17 Protein-Packed Dinners for Muscle Building and Weight Loss
"I loved your article about high-protein foods the other day!" my friend excitedly told me. "I've been working out every day to get rid of this belly fat and build muscle, and before I read it I figured the only way I could supplement my diet with extra protein was to guzzle down protein shakes." Boy, was he wrong! Whether it was my friend's attempt to build muscle mass, my aunt's desire to lose weight, or my cousin's discovery of her new favorite grab-and-go snack of pumpkin seeds and almonds to curb cravings, it seemed like no one could stop raving about this magical macronutrient. And I couldn't blame them. When you fit high-protein recipes into your diet, you'll boost your metabolism, extend feelings of fullness, and help your body build and maintain muscle mass (which burns more calories at rest than fat).
So, when my friend asked me if I had any favorite go-to protein recipes to give him, I immediately began to round up a few to share. Whether you're sticking to a low-carb diet, trying to build muscle mass, or you just want to curb cravings, you'll start to feel more satisfied, pack on muscle, and watch your flabby belly whittle away when you whip up one of these delicious high-protein recipes for dinner. All the meals below contain more than 30 grams of protein per serving.
Steak and Bean Burrito Bowl
Nutrition: 450 calories, 13 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 563 mg sodium, 42 g carbs (6 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 41 g protein (calculated without sour cream and with ½ cup brown rice per serving)
What better way to eat some of our favorite protein-packed foods—black beans and grass-fed beef—than in a burrito bowl. This tortilla-less dish is not only delicious but also budget friendly. Even though grass-fed beef can be pricey, this recipe doesn't only rely on the beef. That way, you can save money and be just as satisfied by the ample amount of veggies it's served with.
Get the recipe from Gimme Delicious.
Nutrition: 474 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 673 mg sodium, 46 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 30 g protein (calculated with regular bread crumbs, whole wheat buns)
Salmon isn't just a great source of protein, it's also one of the best sources of omega-3s. These fatty acids help to "fight inflammation while the high-quality lean protein content fights excess fat accumulation," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN. If that wasn't enough to get your tummy rumbling, get this: the burgers are topped with a delicious spread of herby Greek yogurt, which helps brighten up this dish and adds extra protein.
Get the recipe from Cafe Johnsonia.
Baked Caprese Chicken
Nutrition: 416 calories, 22 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 780 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 46 g protein
Your protein is coming from the obvious sources of chicken and mozzarella, but did you know that sun-dried tomatoes also provide a healthy dose of the craving crusher? It's true! Just one cup serves up 6 grams—as much as an egg! Besides protein, these sun-dried tomatoes are also packed with 7 grams of digestion-slowing fiber, 75 percent of your daily value of bloat-banishing potassium, and full of the lycopene—an antioxidant that studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers.
Get the recipe from RecipeTin Eats.
Nutrition: 342 calories, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 317 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 31 g protein
Did you know that shrimp is one of the most protein-dense foods you can find? Each gram of meat is made up of 25 percent protein! The muscle-building fish is used in this dish, which comes together in no time. Because your plate will be mostly pasta and shrimp, we'd recommend pairing it with a side salad before dinner. Doing so can actually help your body control its blood glucose levels, meaning you'll not only stay fuller longer, but you'll also save your body from an inflammatory spike in blood sugar.
Get the recipe from Damn Delicious.
Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Nutrition: 308 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 34 g protein
Who doesn't love finger food? This high-protein recipe saves you calories and carbs by wrapping the ground turkey in crunchy, fresh lettuce. We love that this blogger sneaks in some extra veggies by bulking up the turkey with sauteed crimini mushrooms. They add great texture as well as a good dose of immune-boosting vitamin D.
Get the recipe from Recipe Runner.
Grilled Halibut & Tomato Salsa
Nutrition: 456 calories, 22 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 245 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (7 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 48 g protein
Halibut earned the #3 spot on our guide to every popular fish—ranked by nutritional benefits thanks to a combination of being high in protein, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and low in mercury. According to "The Satiety Index of Common Foods," published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, halibut ranks the second most filling food—bested only by boiled potatoes—likely because it packs such an impressive protein punch.
Get the recipe from Foodie Crush.
Shrimp, Sausage & Lentil Jambalaya
Nutrition: 471 calories, 17 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 895 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (18 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 38 g protein
This creole jambalaya dish is the perfect meal to fill you up and slim you down. That's because thanks to a simple flat belly tweak that substitutes rice for lentils, it's bursting with satiating fiber and protein. We love the leftovers because once cooled, the starches in the lentils go through a process called retrogradation in which they turn "resistant." Resistant starches avoid digestion, instead, they help to improve digestion, boost fat burn, and fend off belly-fat-inducing inflammation.
Get the recipe from Cotter Crunch.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Nutrition: 507 calories, 14 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 747 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (8 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 49 g protein (calculated with ½ cup brown rice per serving)
Who knew you could whip up a Tikka Masala in under 30 minutes? This blogger! All you need is creamy Greek yogurt, crushed tomatoes, chicken, onion, and a spice blend—mostly ingredients you probably already have stocked in your kitchen. Whip this meal up after your post-work workout to reap its muscle-toning benefits.
