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12 High-Protein, Low-Carb Foods to Help You Lose Weight

These high-protein, low-carb foods will help you stay fuller for longer—and could ultimately help you lose weight.

The benefits of high-protein, low carb foods

High-protein, low-carb foods have become popular, thanks to trendy diets like the ketogenic diet, paleo, and Atkins. And the reason why this type of diet—eating foods higher in one macronutrient and lower in another—works for some people often comes down to the fullness factor.

"Typically, protein-rich foods take longer to digest," says Kristen Smith, RD, an Atlanta-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "So increasing your consumption of protein-rich foods, increases satiety, and can, therefore, aid in weight-loss because you can become more satisfied by eating less food." Also, by eating fewer carbs, your body can learn to burn more fat as fuel, while excessive carb intake can cause your body to store more fat, Smith explains. (Start your day with these high-protein breakfasts to help you lose weight.)

Research also suggests that a low-carb diet can help increase your daily energy expenditure (or calories burned) when looking to maintain weight loss. And studies back up the fact that eating plans that are high in protein can increase satiety and help control the number on the scale.

But two important caveats come up when you turn mostly to high-protein, low-carb foods. For starters, you still need to pay attention to saturated fat—too much is bad for heart health—and those with kidney disease should probably avoid this plan, Smith says.

Also, without many carbs in your diet, you might start craving ingredients like pasta, bread, and potatoes. "If you follow a diet and it provides results but leaves you feeling unsatisfied or craving more, then it might not be the diet for you," says Angel Planells, RDN, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. In other words, make sure you stick to a diet plan that works for you, featuring foods that leave you satisfied, not deprived. For specific ingredient suggestions, we rounded up these high-protein, low-carb foods to add to your meal plan, according to Planells and Smith.

Raw chicken eggs with yolk on white background, top view

Eggs

Serving size: 1 large hard-boiled or scrambled

6 grams protein; less than 1 gram carbs

Not just a breakfast food, hard-boiled eggs taste great on salads or as a stand-alone snack. Both Smith and Planells recommend it as a top food to choose. (These 10 "facts" about eggs simply aren't true.)

Raw chicken fillet with spices and herbs on cutting board.

Chicken breast

Serving size: 3 ounces

20 grams protein; 0 grams carbs

An easy addition to salads, grain bowls, or as a main meal, chicken breast will fill you up thanks to that high-protein content. Aim to keep portions the size of your fist to get your fill and use healthier cooking methods (baked, roasted, grilled, etc.) versus frying.

Ground turkey in polystyrene food tray

Ground turkey

Serving size: 3 ounces

23 grams protein; 0 grams carbs

Another poultry product packed with protein, ground turkey offers a lean alternative to many red meats. Plus, you can put it in tacos, breakfast hash, or turn it into healthy burgers.

lean cuts of meatshutterstock (2)

Lean beef

Serving size: 3 ounces

25-30 grams protein; 0 grams carbs

Look for cuts with less fat, like sirloin or top round roast, says Smith. This cuts down on the saturated fat while keeping protein high. Read more about the best meats to eat and the ones to avoid.

Canned tuna on wooden tableArt_Photo/shutterstock

Canned tuna

Serving size: 3 ounces

20 grams protein; 0 grams carbs

This is a convenient source of protein, because there's no cook time. Opt for tuna canned in water and you get all of the protein, without all of the fat from oil. In just three ounces, you'll find less than three grams of fat.

yogurt with fruit toppingsStolyevych Yuliya/shutterstock

Greek yogurt

Serving size: 1 container (about 7 ounces)

20 grams protein; 8 grams carbs

It's best to go for a plain flavor than those filled with fruit (aka sugar), as that will cause the carb content to skyrocket. Add your own seasonings, like cinnamon, a little dash of almond butter, or one of these 10 healthier toppings for your Greek yogurt.

Creamy peanut butter and peanuts

Peanuts

Serving size: 1/4 cup

9 grams protein; 6 grams carbs

Toss peanuts in a trail mix or eat them right out of the shell, just make sure you check the sodium on the label. The same goes for peanut butter. Look for labels with no sugar, salt, or oil added, Smith says.

Freshly cut raw broccoli on white wooden surface

Broccoli

Serving size: 1 cup

3 grams protein; 6 grams carbs

If you're looking for a veggie that offers a few more grams of protein than others, this green will do the trick, says Planells. While it is higher in carbs, it's important to eat non-starchy greens, so keep it on your list of go-to foods when going high-protein, low-carb.

string cheeseLiudmyla Chuhunova/shutterstock

String cheese

Serving size: 1 package (typically 24 grams)

7 grams protein; 1 gram carbs

Grab a stick of mozzarella as a protein pick-me-up when you're on the move. It's the perfect savory snack, says Smith. The hit of fat content will help keep you full, too. Read more about why cheese is good for you.

soy bean tofu cubes

Tofu

Serving size: 1/2 cup

10 grams protein; 2 grams carbs

Get your fill of high-protein, low-carb foods with an animal-free ingredient. This option, made of soy, offers a high serving of plant-based protein.

hemp seeds

Hemp seeds

Serving size: 3 tablespoons

10 grams protein; 3 grams carbs

Easily tossed into a salad or on top of soup, these little seeds add a slightly nutty flavor and crunchy texture to any dish. They're also one of the 13 trendy foods you should aim to eat more of.

bowl of hummus

Hummus

Serving size: 1 tablespoon

2 grams protein; 5 grams carbs

Made of protein-rich chickpeas, hummus offers a dash of the macronutrient in each dip. Check your ingredient list to make sure you recognize what's on the label before you buy. This primer will help you decode the 11 trickiest terms you'll see on a food label.

Sources
  • Kristen Smith, RD, an Atlanta-based dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • The BMJ: “Effects of a low carbohydrate diet on energy expenditure during weight loss maintenance: randomized trial”
  • Nutrition & Metabolism: “A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats”
  • Angel Planells, RDN, a Seattle-based spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics