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Protein is a vital macronutrient that’s necessary for our body to function properly. It is the foundational building block of muscle in our bodies. After a hard, intense workout, protein is what builds you back up and allows you to become stronger. Protein is crucial, and, because of this, it is important that we choose our protein sources wisely.

If you’re at all like me, after a workout, you’re immediately thinking about what you’re going to eat. Finding the best protein sources is important for building and maintaining healthy muscle mass. These protein sources include lean protein, animal products, nuts and legumes, and even some seafood.

Let’s chow down on some of the best sources of protein!

Lean Beef

Lean beef is a top protein source. I particularly like lean beef because, aside from the flavor, it offers a ton of protein per ounce and can be used in plenty of ways. In general, according to the MyFitnessPal database, 1 oz of 90% lean ground beef offers 5 grams of protein at only 49 calories!

Additionally, there are nearly infinite ways to use lean beef. There are so many different cuts of meat that can be grilled alone, baked into casseroles and loaves, or even mixed into sauces! This gives us endless unique possibilities for nutritious and delicious meals made with lean beef.

A cut of lean beef on a cutting board with seasonings.

Eggs

Of all the protein sources on this list, eggs are undoubtedly my favorite. Eggs offer many different options and excellent overall nutrition. They are a great source of lean protein and healthy unsaturated fat – which promotes healthy cholesterol – as well as several other vitamins and minerals.

While there aren’t many types of eggs on their own, they offer a vast number of ways to use them. They can be made into omelets, scrambles, or casseroles where they can be easily mixed with other foods to create a balanced, well-rounded meal. Additionally, they are also often used in baking where their benefits are not lost.

Eggs are an excellent source of protein that offers plenty of nutrients and a variety of preparation options. I would suggest eggs to anyone looking to improve their nutrition.

A basket of free range eggs which are a great protein source.

Chicken

Chicken is a lean protein that is both delicious and healthy. It is very popular in many places – especially the American South – and chicken has become a staple in modern American society with establishments like KFC and Chick-Fil-A adding fuel to the flame.

On its own, chicken is a healthy option. A 6oz grilled skinless chicken breast claims 257 calories, 52 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat. That’s impressive, right? However, when it’s been battered and fried, it’s significantly higher in saturated fats (which raise your cholesterol). For this reason, these kinds of chicken should be eaten only in moderation.

There are plenty of creative, healthy ways to prepare chicken. It can easily be grilled on its own, thrown into a salad, or – much like eggs – baked into a casserole. There are so many ways to prepare chicken that I can’t possibly include them all here. I will say, though, that I am a huge fan of grilled chicken paired with broccoli and brown rice. It’s simple, easy, and delicious.

Chicken being grilled with tomatoes.

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great source of protein that is becoming increasingly popular. On average, Greek yogurt offers high amounts of protein and low amounts of fat. Many producers like Chobani and Oikos (two of my favorites) have options with no fat and no sugar.

Greek yogurt is a great snack. I like to enjoy a small cup of yogurt a few times throughout the day. There are also more creative options that are becoming more and more prevalent in our everyday nutrition. Greek yogurt has recently become a healthy substitute for many common condiments like sour cream or mayonnaise.

Additionally, Greek yogurt works well as a breakfast food too! The overnight oats trend is one that I am particularly fond of. These can be made by combining oats, Greek yogurt, and a variety of toppings. My favorite consists of oats, yogurt, almonds, and apples caramelized in cinnamon and coconut oil.

A Greek yogurt parfait containing oats, raspberries, blackberries, and a strawberry. Greek yogurt is just one of the excellent protein sources here.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a great source of protein. As a vegetable, it offers plenty of important nutrients for the body to function properly like fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C. Additionally, broccoli offers a decent amount of protein for significantly fewer calories than other options (like red meat). Usually, a cup of broccoli boasts 3 grams of protein with a mere 34 calories.

Broccoli can be purchased in many different ways. If you prefer fresh vegetables, you can always buy large or small stocks of broccoli at the supermarket. If you enjoy frozen vegetables, frozen broccoli can be bought in bulk – usually for a good price – and will keep for a long time.

A large, thick stock of broccoli. Broccoli is an unlikely but effective source of protein.

Canned Tuna

When I was a kid, canned tuna was one of my favorite protein sources – of course, I didn’t even really know what protein was then. Now I’m fortunate to understand that this childhood favorite of mine offers 1 gram of fat and 13 grams of protein for only 60 calories!

Not only is tuna a great source of protein, but it also is an excellent way to get Omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain health and help regulate triglyceride levels. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish 2-3 times per week to get enough Omega-3. However, tuna should be eaten in moderation due to its mercury content. Tuna is good for you, but only if you eat in moderation.

Tuna offers a few preparation options. The tuna salad sandwich is a classic that many of us know and love, but there are also a few more creative options. I particularly like @SamAnne.Fit’s tuna macaroni salad that she featured on IGTV recently. It’s a great way to use tuna that I had never even considered.

A delicious looking tuna sashimi which is rich in protein.

Almonds

Almonds are an excellent source of both protein and healthy fats. Since they have significant fat content, almonds tend to be higher in calories than some other sources of protein. Generally, 1oz of almonds has 14 grams of mostly unsaturated fat and 6 grams of protein. However, they also offer a wide variety of additional nutrients like fiber, Vitamin E, and magnesium.

Almonds – like Greek yogurt – are a great high protein snack. They can be eaten on their own, which I particularly enjoy. They can also easily be combined with other foods to increase the total nutrients and create a nutrient-dense, well-rounded dish.

A bowl overflowing with delicious almonds. All of these almonds are great protein sources.

Milk

Milk is not only a great source of protein but also of many other essential vitamins and minerals. These additional nutrients include calcium, Vitamin B12, and phosphorus. Furthermore, milk is oftentimes fortified with Vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids. A glass of 1% milk usually contains around 2.5 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein for around 100 calories.

Milk can be used in several unique ways. Whether it be in a glass of milk, a smoothie, or in a sauce, milk can be used in nearly every food, drink, and dessert. When drinking milk, though, it’s important to be aware of its fat content. For example, whole milk is full-fat, skim milk is fat-free, and 2% milk – which is my favorite – has only 2% milk fat. If you are getting your fat from many different sources, it is best to drink whole milk only in moderation.

A pitcher and glass of milk sitting on a fall-colored picnic blanket in front of sunflowers on a clear day.

Your New Go-To Protein Sources

Protein is a very important macronutrient that is necessary for many different functions in the body. The most important of which is the repair and maintenance of muscle tissue. Fortunately, we have plenty of different options when choosing our protein sources.

These protein sources are great for people on a budget and can be easily stored and used over a period of time. Additionally, they are all incredibly versatile and can be used in any number of different ways. This makes these protein sources perfect for everyone, no matter your nutrition plan.

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