1. Greek Yogurt
Made by straining away the liquid, deliciously thick Greek-style yogurts contain about twice as much protein as regular versions. You’ll also reap the rewards of gut-friendly pro biotic bacteria and bone-building calcium.
Need to Know: Plain Greek yogurt can contain up to three times less sugar than flavored types.
2. Cottage Cheese
This curd-riddled cheese product is laced with casein protein—a slow-digesting protein that supplies your growing muscles with a steady supply of vital amino acids. Think of it as the MVP of snack time, especially before bedtime.
Need to Know: Cottage cheese is notoriously high in sodium, but you can now compare nutrition labels to find brands that contain less.
3. Swiss Cheese
Ounce for ounce, Swiss cheese provides more protein than other commonly available varieties in the supermarket, making it a muscle-friendly option for your sandwiches and burgers.
Need to Know: If you’re concerned about the calorie density of full-fat Swiss, low-fat versions have a protein-to-fat ratio of around 8-to-1, while still providing good flavor.
These white orbs are near-perfect muscle food. That’s because the biological value—a measure of how much protein from the food can be incorporated into proteins in the body—of an egg is higher than that of nearly any other item in the grocery store. The biological value is largely dictated by the amount of essential amino acids a food possesses, and the humble egg has these in spades.
Need to Know: Keep an eye out for cartons containing eggs with beefed-up omega-3 levels to make your morning scramble work even harder for you.
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Moo juice remains a reliable source of top-notch protein with a biological value just shy of that found in an egg. But why try to chug watery, flavorless skim milk when you can still enjoy the richer taste of 2 percent without breaking the fat bank. Besides, the extra fat will help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D present in the great white.
Need to Know: Studies show that cows raised using organic farming methods produce milk richer in a range of nutrients, including body-friendly omega fats.
These leaner cuts of steak provide a fantastic 1 g of protein for every 7 calories; rib eye, on the other hand, delivers roughly 1 g of protein for every 11 calories. Plus, round steak is considered one of the more economical cuts.
Need to Know: Leaner cuts of steak like round and loin will become drier than the Sahara with overcooking, so prepare them quickly over high heat to just medium-rare.
7. Ground Beef
Using 90 percent ground beef provides just the right amount of fat so your burgers and meatloaf won’t taste like cardboard. Beyond a payload of protein, this red meat is also a good source of the almighty creatine.
Need to Know: If you’ve got some extra cash in your wallet, opt for grass-fed beef, which is more nutrient-dense than its factory-farm counterparts.
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8. Chicken Breast
This bodybuilding staple delivers more protein than other poultry cuts, which is why it should remain a constant presence in your shopping cart.
Need to Know: To keep more greenbacks in your wallet, get chummy with the meat guy at your supermarket, who can give you a heads-up when the poultry is likely to be marked down for quick sale.
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9. Turkey Breast
As with chicken, this big bird can flood your muscles with a wallop of protein.
Need to Know: Like pork chops and chicken breast, turkey breast can benefit from a pre-cook brining. If you’re concerned about antibiotic use in large-scale poultry farming, you can look for turkey breast labeled “antibiotic-free.”
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10. Yellow fin Tuna
This meaty swimmer delivers a boatload of easily digested, premium-quality protein. You’ll also benefit from the healthy amount of B vitamins and the potent antioxidant selenium in its flesh.
Need to Know: When possible, look for troll- or pole-caught tuna, which are the most sustainable options.
Among white flesh species, halibut reigns supreme when it comes to the protein you need to build muscle like a champ. Each 3-oz. serving also has a mere 2 g of fat, making halibut an even better catch of the day.
Need to Know: Pacific halibut is generally considered a more sustainable choice than Atlantic.
An increasing number of fishmongers are now offering up this seafood choice. So if your goal is to pack on granite-dense muscle you’d be a sucker—pun intended—not to reel it in for its protein windfall.
