high-protein food, providing a powerful 12 grams of protein in one-half cup. That same serving also contains just 90 calories, as well as good-for-you minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.
If you don’t want to go sweet with berries as your mix-in, try some diced fresh tomatoes for a savory snack option.
Nut Butter on Toast With Banana
Nut butters, such as peanut, cashew, or almond butter, are filled with plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats. A 1-tablespoon serving of almond butter provides about 98 calories, 3.4 grams of protein, and 1.6 grams of fiber.
Spread your nut butter on a medium slice of whole-grain toast, which will add about 4.5 grams of protein, 92 calories, and 2.2 grams of fiber. Top it off with half of a banana (sliced) for some extra fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B6.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Nonfat, plain Greek yogurt is an excellent high-protein snack, providing an impressive 16 grams of protein and 90 calories in a 5.3-ounce serving.
Stir in 2 ounces of granola and fresh fruit for some whole grains, extra fiber, and a boost of vitamins and minerals.
Tomato, Feta, Basil, and White Bean Salad
A 1-ounce serving of feta cheese offers 5.6 grams of protein and 78 calories. Mix crumbled feta with white beans for an extra boost of protein (a one-third-cup serving of white beans provides 5.6 grams of protein).
Toss both with sliced cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and seasonings for a tasty protein-packed salad. Make ahead and let it chill in the refrigerator to marinade for a few hours or overnight for maximum flavor.
Apple Slices Wrapped in Turkey
Turkey and apples is a sweet and savory combo. One medium apple with the skin on has around 95 calories and provides 1 gram of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
Wrap cored apple wedges with 2 ounces of sliced turkey for an additional whopping 12 grams of protein and just 62 more calories.
Make your own protein-packed trail mix at home by mixing and matching your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Great high-protein options include almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and dry-roasted edamame.
If adding dried fruit, look for options without added sugars. A typical trail mix may contain anywhere from 5 to 10 grams of protein per serving. However, be mindful of portion sizes when snacking on trail mix, as nuts and seeds are also energy-dense, and calories can add up quickly.
Hummus With Vegetables
Hummus is a flavorful plant-based dip traditionally made from chickpeas and tahini (sesame seed paste). In addition to being a good source of protein, hummus provides fiber, healthy fats, and nutrients like calcium, folate, iron, and magnesium.
A one-third-cup serving of hummus contains 6 grams of protein, 4.8 grams of fiber, and just over 200 calories. Choose your favorite veggies to dip in your hummus, such as carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, or cucumber.
Celery With Peanut Butter
Celery pairs well with a variety of foods, which makes it a great snack. Spread some peanut butter on top for a boost of protein and healthy fats.
Two small celery stalks, each topped with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, will provide about 8 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 192 calories.
Egg muffins are made by whisking eggs and mixing them with chopped vegetables, shredded cheese, and/or another protein source such as chopped ham, sausage, or bacon, then pouring them into muffin cups and baking them.
Egg muffins are a good option for an easy, make-ahead snack that you can quickly grab from the refrigerator and heat up any time of the day. An average egg muffin contains anywhere from 5 to 8 grams of protein. Snack on one or two, depending on how hungry you are, or pair one with a piece of whole-grain toast.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a good protein source and provide healthy fats, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Roasting pumpkin seeds with different seasonings (sweet or savory) is a fun way to change up your snack-time routine.
A 2-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds contains about 9 grams of protein, 150 calories, and 1.5 grams of fiber.
The best thing about smoothies is you can make them however you want. The options are endless when it comes to mix-ins, but if you want to keep it high-protein, some good whole-food options include plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, kefir, silken tofu, nuts or nut butter, peanut butter powder, or flax, hemp, or chia seeds.
If desired, protein powder or collagen peptide supplements can be added to your smoothie. Be sure to find one with minimal ingredients, avoid fillers and artificial sweeteners, and check that it is third-party tested to ensure quality and safety standards have been met.
