An array of high-protein snacks on a white table, such as Greek yogurt, bananas, and nuts.

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Want to Eat More Protein? Don’t Sleep On These 10 High-Protein Snacks Loved by Dietitians

Fuel your muscles and satisfy your appetite between meals with these delicious-meets-simple snacks.

By Karla WalshJune 6, 2024

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Eating enough protein is an important part of every meal and snack. Not only is the macronutrient crucial for building and maintaining muscle, but it also aids in hormone production, balances blood sugar, and even supports healthy hair and skin, explains Mary Stewart, RD, a registered dietitian and the founder of Cultivate Nutrition in Dallas. 

While you might think you need to get your fill of protein during meals—such as oats at breakfast, quinoa at lunch, or chicken breast at dinner—there are plenty of high-protein snacks to keep you satisfied all day long. And while you could rely on a protein bar or shake to increase your protein intake throughout the day, whole foods are often more satiating—and present a lower risk for digestive distress after chowing down.

So what counts as a high-protein snack? And which of those snacks are fueling enough to energize you, easy enough to prepare in a hurry, and delicious enough to put on your grocery list again and again? We spoke with three registered dietitians to narrow down the best high-protein snacks to add to your regular rotation. 

How Can Snacks Help You Achieve a High-Protein Diet?

Not only are snacks a good opportunity to squeeze in a solid dose of protein without forcing you to scramble to pile on several protein sources at dinner, but the dietitians we spoke to also agree that eating high-protein snacks will:

  • Help maintain muscle mass and support muscle growth and recovery

  • Increase satiety and reduce cravings

  • Boost metabolism (research suggests that protein has a higher “thermic effect” than carbs or fat, meaning that your uses more energy to digest, absorb, and store the nutrients throughout the body)

What’s more, high-protein snacks can help us get enough of the macro each day—a feat that’s easier said than done due to hectic schedules, dietary preferences, and time-consuming meal planning, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a New York-based dietitian and author of the book Everyday Snack Tray. “Since some meals get skipped (I’m looking at you, lunch!) or skimped on, it’s smart to use snack time as a moment to fit in more protein,” she adds.

But remember, while protein is wonderful, don’t forget about including healthy carbs and fats in your picks, too, says  Roxana Ehsani, RD, a Miami-based board-certified sports dietitian. A balanced, fueling diet is all about balance.

How Much Protein Per Snack Should You Aim For?

The ideal protein intake for each snack will vary based on your age, activity level, weight, and specific health goals, Stewart says. Generally, our experts say that snacks that offer about 10–15 grams of protein could be considered high-protein choices—but again, that number will be different for everyone. 

A good way to figure out the ideal snack protein content for you is by calculating your total protein goal for the day and then dividing that number across your typical number of meals and snacks. Although more research is needed, a 2018 study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that for those looking to maximize muscle protein synthesis, it’s wise to consume 0.4 grams of protein per kilogram per meal across at least four meals to reach the minimum target of 1.6 grams of protein per kilograms per day. This is a solid guideline for those looking to eat more protein to fuel an active lifestyle, experts say. 

“For a 150-pound person, this comes out to be 110 grams of protein for the day,” Stewart says. “When divided evenly into four meals and snacks, this comes to about 27 grams of protein each.” If you break that into three meals and two snacks, that same 150-pound individual would shoot for about 25–30 grams of protein at each meal and about 10–15 grams of protein for each snack.

All that said, remember that tracking macros isn’t necessary or even helpful for everyone. Experts generally recommend focusing on eating a balanced diet and talking to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you have any questions about your protein or macro intakes. 

10 of the Best High-Protein Snacks

If you’re feeling inspired to pump up your snacks with a healthy amount of protein, below are some of the best options to consider, according to our panel of experts. Using estimates from the USDA’s FoodData Central nutrition database, we’ve listed these easy high-protein snacks in order of most to least protein for the full snack, which sometimes includes one food and other times includes two or three ingredients combined together. 

As you’ll see, some of these snacks offer more protein than the 10–15 gram baseline mentioned above, so feel free to adjust the portions—or your subsequent meals and snacks—to suit any personal nutrition goals.

1. Cottage Cheese 

A bowl of cottage cheese, which is a high-protein snack.

Arx0nt / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Protein per 1-cup serving: 25 grams

Thank goodness cottage cheese is cool again, Ehsani says. Regardless of its reputation, cottage cheese has always been a sleeper hit as a stellar high-protein snack. Now we’re celebrating it for its protein, probiotics, and versatility. 

Process cottage cheese in a blender or food processor with some everything bagel seasoning or dry ranch dressing powder for a creamy and flavorful dip for veggies. Or top it with savory ingredients (cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, a drizzle of balsamic glaze) or sweet extras (fresh cherries and granola or your favorite nut or seed) to make a quick bowl or parfait.

2. Greek Yogurt

A bowl of Greek yogurt with small bowls of fresh fruit surrounding it. Greek yogurt is a high-protein snack.

wilatlak villette / Moment via Getty Images

Protein per 1-cup serving: 24.5 grams

In addition to being a solid source of several bone-bolstering and muscle-supporting minerals like calcium and potassium, Greek yogurt is a great source of gut-friendly probiotics and a substantial amount of protein. 

Opt for plain Greek yogurt, then dress it up as desired to infuse some variety into your meal plan. Ehsani adores it topped with fruit or mixed into smoothies, while Largeman-Roth digs it frozen into a thin “bark” that’s topped with dried fruit.

3. Banana with Nut Butter and Hemp Seeds

A plate of banana slices and peanut butter, which is a high-protein snack.

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Protein per serving: 18.5 grams total (1 gram per banana + 8 grams per 2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter + 9.5 grams per 3 tablespoons hemp seeds)

Introducing your new favorite pre-workout high-protein snack. This trio of banana, nut butter, and hemp seeds offers protein and easily digestible carbohydrates to fuel a workout and provide sustained energy, Stewart says, noting that the hemp seeds in particular are small but mighty vehicles for protein and heart-healthy fats. 

Not so fond of bananas? Try the same nut butter and seed duo on top of a slice of toasted whole grain or sourdough bread, Largeman-Roth suggests.

4. Beef Jerky with Almonds

A close-up photo of beef jerky slices, which is a high-protein snack.

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Protein per serving: 15.5 grams (9.5 grams per ounce of beef jerky + 6 grams per ounce of almonds)

Red meat is one of several foods that qualify as a “complete protein,” meaning it delivers all the essential amino acids our body requires to support muscle growth, hormone synthesis, and beyond. Since carrying around a burger or steak to snack on is rarely possible, Stewart recommends jerky or a meat stick if you’d like to add beef to your high-protein snack list. (Pork, salmon, and other proteins also come in jerky form these days!) 

To tack on some fiber, more protein, and some vitamin E, which Ehsani says supports healthy skin and nails, enjoy a serving of jerky with a handful of raw or roasted almonds.

5. Salmon Pouch

A bowl of salmon made into a dip-like dish. Salmon is a high-protein snack.

Anna Kurzaeva / Moment via Getty Images

Protein per 2.5-ounce pouch: 15 grams (may vary by brand)

In addition to the significant amount of protein it provides, this convenient, no-refrigeration-required snack is “loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to support cardiovascular, brain, and skin health,” Stewart says. (At grocery stores, can usually find it near the canned tuna and chicken.)

This is another high-protein snack that’s ripe for customization to bulk things up a bit. Try mixing a pouch of salmon with 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard and ½ tablespoon of Greek yogurt (another protein star), then scoop it up with carrot sticks and bell pepper slices. “Pair the salmon with these vitamin C- and A-rich veggies, and you have the perfect snack combo to keep you feeling great until your next meal,” Stewart says.

6. Kefir with Pistachios

Someone pouring a glass of kefir, which is a high-protein snack, into a glass.

Elena Medoks / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Protein per serving: 15 grams (9 grams per cup of kefir + 6 grams per ounce of pistachios without shells)

Kefir, which is a fermented milk product, tastes like a delicious and slightly sour milkshake, has more protein than cow’s milk per cup, and contains active probiotic cultures. To sneak in more fiber, sip on a cup of kefir as you snack on pistachios. (These nuts now come in creative flavors like jalapeño lime, barbecue, and sea salt and vinegar, all of which make for excellent alternatives to flavored potato chips.)

7. Bran Muffin with Nut Butter

A plate with banana slices and bran muffins with peanut butter on one of the muffins, which is a high-protein snack.

wolf_art / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Protein per serving: 15 grams (8 grams per medium bran muffin + 7 grams per 2 tablespoons almond butter)

Don’t get it twisted: A baked good can absolutely be part of a balanced diet. Largeman-Roth, an avid runner, swears by making a big batch of muffins made with whole grains for a quick grab-and-go option. “I like using a combo of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour as a base for muffins to get more fiber, then I add whatever fresh or dried fruit I have on hand,” she says. 

If you’re not fond of baking or don’t have time, seek out one of the store-bought mixes or frozen muffin options on the market, with something like bran, quinoa, whole-wheat, spelt, or oats in the mix. Then for extra protein and heart-healthy fats, split that muffin down the middle and give each side a schmear of nut butter.

8. Dry-Roasted Edamame 

A glass bowl of dry-roasted edamame, which is a high-protein snack.

