If you’re trying to slim down, you probably don’t need us to remind you that eating plenty of protein can help you reach your goal weight.
Protein—even from unlikely sources like veggies—digests at a slow, steady rate to help you feel fuller longer and make you less prone to junky cravings. Just as important, it’s essential for maintaining and building lean muscle mass to help your body torch tons of calories. So it’s worth loading up all around.But do certain high-protein foods pack more get-lean power than others? You bet. Some foods serve up more protein for fewer calories, while a few boast extra weight-loss benefits that just might get you into your skinny jeans even faster. Here’s a look at the most powerful picks—and why you should be eating them on the reg.
They just might be the best way to start your day. For just 140 calories, 2 large eggs will deliver 14g protein. That, combined with the fat in the yolks, will keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady, which can help stave off diet-derailing cravings. In fact, findings show that eating eggs for breakfast dampens the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin—and helps you eat less for the next 36 hours. Incredible, right? (Try these 7 egg breakfasts nutritionists love.)
2 Wild-caught salmon
You’ll get a whopping 22g protein in 3 ounces of cooked wild salmon for just 155 calories. Just as important: Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost fat-burning and help keep your appetite in check, according to a review published in the journal Nutrients. As for why you should aim to eat wild? Compared to the farmed stuff, it’s got about 32% fewer calories and nearly 1g more omega-3s per serving.
3 Low-fat cottage cheese
Sure, it’s not as popular as Greek yogurt. But a cup of low-fat cottage cheese actually delivers more protein—28g versus 24g—for just 163 calories. And that’s not the only reason it’s a top pick for weight loss. (Try adding it to a smoothie.) Overweight women who consumed more protein-rich dairy foods like cottage cheese lost more fat and gained more muscle compared to those who skipped the stuff, found one Canadian study. As an added bonus? It’s relatively inexpensive. Ounce per ounce, cottage cheese costs less than Greek yogurt, so you can stock up on more of it.
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breast
There aren’t too many other foods that’ll give you 26g of protein for just 128 calories, which is why boneless, skinless chicken breast is a weight-loss wonder food. But here’s another reason: Chicken breast’s mild flavor makes it super versatile, meaning the number of ways to cook it is practically endless. That’s important, since boredom is a big reason why dieters often hop off the healthy eating train. (You’ll love these 10 slimming chicken breast recipes.)
A cup of cooked lentils won’t just give you nearly 18g protein. It’ll also serve up a whopping 15g fiber, which helps slow the digestion of your meal and stabilize your blood sugar, so you stay satisfied for hours. The combo means that these humble pulses pack a potent weight loss punch. In a recent Canadian review, subjects who ate just one serving of lentils daily lost half a pound in just six weeks—without making any other changes to their diet. Now, just imagine what lentils could do as part of a healthy eating and exercise plan.:
6 Pork tenderloin
For just 30 extra calories per serving, a 3-ounce serving of this lean meat will give you just as much protein as the same amount of boneless, skinless chicken breast (around 26g). So when you want to branch out from your usual poultry pick, it’s an equally satisfying choice. And, yup, science shows that pork can help you reach your weight loss goals without losing calorie-torching muscle mass. Overweight women who ate 6 ounces of lean pork daily retained nearly twice as much lean muscle tissue compared to those who ate less, an Obesity study shows.
Haven’t given tofu’s lesser-known cousin a try yet? Now’s the time. Tempeh, a fermented soybean cake with a nutty flavor and a chewy, meaty texture, boasts 16g protein per 3-ounce serving. But that’s not all. Like lentils, tempeh is a fantastic source of fiber, giving you 7g per serving. And that’ll help you stay fuller for even longer than pure protein alone. (Another delicious perk: You can make or buy tempeh bacon!)
8 Canned tuna
Like wild salmon, it’s another great source of fat-burning omega-3s, and packs 16g protein per 3-ounce serving. But unlike it’s pink counterpart, canned tuna is crazy inexpensive—around $2 per can. Plus, having it on hand means you always have the makings of a healthy, filling meal. So you can stick to your weight-loss plan—and reach your goals—no matter what. If you’re concerned about your mercury intake, stick with lower-mercury chunk light tuna instead of albacore.