Need to Know: Frozen octopus actually has an advantage over fresh because the subzero process works to help tenderize the meat.
Commonly available at most fish markets, tilapia provides an approachable, mild-tasting fish choice that will give you laudable amounts of protein to keep your muscles well-fed.
Need to Know: Look for American-farmed tilapia, which is a safer choice than tilapia imported from Asia.
Ounce for ounce, these tiny swimmers are the surprising winners when it comes to canned protein . Because of their size, they also don’t accumulate toxins the same way that bigger species do.
Need to Know: To reduce their saltiness, soak anchovies in water for 30 minutes; then drain and pat dry.
15. Light Tuna
Frugal shoppers rejoice: Less pricey canned light tuna actually provides a little more protein than more expensive canned white tuna.
Need to Know: To save yourself some calories sourced from lackluster oils, opt for water-packed tuna instead of the oil-packed gift of the sea.
Not only are oft-overlooked canned sardines plush in protein, they also deliver plenty of omega-3 fats and vitamin D. Research suggests that higher intakes of vitamin D can also support bone health.
Need to Know: Look for the better-tasting and crazy-sustainable canned sardines from Wild Planet.
17. Dried Lentils
Often located alongside the canned proteins, bags of inexpensive dry lentils are a sure-fire way to ramp up your intake of protein, fiber, and a range of vital minerals.
Need to Know: Unlike dried beans, lentils don’t require an annoying pre soak. Simply simmer them in a pot of water until tender, about 20 minutes. For a nutritious lunch, toss cooked lentils with chopped turkey or chicken breast, diced vegetables, and a lemon vinaigrette.
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18. Peanut Butter
Though not as trendy as other nut butters like almond, ye olde peanut butter still leads the way in the protein department.
Need to Know: Forget the reduced-fat versions. All they do is replace the healthy fat with not-so-healthy sugar.
19. Mixed Nuts
Nuts like peanuts, cashews, and almonds make for a crunchy way to add more protein and healthy unsaturated fats to your diet.
Need to Know: If you’re watching your sodium intake, look for packages labeled “unsalted”.
20. Bean Chips
If you’re jonesin’ for crunchy chips, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than the ones made with protein-rich black beans.
Need to Know: For a high-protein nibble while watching the big game, try making a dip with Greek yogurt and using bean chips as a delivery vessel to your mouth.
21. Smoothie Drinks
Homemade protein shakes are always preferred, but if you want a quick shot of protein in liquid form you can pick up bottles of premade smoothie drinks such as Bolthouse Farms.
Need to Know: Make sure the drink you choose contains a source of protein in the ingredient list such as whey protein and not just fruit, which can quickly send you into a sugary overload.
If you’re looking to embrace Meatless Mondays, slabs of tofu can make sure your protein intake doesn’t suffer too much.
Need to Know: Slices of firm tofu work well in stir-fry, or try slapping them onto the grill to infuse them with some smoky flavor.
23. Green Peas
While protein is not abundant in most vegetables, subzero green peas contain enough that you’ll want to keep a bag stashed in your freezer at all times. They’re also a good source of fiber to help keep cravings for junk food at bay.
Need to Know: When buying frozen green peas make sure to fondle the bag. You should be able to feel the individual peas. A giant pea ice cube means they have been thawed previously and then refrozen, which can degrade quality.
24. Wheat Germ
The wheat grain is made up of three components—endosperm, bran, and germ. The germ is the most nutrient-dense part and includes notable amounts of plant-based protein. You can use it to add a protein boost to your oatmeal, pancakes, and even shakes.
Need to Know: To preserve freshness, it’s best to store wheat germ in the refrigerator or freezer.
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Among whole grains, South American quinoa is a rarity in that it contains a full arsenal of essential amino acids, meaning that it’s a complete protein with muscle-making potential.
Need to Know: Toasting quinoa in a dry skillet or saucepan before simmering it in water can enhance its natural nutty flavor.