LauriPatterson / E+ via Getty Images

Protein per ⅓ cup: 14 grams

If you’re traveling or need a high-protein snack that’s shelf-stable, dry-roasted edamame is one of your best bets. It packs a ton of protein in a small package while offering a yummy, crunchy taste. Although you might think a ⅓-cup serving size will leave you scrounging for snacks soon after, the fiber (7 grams) and healthy fats (5 grams) will likely help tame your appetite for a surprisingly long time. Bonus: Edamame also contains several beneficial vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, iron, potassium, and calcium.

9. Hard-Boiled Eggs

Two hard-boiled eggs (which are high-protein snacks) cut in half and seasoned with everything bagel seasoning.

Claudia Totir / Moment via Getty Images

Protein per 2 large eggs: 12.5 grams

“Eggs are an excellent choice when looking for a complete protein and a good source of leucine, an important amino acid for building muscle,” Stewart says.

Try a couple of hard-boiled eggs dusted with your favorite seasoning blend or topped with a small scoop of salsa or guacamole, if desired. Or follow Largeman-Roth’s lead and snack on reheated muffin-sized frittatas (aka egg bites), which are available at most supermarkets in the refrigerator or freezer section. 

10. Bone Broth with Multigrain Crackers

A bowl of bone broth (which is a high-protein snack) with two tiny bowls of dill and crackers on the side.

Victoria Popova / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Protein per serving: 10 grams (9 grams per cup of bone broth + 1 gram for 4 multigrain crackers)

If you prefer a high-protein snack that feels more like a mini meal, bone broth could be a fantastic fit. Bone broth earns bonus points over other stocks and broths because it’s made by simmering animal bones (often with aromatics and/or meat) for hours before straining and serving. That long cooking time allows even more of the nutrition to seep out of the bones, whether it’s made with beef or chicken. As a result, bone broth is rich in collagen, the most prominent type of protein in the body that also supports the strength and elasticity of joints, bones, skin, and more. It’s also a good source of sodium and potassium, two important electrolytes that we often need to replenish after sweaty workouts

Pair your broth with a serving of whole-grain crackers, and you have a warm, wholesome, and well-rounded high-protein snack.

Tips for Choosing the Best High-Protein Snacks for You

Now that you know what qualifies as a high-protein snack, it’s important to consider when and how to add them to your meal plan. Keep these pro tips in mind:

Time Things Wisely

Stewart encourages her clients to add protein to every meal and snack; however, for physically active clients, she asks them to prioritize a high-protein snack after a workout. “This is an important time to maximize protein utilization for muscle protein synthesis,” Stewart explains. After exercising, aim to eat a high-protein snack within 30–45 minutes of wrapping up, registered dietitian Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, previously told The Output.

Let Hunger Be Your Guide

Besides after a sweat session, the ideal time to sneak in a high-protein snack is any time you feel hungry. Or, “if you don’t find yourself hungry often, instead think about other cues,” Ehsani says. It might be a great time for a high-protein snack if:

  • It’s been a few hours since your last meal

  • You know you won’t be eating a meal for another few hours

Start Small

This is especially important if you tend to have a sensitive stomach. Try a quarter or half of one standard serving, then “pay very close attention to how you feel after having a small portion of a high-protein snack and see how your body responds,” Stewart says. “A balanced snack can be one of the best approaches if you have a fussy stomach.” This means not overdoing it with any of the macronutrients (protein, fats, or carbs, especially those high in fiber), as this may lead to an upset stomach.

Aim for Variety

“When you’re trying new snacks, keep in mind that while it’s great to keep reaching for the same one that works for you, it’s wise to include some variety for gut health,” Largeman-Roth says. 

Ehsani likes to make a game of this: “Challenge yourself to try at least one new-to-you-snack each week,” she suggests. If you have never tried kefir, for example, sample a flavored variety first, such as peach or blueberry, until you find your favorite flavor, variety, or even brand. Do the same with nut butters, flavored pistachios and almonds, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and beyond.

The Takeaway

The best high-protein snacks will feed your muscles; promote healthy skin, hair, and nails; support your immune system, hormone production, and blood sugar balance; and aid in weight maintenance. 

What qualifies as a high-protein snack varies on your activity level, age, weight, and unique health goals, but a snack with at least 10-15 grams of protein is a solid place to start. Generally, try to aim for 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram per day—and spread out that protein intake between a few meals and a couple of snacks per day to meet your nutrition goals for the day while keeping your energy levels steady.

Some of the best high-protein snacks include cottage cheese, greek yogurt, banana with nut butter, dry-roasted edamame, and hard-boiled eggs. As you aim to pepper in some snacks high in protein, try to prioritize them when you’re hungry, within 45 minutes or so after a workout, or any time you have a long period between meals. And when possible, strive for diversity among your high-protein snacks to nurture your gut health and keep things interesting.

And as always, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for specific protein guidance that’s ideal for you and your lifestyle.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.

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