Roasted chickpeas are a great way to mix up your usual snack routine. This crunchy snack is versatile and can be made with a variety of different spices and seasonings to fit what you’re in the mood for.
A 1-cup serving of drained and rinsed chickpeas contains 10.7 grams of protein, 210 calories, 9.6 grams of fiber, and nutrients like vitamin B6, folate, manganese, and phosphorus.
If you are pressed for time or want convenience, you can find store-bought roasted chickpeas at most supermarkets.
Three ounces of tuna contains about 21 grams of protein and 98 calories. In addition to being a great source of protein, fatty fish, such as tuna, is an excellent source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Canned tuna is a high-quality protein that is convenient and affordable.
Keep your tuna salad simple by seasoning it with lemon juice and dill, and stir in Greek yogurt for a quick afternoon snack. Pair with some whole wheat crackers, if desired.
Margherita Pizza Flatbread
Make your own version of a mini Margherita pizza using a whole wheat flatbread, mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato, and basil. This makes for a filling and flavorful afternoon pick-me-up.
One whole wheat flatbread with sliced tomato, an ounce of part-skim mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil contains about 12 grams of protein, 8 grams fiber, and 200 calories.
Jerky is an excellent high-protein, low-carbohydrate snack. It is shelf-stable, portable, and easy to pull out and eat for a quick snack. A 1-ounce serving of beef jerky strips or sticks provides, on average, around 9 grams of protein and 114 calories.
Try to choose options with less than 300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per serving and minimal added ingredients.
Tofu is a soy-based protein that is versatile and vegan- and vegetarian-friendly. A 3-ounce serving of firm tofu provides 9 grams of protein.
Make a plant-based version of a childhood classic by making tofu nuggets. Marinate chopped tofu squares in soy sauce (or liquid aminos) mixed with water, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Next, dip it in a simple flour and plant milk-based batter and with a breadcrumb and seasoning mixture. Bake in the oven or air fryer until crispy for a protein-packed snack.
Meeting Your Daily Protein Needs
Protein needs will vary from person to person, depending on their height, weight, activity levels, and fitness and nutrition goals. High-protein snacks can be a great way to help reach your daily protein goals.
Do not consume most of your daily protein in one meal or snack, such as in the evening. Instead, try to spread out your protein intake throughout the day, starting with a high-protein breakfast. This will better help with appetite regulation and satiety, building and repairing muscles, and stabilizing blood glucose levels.
Protein and Muscle Building
Protein is vital to building and maintaining muscle mass. Individuals who are trying to increase their muscle mass will require a higher protein intake.
To get the biggest benefit of muscle building, be sure to consume protein within two hours after physical activity to help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. In addition, studies show that muscle mass increases over time when nutrient intake is paired with resistance training, such as body weight exercises or weight lifting.
Choosing Healthy Protein Sources
You have a variety of options to choose from when looking for high-protein snacks. Animal sources of protein include meats, poultry, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based protein sources include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy.
Animal-based sources of protein tend to be higher in protein than plant-based sources. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, be sure to include a variety of plant-based protein foods in your diet throughout the day.
Snacks to Avoid
While trying to incorporate more protein into your diet can be beneficial, some high-protein snacks may not be the best to help you reach your health and nutrition goals. These include snacks with high amounts of saturated fat, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and those that are ultra-processed.
If you opt for premade or store-bought protein bars or snacks, look for those with minimal ingredients, contain mostly whole foods and some fiber, and are low in added sugars.
High-protein snacks can aid in weight management, aid in satiety and appetite regulation, and help stabilize blood glucose levels. Including protein in your diet can also help build muscle mass, especially when combined with resistance exercises.
The amount of protein an individual needs will vary based on height, weight, activity levels, and fitness and nutrition goals. Spreading your protein intake evenly throughout the day is best. There are both animal- and plant-based sources of protein, either of which can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet.