By: Melissa Mitri, MS, RD
Protein is still all the rage, especially in the weight loss space. Getting more protein in your diet can keep you full, curb cravings, and build muscle to speed up your metabolism. To ensure you get enough of it, you need high protein meal prep for weight loss ideas to start.
And not to worry – these high-protein recipes for weight loss for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are super quick and easy, so you can stop spending your entire weekend meal prepping.
Here are 3 days’ worth of high protein meal prep for weight loss ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Let’s get right to it and give you that meal planning jumpstart you need.
9 High Protein Meal Prep for Weight Loss Ideas
If you’re riding the meal planning struggle bus, you’re in the right place.
Knowing what you are going to eat and preparing it in advance helps to ensure you have healthy meals at-the-ready. This reduces the chances of making a rash decision, ordering high-calorie takeout that leaves you feeling bloated, and helps you achieve more significant weight loss results.
Here is 3 days’ worth of high protein recipes for weight loss for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Overnight oats are one of the easiest breakfasts to have on busy mornings. You can make them ahead of time, and all of the wonderful flavors soak up overnight.
These overnight oats contain a whopping 25 grams of protein due to the added vegan protein powder, soy milk, and yogurt. They also are high in fiber due to the chia seeds and added fruit, which has been shown to support weight loss.
If you’re looking for high protein vegan recipes for weight loss, this is a true winner. You can keep this recipe vegan if you choose, or substitute whey protein powder and dairy milk instead.
Day 2: Sheet Pan Veggie Frittatas
Eggs are naturally one of the highest protein breakfasts you can have. If you’re an egg fan but don’t want to spend each morning cooking them up, this make-ahead breakfast is perfect for you.
Eggs are the star of the show with this breakfast, with added fiber for crunch and fiber. Feel free to modify the recipe with your favorite veggies or use what you already have on hand.
Cook in advance, store, and enjoy for up to 5 days during your work week.
This easy make-ahead breakfast is packed with protein and is the perfect way to start your day. With a combination of fruit, granola, seeds, and yogurt, it is a complete meal that takes less than 5 minutes to prep in advance.
Yogurt is also rich in probiotics, which support gut health. There is mounting research that shows your gut health and weight are intricately linked, so yet another reason to incorporate Greek yogurt into your breakfast rotation.
Day 1: Superfood Tuna Salad
This super simple salad is packed with both tuna and salmon, which together are a power couple of flavor and nutrition. They are rich in protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, which can support overall health and promote a healthy weight.
If you don’t get a lot of fish in your diet or you don’t like cooking it, this is an easy way to fit it in more regularly. Enjoy in between slices of whole wheat bread, atop leafy greens, or on its own.
Day 2: UnSeaSir Chickpea Salad Wrap
This chickpea salad is quick to prepare, contains minimal ingredients, and can be made in advance. With belly-blasting ingredients like chickpeas, chia seeds, and leafy greens, this make-ahead lunch is perfect for your weight loss menu.
Enjoy inside a low-carb or whole-wheat wrap, or mixed into a green salad as your protein source.
Day 3: Classic Bento Box
Bento boxes are one of my favorite lunches. They are effortless and versatile and are perfect for your office. But even if you work from home, you can prep these in advance and they are ready to go when you need them.
This bento box includes turkey slices and cheese as the protein, but you can substitute hard-boiled eggs, tuna or chicken salad, yogurt, peanut butter, or nuts as other protein examples. Then, add a fruit, vegetable, or healthy fat source such as avocado, and you’re good to go.
You can prep a few different bento box variations depending on which of these ingredients you have on hand. This is a balanced, high-protein meal that can be made in 5 minutes during your regular meal prep.
This is one of my favorite high protein recipes for weight loss. This quick and easy meal only packs 320 calories but contains close to 30 grams of protein. This low-cal, high-protein combination is perfect for weight loss and to keep curb cravings.
Cauliflower rice, if done right, tastes very similar to real rice and is a simple swap to cut major calories. This meal contains minimal ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish. Using frozen steamed broccoli also saves you additional time (and clean-up!) as there is one less pan to use.
This yummy chicken fajita bowl contains shredded chicken, bell pepper, and Brussels sprouts for added fiber.
This is also a great meal if you’re looking for low-carb meal prep ideas.
The winning combination of fiber from the veggies and high-quality protein from the chicken makes this meal filling while keeping the carb content low.
Best of all, it only takes about 10 minutes of prep time, which can easily fit into your weekend meal prep or small pockets of time you have during the week to prep.
Day 3: Honey Garlic Shrimp
If you’re a fan of stir-fry ingredients, you’re going to love this one. With simple ingredients like frozen shrimp, snap peas, and brown rice, this will be ready to go in under 30 minutes.
It also contains less than 350 calories and 29 grams of protein, making this meal perfect for a high protein meal plan for weight loss.
To save even more time, substitute uncooked brown rice with instant brown or brown basmati rice.
You hear about the importance of protein all the time. But knowing and doing are often two different things. Why don’t you always do what you know you should? Well, it’s not always easy. It can help to know WHY you should be doing something in order to give you the incentive to actually do it. Here I’ll uncover why you’ll want to get enough protein in your diet and some great protein sources in your diet.
What is Protein?
Not to get too scientific on you, but I want to share the definition of protein – a large chain of amino acids (building blocks) that contain hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen molecules.
Proteins are required for many important functions in our body such as making enzymes to digest our foods, supporting our metabolism, and providing us with long-lasting energy. Protein also has a high thermic effect of food (TEF), which is the increase in our metabolic rate after eating.
This means our bodies have to work harder and thus burn more calories breaking it down than the other 2 macronutrients – fat and carbs.
If you’ve ever felt hungry shortly after eating, chances are your meal may have been short on protein. Also, if you are often feeling sluggish or tired, it could be a sign you’re not getting enough.
When you’re trying to find a sustainable eating plan you can stick to and feel satisfied, high-protein foods should be on the top of your list. To be clear, I’m not in any way promoting a ridiculously high protein, Atkin’s-type diet here.
But it’s essential to get a moderate amount of protein spaced out between all your meals and snacks. This ensures you are full, have long-lasting energy, and experience reduced cravings and blood sugar dips.
To ensure you get enough protein, make sure you get at least one of the below foods in each of your meals and snacks
10 High Quality Protein Foods for Weight Loss
Here are my top 10 high quality protein foods for weight loss sources and how much protein is in each serving.
- Eggs – 7 grams of protein per egg. Try these mini-egg souffles or make a pot of hard-boiled eggs for the week for a grab-and-go breakfast or snack.
- Chicken – 7 grams per oz. Marinade chicken in Italian dressing and throw it on the grill for an easy dinner.
- Plain Greek Yogurt – ~12-15 grams per 6 oz. Add into smoothies or enjoy on its own with ¼ cup of fruit and a handful of nuts.
- Meat – 7 grams per oz – choose leaner cuts like tenderloin, sirloin, or flank.
- Fish – ~~8-9 grams/oz. Try salmon, cod, or shrimp at least 2x per week.
- Legumes – 7-12 grams per cup cooked. Legumes go great in soups, stews, chilis, or in tomato sauce.
- Nuts/Nut butter – ~8 grams per 2 tbsp. Spread on apples or celery sticks or add to whole wheat toast for a quick breakfast.
- Beans – ~20 grams in ½ cup. Try chickpeas in a salad, make hummus or add black beans to your taco/quesadilla.
- Plain Cottage cheese – ~13 grams in ½ cup. Have as a quick breakfast or snack with 1 tbsp honey and berries.
- Milk – 7-8 grams per cup. Add to your oatmeal, a smoothie, or have it on its own as a post-workout snack. Milk has the perfect combination of carbohydrates and protein for post-exercise recovery.
Incorporate these proteins into each of your meals and snacks to be on your way to feeling fuller and preventing those late afternoon energy crashes. Especially if you’re finding yourself slacking off on your healthy eating later in the day, these high quality protein foods are key to incorporate into every meal.
Protein and Weight Loss
Protein is essential for weight loss for several reasons. As mentioned, you do not need to go bonkers over protein, but having the right amount with each meal is key. One easy way to do this is by focusing on protein first when planning your meals.
Why is protein good for weight loss? Here are a few reasons:
Regulates appetite hormones
When cravings hit, much of it is due to hunger hormones released by your brain. These centers in your brain regulate when and how much you should eat and are supposed to send you signals on when to start and stop eating.
Research shows eating more protein can help decrease your hunger hormones and increase your satiety hormones. This helps you feel more full and satisfied more easily, helping to naturally reduce your calorie intake.
Burns More Calories
Not only does protein make it easier to decrease calories, but it also helps you burn more calories. While it’s not necessarily an astounding change, it offers a moderate metabolism boost that can speed things up a bit.
This is due to the aforementioned thermic effect of food (TEF), whereby protein has an enhanced ability to burn more calories as it is broken down in the body.
Reduces Appetite and Curbs Cravings
Higher protein diets have also been seen to directly increase our satiety, helping to hold you over longer between meals and prevent cravings later in the day. In addition to its role in regulating hunger hormones, it also may prevent cravings by keeping our blood sugar levels steady.
For example, according to one study, eating higher protein snacks helped reduce blood sugar spikes and helped regulate insulin levels. This can lead to more steady energy throughout the day and fewer cravings between meals.
Even though this study was done on those with diabetes, keeping your blood sugar levels more steady is good for everyone.
How much protein should you eat per day?
Okay so it’s clear protein is important for weight loss, but how much do you need to eat?
Everyone’s daily protein intake needs are different, so there is not one general recommendation out there. It is based on many factors such as your gender, weight, genetics, medical status, and activity level.
For example, if you are an endurance athlete or are strength training regularly you need more protein. On the contrary, if you have kidney disease you may require less protein because your kidneys are not able to filter out any build-up as they should.
A general range is somewhere between 50-100 grams of protein per day for most of us, broken up into at least 3 meals. It’s important to know your daily protein needs and meet those requirements, but not all at one meal.
Research shows your body has the ability to synthesize (i.e. build) muscle with up to 25 grams of protein at one time. If you have more protein than this in one sitting, it may not hurt, but it may not be put to any good use either.
If you want to know your individual protein needs, it’s best to consult with a Registered Dietitian.
Takeaway – High Protein Meal Prep for Weight Loss
Getting in enough lean, high quality protein in your diet can help you lose weight and feel satisfied in the process. The above high protein meal prep for weight loss ideas will give you the jumpstart you need for your weight loss journey.
By incorporating plenty of high quality protein foods, fiber, and whole grains, you’ll be on your way to losing weight without feeling restricted. Don’t forget the importance of drinking plenty of water, doing both cardio and strength training, and getting proper beauty rest.
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