Low-calorie, high-protein meals are a great way to lose weight, lower your cholesterol levels, and get healthier. These meals have just enough carbohydrates to fuel your body, and the proteins that handle cell repair keep your health at an optimum level. While such meals may seem tricky to prepare, we have compiled ten recipes to make it easier for you.
Taste is usually a significant concern when preparing meals. If healthy meals are not tasty, most people easily fall for the appeal of unhealthy meals such as fast foods. Therefore, we considered this variable in our selection and presented recipes for healthy and tasty meals.
Vegans and meat lovers alike will find something incredible on our list. While the focus is on wholesome lunches and dinners, there are a few breakfast recipes to jump-start your day healthily as well. Above all, we compiled the list while keeping most ingredients affordable.
These recipes are easy to follow and don’t include complicated preparation skills or equipment. You can whip up most of these low-calorie, high-protein meals at home on short notice.
But First, What’s the Hype Surrounding Proteins?
Most people know and appreciate the role of protein in their health and well-being. However, few understand which sources are the best, how to prepare those proteins, and how to balance the meals for optimal nutrition.
Proteins repair cells in your body, which are lost or damaged through wear and tear. In addition, they transport molecules throughout the body. They also reinforce your immune system to fight against viruses and bacteria. Therefore, you need a daily supply of proteins in your diet to keep your body healthy and strong. Failure to do so causes your body to turn to muscles for proteins, leading to muscle mass loss. Similarly, your heart and lungs will cease to function optimally, and prolonged deficits could lead to death.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The right amount of daily protein intake depends on these factors:
- Health status
- Daily physical exertion
- Fitness goals
Since everyone’s optimum intake varies, you need to determine where your range lies. Ideally, you need at least 30% of your total calories from proteins. A more straightforward calculation is to ensure you consume at least 0.8 grams of proteins per body weight kilogram. This figure applies to an average sedentary adult.
Best Sources of Proteins
Plants make the best sources of proteins, followed by animal sources. For example, most legumes contain all the nine essential amino acids and most of the non-essential ones. The best animal sources are lean meats, preferably white meat. Examples include poultry and seafood. Eggs and milk are also excellent sources of proteins.
What About the Low-Calorie Requirement?
While aiming for enough proteins in your diet, remember to watch your carbs intake. Too many carbohydrates result in excessive weight gain, adversely affecting your health. For example, you may develop insulin resistance, feel fatigued more, have low self-esteem, and have a weakened immune system. Therefore, focus on consuming not more than 65% of your calories from carbohydrates.
10 Best Low Calorie High Protein Meals Recipes
Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
You only need one pan and some oven time to prepare this delicious chicken meal. A green salad is an ideal accompaniment if you wish to consume more vegetables.
You’ll need about half an hour to prepare this meal, which suits those with busy schedules.
Ingredients (serves eight)
- One tablespoon of canola oil
- One small onion, finely chopped
- 1½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
- Four cups of reduced-fat milk
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- Two tablespoons water
- Three cups of broccoli florets
- 1½ cups shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
- Two nine-ounce packages of precooked brown rice
- One teaspoon of dry mustard
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- One cup of prepared crispy fried onions
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, high-sided, ovenproof skillet.
- Next, add the chicken and chopped onion and cook it while stirring occasionally.
- Cook for about seven minutes or until the chicken no longer looks pink.
- Next, sprinkle the mixture with flour and cook for a minute, stirring occasionally.
- Add the milk to the pan and bring to a boil.
- Keep stirring the mixture and let it boil for a minute.
- As it boils, place the broccoli and water in a microwave-safe container, cover it, and microwave on high until the broccoli is tender. This should take about three minutes.
- Drain the broccoli.
- Next, remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the rice, cheese, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and broccoli.
- After that, sprinkle it with crispy onions.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake the casserole until it’s bubbling at the edges. Set the timer to 10 minutes and keep checking.
- Once ready, let stand for five minutes before serving.
Smoked Salmon Sandwich
This quick and easy-to-prepare sandwich is perfect for breakfast. Using whole grain bread slices instead of bagels is the healthier option. The salmon provides your daily protein quota, while the whole grain bread keeps the calories low. Your body will rejoice at how many refined carbs you have avoided. Furthermore, if your schedule is packed, you can carry this sandwich to work for a quick lunch. You’ll only need to prepare fruit juice to keep the meal healthy.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
- Two tablespoons of capers, rinsed and chopped
- Eight slices of toasted whole-wheat bread
- ½ red onion, thinly sliced
- One large tomato, sliced
- Two cups of mixed baby greens
- Eight ounces of smoked salmon
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Spread one tablespoon of the cream cheese on each slice of toast.
- Top each slice with capers, onion, greens, and two slices of tomato.
- Lightly salt the tomato, then add as much pepper as you prefer.
- Finally, drape a few slices of smoked salmon over the tomatoes and top with the remaining slices of toasted bread.
Combining pork, pineapples, onions, and sweet peppers in a savory sauce makes a delicious meal. This pork dish carries that island vibe and flavor, perfect for a sumptuous dinner. You’ll need about 45 minutes to prepare the meal. Additionally, the baking process cooks the pork well and makes the recipe easy to follow.
Ingredients (serves four)
- Non-stick cooking spray
- One 1-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Two tablespoons of honey
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- Three tablespoons of reduced-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- One tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
- One tablespoon of lime juice
- Four cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- One teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Two cups of 1-inch chunks of peeled fresh pineapple
- Six tablespoons of 2-inch pieces of green onions
- One cup of red sweet pepper strips
- One 8-ounce pouch of cooked whole-grain brown rice
- ¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Next, coat a standard-size baking pan with the non-stick cooking spray.
- Then, place the pork in the prepared baking pan.
- Drizzle with one tablespoon of the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then roast for 10 minutes.
- As it roasts, combine the soy sauce, honey, lime juice, ginger, garlic, paprika, cumin, and coriander in a small bowl.
- Combine the remaining oil, pineapple, sweet pepper, and green onions in a medium bowl.
- Arrange the pineapple mixture around the meat in a pan.
- Next, drizzle the soy mixture on the meat and pineapple combination.
- Roast for 15 more minutes or until the meat registers 145 degrees F. before removing from the oven.
- Let meat stand for three minutes before slicing.
- Microwave the rice according to package directions, then serve it with the meat and pineapple mixture.
- You can top with cilantro if you prefer.
Mushroom Burger With Mozzarella Cheese – Vegetarian
Vegetarians rejoice, for this burger is one of the most delicious you’ll ever have. In addition, it is low on calories, ensuring you remain healthy. Most vegan meals are perceived as healthy when this is not usually the case. Processed foods, whether vegan or not, threaten your health and well-being. Therefore, this burger is refreshingly healthy, combining simple ingredients for a delicious and wholesome experience.
Ingredients (serves four)
- Two tablespoons of mayonnaise
- 1⁄2 cup of shredded mozzarella
- Four large portobello caps with the stems removed
- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- One clove of garlic, minced
- 1⁄4 cup of finely chopped roasted red peppers
- One tablespoon of olive oil
- One tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- One teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning
- Four whole-grain buns
- Four slices of red onion
- A bowl of assorted mixed greens
- Heat a grill or grill pan.
- Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice, red peppers, and garlic. You can puree the mixture in a food processor for a uniformly red mayo.
- Next, rub the mushrooms with olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
- Grill the mushrooms top side down for two to three minutes, then flip and immediately add the cheese.
- Cook them for about three minutes until the cheese is melted and the mushrooms are fully cooked.
- As the mushrooms cook, grill the onions until browned, and toast the buns.
- Layer each bun with the assorted greens, grilled onions, mushrooms, and red pepper mayo mix.
Another fast prep time and delicious meal, this turkey stir-fry is an excellent option even for people with diabetes. You only need 30 minutes in the kitchen to produce a meal that works for weeknights and weekends. Additionally, you can substitute the rice with low-calorie noodles or riced cauliflower.
Ingredients (serves three)
- One pound of lean ground turkey
- 100 grams of broccoli, chopped
- 100 grams of baby carrots, sliced
- 70 grams of water chestnuts, sliced
- 100 grams of snow peas, chopped
- 100 grams of whole baby corn, chopped in half
- ¼ cup of water
- Eight tablespoons of stir-fry sauce
- One tablespoon of chili garlic sauce
- A pinch of crushed red pepper
- Salt and pepper
- Heat a pan over medium heat and spray with a non-stick cooking spray.
- Next, add turkey to the pan. Press the turkey down into the pan and season with salt and pepper.
- Let the turkey brown on each side before breaking it into pieces.
- Season with salt and pepper and let it brown.
- Once the turkey is cooked through, add the broccoli, carrots, and ¼ cup of water. Let the vegetables steam until slightly soft. Keep stirring frequently.
- Once the carrots begin to soften, add the corn, peas, water chestnuts, crushed red pepper, and fresh cracked pepper.
- Next, add the stir-fry sauce and chili garlic sauce.
- Mix well and serve over rice. You could opt for low-calorie noodles or riced cauliflower as the healthier options.
Beef With Asparagus and Mushrooms
Steak and vegetables are a common combination, but this recipe includes ingredients that make it more interesting. The preparation style also allows for a more flavorful steak. Besides proteins, beef also supplies your body with vitamins B3, B6, and B12, with choline, selenium, and zinc. Similarly, the mushrooms and asparagus add vitamins A, B5, and K1, alongside folate, copper, iron, and potassium.
Ingredients (serves four)
- One ½-pound one-inch-thick London broil
- Four teaspoons of crushed dried rosemary, divided
- Four garlic cloves, minced and divided
- One pound of asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- One pound of white mushrooms
- One small onion, sliced lengthwise
- Two teaspoons of grated lemon zest
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Score both sides of the steak in a diamond pattern to allow entry for the spices. Do so by making 1/8-inch-deep diagonal cuts with a sharp knife at one-inch intervals.
- Next, rub half of the garlic and two teaspoons of the rosemary into both sides of the meat and season with salt and pepper.
- Next, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add steak and cook, turning once, for about four minutes per side until medium-rare.
- Transfer the steak to a plate and loosely cover with foil to keep it warm.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet.
- Next, add the onion and cook for two minutes, stirring often.
- Add the remaining garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly.
- Add the asparagus and mushrooms and cook for five minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender and almost all the liquid evaporates. Keep stirring as it cooks.
- Next, stir in the lemon zest and remaining rosemary, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Finally, plate the meal by cutting the steak into thin slices and arranging the vegetables.
Vegan Eggplant Parmesan Casserole
This vegan casserole is good enough to work as comfort food while keeping you healthy. The non-dairy mozzarella cheese retains the desirable flavors without containing animal products. Additionally, meal preparation time is slightly over an hour, making this recipe ideal for the weekend. Alternatively, prepare this casserole and refrigerate it for more weekday meal options.
Ingredients (serves four)
- Cooking oil
- One eggplant weighing about one pound cut crosswise into 12 slices
- ⅔ cup of water
- Three tablespoons of egg replacer
- 1 ½ teaspoon of dried basil, divided
- One cup of shredded vegan mozzarella cheese, divided
- Two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons of dried oregano, divided
- One cup of fine dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs
- One teaspoon of garlic powder
- One 28-ounce can of unsalted and crushed tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon of ground pepper
- Three teaspoons of nutritional yeast, divided
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- Chopped fresh basil for garnish
- Place a large, rimmed baking sheet in the oven, then preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Next, lightly coat a medium-sized baking dish with the cooking oil.
- Whisk the egg replacer and water in a shallow dish.
- Combine the breadcrumbs and ½ teaspoon of basil and oregano in another shallow bowl.
- Next, dip each eggplant slice in the liquid, then press in the breadcrumbs.
- Remove the heated baking sheet from the oven and add oil, tilting it for an even coat.
- Arrange the prepared eggplant pieces on it. Ensure the pieces remain separate.
- Next, splash the tops with the cooking oil.
- Bake this for 15 minutes, flip the slices and continue baking for about 15 more minutes or until golden brown.
- Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and the remaining teaspoons of basil and oregano.
- Next, spread one cup of the tomato sauce in the prepared baking dish.
- Arrange six eggplant slices on top. They may overlap, which is fine.
- Spread one cup of the sauce over the eggplant.
- Next, sprinkle the combination with ½ a cup of cheese and 1½ teaspoons of nutritional yeast.
- Repeat the process with the remaining eggplant, sauce, cheese, and nutritional yeast.
- Lastly, bake it uncovered for less than 20 minutes or until the sauce bubbles.
- You may garnish with fresh basil if you prefer.
Colombian Black Bean Stew
This Colombian black bean stew works on all fronts: it’s healthy, easy to prepare, and delicious. Additionally, it is vegan and full of fiber, which is vital for digestion. Furthermore, the main ingredients are affordable and readily available. Making a large batch will make for quick meals throughout the week. You’ll only need to combine the stew with a healthy carbohydrate.
Ingredients (serves four)
- 800 grams of canned black beans
- Olive oil or rice bran oil for frying
- Five garlic cloves
- Scant ½ cup of water
- One teaspoon of ground cumin
- One 400-gram can of chopped tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon of ground ginger
- One vegetable broth cube or vegetable broth
- One heaped teaspoon of dried oregano
- Two small onions
- Two to four teaspoons of sugar
- A pinch of ground black pepper
For the garnish, you’ll need a small handful of fresh coriander or parsley leaves. If desirable, include fresh tomatoes, avocado, and chili flakes. You’ll serve the beans with one fried plantain, rice, or quinoa.
- Drain the black beans and set them aside.
- Next, peel and finely chop the onions and garlic.
- Warm the oil in a large frying pan and sweat the onions over medium heat for five to 10 minutes, or until translucent.
- Next, add the garlic and pan fry everything for about two minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes, stir, and some water.
- Next, add the beans and stir until nicely combined. Lower the heat to a simmer, add the vegetable broth cube and let it dissolve completely.
- Add the cumin, ground ginger, sugar, and dried oregano and let it simmer to intensify the flavors.
- Taste and see if it needs a tiny bit more sugar.
- Let the liquid reduce a little more.
- Once reduced, remove from the heat, sprinkle some ground black pepper, and serve warm with your choice carbohydrate and garnish.
Tofu Tortilla Wraps
These vegan wraps need just 30 minutes to prepare, which can be faster if you do meal prepping. Containing fresh vegetables and spices, these wraps are delicious and fun to make. For an added twist, you can slice and season the tofu. Plain tofu is bland, which takes away from an otherwise fantastic meal. This recipe takes a total of 50 minutes.
Ingredients (for three wraps)
- 120 grams of firm tofu
- Two tablespoons of chickpea flour
- Three tortillas
- ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika
- One tomato
- One avocado
- One red bell pepper
- ½ red onion
- Two cups of lettuce
- One tablespoon of lemon juice
- One tablespoon of vegetable oil
- A pinch of salt
- A dash of black pepper
- Drain the tofu, pat dry, and cut into slices, then season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
- Next, add the chickpea flour to a plate and then toss the seasoned tofu in the flour until coated.
- Heat vegetable oil in a pan, add the tofu and pan-fry it until golden brown.
- Remove the tofu from the pan and set it aside on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain excess fat.
- Next, slice the tomato, bell pepper, and red onion, and shred the lettuce.
- Cut the avocado half, scoop the meat, and transfer it to a bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of lemon juice, and mash with a fork.
- In a dry pan, heat the tortillas, flipping them over mid-way.
- Lastly, assemble the wraps. Do so by spreading the mashed avocado over the tortilla, then topping with the peppers, tomato, fried tofu, red onion, and lettuce. Wrap the tortilla, then cut it in half, and serve immediately.
This vegan lasagna is another wholesome vegan meal that passes for comfort food yet remains healthy. This recipe sneaks in plenty of vegetables to supply adequate fiber. You can enjoy this as a weekend meal and even during the holidays. Meal preparation time is an hour, quick enough when you are relaxing at home.
Ingredients (serves six)
- An 8-ounce package of no-boil lasagna noodles
- A 32-ounce jar of sugar-free marinara
- One batch of tofu ricotta
- Four cups of freshly chopped vegetables
- Three tablespoons of olive oil, divided
- ¼ cup of water
- Two cups of frozen spinach
- Three tablespoons of cashews
- Eight ounces of vegan mozzarella shreds
- Heat the two tablespoons of olive oil over a sauté pan, then add your chopped vegetables.
- Stir the vegetables and cover, letting it cook for 10 minutes over low to medium heat. Keep stirring.
- Next, add all the tofu ricotta ingredients to a food processor and pulse for 10-15 seconds, or until smooth.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Next, drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish.
- Spread one ¼ cup of the marinara sauce onto the bottom of the dish. Next, add the lasagna noodles and half of the vegan cashew mozzarella.
- Spread half of the tofu ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, then sprinkle half the cooked vegetables and frozen spinach.
- Next, add a second layer of the noodles, 1¼ cups of sauce, the remaining tofu, vegetables, and the vegan cashew mozzarella. Top it all with a third and final layer of noodles.
- Add the remaining 1½ cup of sauce over the noodles and ¼ cup of water.
- Bake the lasagna for 35 minutes while covered at 400 F.
- While the lasagna is baking, pulse the cashews in a small food processor.
- Next, sprinkle the powder over the top of the lasagna after 35 minutes and place it back in the oven for an additional five minutes, uncovered.
- Let it sit for at least five minutes before serving.
If you would like to spice things up a notch, you can have several other recipes such as weed butter, you can learn how to make weed butter. For dessert we hope you would like something chocolaty, we also have the recipe on how to make weed brownies if you would like to check that out.
Conclusion: Which Low Calorie High Protein Meal Should You Try?
These 10 best low calorie, high-protein meal recipes are relatively easy to prepare and incorporate into your routine. Additionally, they are delicious, wholesome, and cater to different dietary preferences. You’ll have so much fun preparing for and cooking these wonderful meals.