Sometimes it can be challenging to take a diet high in carbs and fat to one that’s high in protein, especially if you need to limit your total calorie intake.

Below is a handy guide to foods that are mostly protein.  If you don’t need to worry about your other macros, you can ignore this and just continue to eat whatever protein source you find tasty.  But if you need to curtail fats and carbs while keeping your protein intake high, having a list of foods are mostly protein can be a helpful asset.

Pure protein is 4 calories per gram.  Foods that are close to this number (4.0) are mostly protein, and do not contain much in the way of carbs or fats.  Higher numbers mean you are ingesting more carbs and fats along with your protein.

Let’s start with animal protein.  This should comprise the bulk of your protein.  Its amino acid profile is superior when it comes to building muscle.

Animal Protein (best sources of protein for muscle gain)
Tuna – canned (water/drained) 4.6
Cod – fresh 4.6
Chicken Breast (meat only) 4.8
Turkey – white meat 4.9
Pork chops – trimmed 5.1
Tilapia 5.1
Sea Bass – fresh 5.2
Shrimp 5.3
Halibut 5.3
Tuna – fresh 6.1
Beef lean (trimmed) 7.7
Salmon – fresh/farmed 10.3
Lamb – trimmed 10.5
Beef Jerky 11.7
Bacon – cured 42.7

Pick the bulk of your protein from the foods at the top of this list.  Make your food more tasty by including smaller portions of the foods towards the end of the list.

Let’s not forget dairy products.  Adding dairy products to your meals can help with palatability, and bumps up your protein nicely.  Whey, in particular, has a great amino acid profile for muscle gain.

Dairy (good adjunct sources of protein)
Eggs – whites only 4.4
Whey Isolate – standard 5.2
Greek yogurt – 0% 5.7
Cottage Cheese – non fat 7.2
Milk – skim 10.3
Mozzarella – part-skim 10.6
Eggs – whole 11.0
Milk – 2% 16.7

Finally, it’s also useful to know which plant sources contain significant quantities of protein.  While the amino acid profiles of these foods are not as complete as those from animal products, plant protein can help you top off your daily protein goals and provide a good source of fiber as well.

Plant Sources (use as side dishes or combine with animal protein)
Seitan – generic 5.7
Mushrooms – raw 7.3
Spinach – raw 7.7
Tofu – firm 8.8
Edamame – shelled fresh 11.1
Lentils – dry 13.6
Brussell Sprouts 14.3
Beans – kidney 14.7
Kale – raw 16.7
Hemp Seeds – hulled 18.0
Quinoa – dry 26.3

This list is just a sample of some of the foods that can help you meet your protein goals without consuming 5,000 plus calories a day.  You may want to compile your own list at some point, including foods that suit you best.  Having a handle on the macronutrient content of the foods you like best can make counting macros much easier!

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