Get the recipe from Cooking Classy.
Turkey and Bean Chili
Nutrition: 360 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 690 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (14 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 30 g protein (calculated with a dollop of Greek yogurt)
Nothing warms you up quite like a hearty (and healthy!) bowl of turkey chili. Topping your bowl with a dollop of protein-packed Greek yogurt balances out the subtle chili spices that not only warm up the flavors of ground turkey and kidney beans, but that also get your calorie-burning furnace revving by boosting your metabolism.
Get the recipe from Ambitious Kitchen.
One-Skillet Apple & Onion Pork Chops
Nutrition: 555 calories, 26 g fat (12.2 g saturated), 100 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (3 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 32 g protein
Zap your belly double time with this recipe. Pork is a great source of lean protein, which helps feed your muscles so they can burn off extra calories, and apples boast belly-slimming fiber, which can help slow your body's digestion of sugars to keep blood sugar spikes—and their accompanying hunger pangs—to a minimum. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but it's not the only food that does; check out these foods with more fiber than an apple—some may surprise you!
Get the recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
Nutrition: 411 calories, 24 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 461 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 39 g protein (calculated without any extras)
Don't reserve this dish for nights out at your favorite Mexican joint. This one-skillet dish is beyond easy to whip up. In fact, it can even be a 5-ingredient dinner! You'll be noshing on one of the leanest sources of protein via the chicken, and the best source of vitamin C—red bell peppers. The antioxidant vitamin not only reduces inflammation and boosts immunity, but it also helps to fight off cortisol, the stress hormone that stores belly fat.
Get the recipe from Simply Recipes.
Greek Lemon Chicken With Tzatziki Sauce
Nutrition: 410 calories, 15 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 670 mg sodium, 36 g carbs (8 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 38 g protein (calculated with flatbread, lettuce, and tomato)
Store-bought tzatziki sauces are typically sodium bombs and are downright unnecessary when you see how easy it is to whip up this dip at home by using one of our pantry staples, Greek yogurt. We like serving our Greek-marinated lemon chicken and tzatziki Gyro-style: on a flatbread topped with lettuce and tomatoes!
Get the recipe from Recipe Runner.
Shrimp Fried Quinoa
Nutrition: 432 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 753 mg sodium, 44 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 32 g protein (calculated with low sodium soy sauce, low sodium chicken broth)
Say goodbye to take-out fried rice. Whipping up this meal at home means you'll get over 30 grams of protein in under 30 minutes That high protein count is all thanks to the power-couple of quinoa and shrimp. If you haven't heard, quinoa is one of the few plant-based proteins that is a complete protein—meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. One of those amino acids? L-arginine, an amino acid which has been shown to preferentially promote muscle strength over fat gain. Go quinoa!
Get the recipe from The Creative Bite.
Nutrition: 560 calories, 24 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 495 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (9 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 47 g protein (calculated without brown sugar, served with 1 medium baked russet potato and 1 cup green beans)
Red meat is at the top of the list when it comes to high-protein recipes. To ensure you have a well-rounded meal, we like serving our chimichurri-topped beef with a baked potato and garlicky green beans. To make them, just blanch green beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water. Drain, then saute in a tablespoon of olive oil and sliced garlic. Season to taste.
Get the recipe from How Sweet it Is.
Spicy Sesame Zoodles With Crispy Tofu
Nutrition: 500 calories, 32 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 750 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (6 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 30 g protein (calculated with ¾ cup tofu per serving)
Looking for some plant-based protein? Look no further than this spicy zoodle recipe. Cubes of extra firm tofu are seared up, combined with fresh spiralized zucchini, and then covered in a sauce made with protein-packed peanut butter, sesame oil, freshly grated ginger, and spicy chili paste. Trust us, one bite and you'll see that this will be your new go-to weeknight meal. Here's a tip: When grabbing tofu, make sure to pick up a package that's GMO-free and organic (we like House Foods brand).
Get the recipe from Pinch of Yum.
Nutrition: 400 calories, 25 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 462 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 31 g protein (calculated with 2 tbsp dressing per serving)
For most, salads are just boring diet food. But those looking to stave off cravings will love this recipe because it's loaded with half a day's RDA of protein. Between the grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, turkey bacon, crumbled blue cheese, avocado, and even the Greek yogurt from the creamy dressing, you'll be maintaining and building muscle in no time. Who said salads aren't filling?
Get the recipe from Diethood.
Salmon With Lemon Caper Vinaigrette and Chickpeas
Nutrition: 529 calories, 31 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 346 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 41 g protein (calculated with 2 tbsp lemon caper vinaigrette per serving)
Interested in building up lean muscle mass while protecting your brain? This recipe is for you. A piece of omega-3-rich salmon sits atop a bed of peppery mustard greens and chickpeas and is slow roasted in a low-temperature oven. It's all topped off with the perfect balance of tart and salty lemon caper vinaigrette. Eat up, and you'll get in over 40 grams of protein and 118 percent of your recommended daily intake of inflammation-quelling vitamin A.
Get the recipe from Inquiring Chef.
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