9 Lean Protein Foods You Should Eat

9 lean protein foods you should eat


Are you consuming at least 3 ounces of lean protein per day?  According to the USDA, you should.  Now you may ask yourself the question, “What is considered lean?” Upon beginning my diet journey, I thought I had a clear cut idea of what was and wasn’t a lean protein.  However, upon doing research, I’ve learned so much more about what is acceptable for healthy consumption.  That’s why I’d like to share 9 lean protein foods you should definitely eat.

9 lean protein foods you should eat

Beyond protein’s essential roles in building and maintaining muscle and tissues, it also promotes satiety (fullness) and may help in managing your weight.  Here are 9 lean protein foods you should consider.

Lean Beef

Let’s start with the obvious.  Lean cuts of beef are those with less than 10 grams of total fat and 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) cooked serving. If you’re buying fresh beef that doesn’t have a nutrition label, certain words tell you the meat is lean. These include “loin” and “round.” For example, sirloin and tenderloin steaks.  When it comes to ground beef, opt for 95% lean.  The best part is that a serving of lean beef is an excellent source of vitamin B, zinc, and selenium.

Skinless Chicken or Turkey

White meat is the leanest choice, but even dark meat can be a good choice if you skip the skin.  Both chicken and turkey give you about 25 grams of high-quality protein, along with B vitamins and selenium.  Broil, bake or grill these cuts, and eat them with green salads or a medley of non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus, to create a low-carb meal.

Pork and Lamb

I’ve always considered chicken or turkey the primary source for lean protein.  However, like beef, a pork or lamb cut with “loin” in its name is also low in fat.  Pork center loin, pork tenderloin, and lamb tenderloin contain under 3 grams of fat per serving.  One serving is 2 to 3 ounces in weight and equivalent in size to a deck of cards.   Most pork and lamb cuts have visible fat, which you can trim off with a sharp knife.


When buying fish at your local supermarket, nutritionists at Healthline suggest looking for the white-fleshed variety.   That’s because most white-fleshed fish are excellent protein sources and incredibly lean.  Examples of very lean white fish include cod, haddock, pollock, flounder, halibut, and tilapia.

Beans, Peas & Lentils

Are you a vegetarian?  We’ve still got you covered!  Beans, peas, and lentils are super-healthy and you should eat them frequently.  Not only do they give you protein (9 grams per half-cup), they are also brimming with filling fiber, heart-healthy folate, and energy-creating iron.  Yes, please!

Plain Greek Yogurt

Did you know that greek yogurt is strained to remove the liquid whey?  That’s why Greek yogurt is thicker, creamier, and more concentrated with protein that you need.  If you’re looking for the least calories and fat, opt for plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, which has 100 calories per 6-ounce (170-gram) serving.

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

I have a confession to make:  I’ve never really liked cottage cheese.  Yet after reviewing the many health benefits I think I need to give cottage cheese a second try.  That’s because it’s such a high protein and low-fuss food.  A 1/2-cup (4-ounce or 113-gram) serving of low-fat (2% milk fat) cottage cheese has 97 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and 13 grams of protein.  The newest trends in cottage cheese also include single-serve containers and flavored options.

Tofu and Other Soy Foods

Soy is one of the top vegetarian protein sources.  1/2 cup of tofu gives you 8 – 10 grams of protein (depending on whether it’s soft or firm), while 1 cup of edamame gives you 17 grams. Calcium-set tofu also gives you a healthy dose of bone-building calcium, while edamame also packs a whopping 8 grams of fiber.  Maybe it’s time to pick up a soy burger for lunch, eh?

Nuts and Nut Butters

Unless you’re allergic to them, nuts and seeds are a must-have in your diet. A Harvard research study found that they’re one of the top foods linked to weight loss.   Plus, they’re chock full of healthy fats and fiber, in addition to protein.  Natural peanut or almond butter is also a great choice for topping your morning toast.

pic of lean protein chicken, lime and quinoa salad


Did these suggestions help you?  Was there something I missed?  I’d love to hear your thoughts at hello@heartandsoulblog.com And please be sure to subscribe to my newsletter to receive more helpful blog posts each Friday.  If you would like to read more about healthy eating, I encourage you to check out “How to Avoid Stress Eating at Home“.  Enjoy!

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