3pm hits and the vending machine is calling. Those salty chips or a chocolatey candy bar start to feel more like a necessity with every passing minute. Sound a little too familiar?
The type of snack you choose determines how the rest of your day will go. Something packed with sugar or with empty calories may cause your energy levels to take a dive. Plus, these types of foods digest so quickly, you’ll likely be hungry again within the hour. A snack with plenty of protein, on the other hand, will keep you full and satisfied for hours.
Below, why you should opt for a high-protein snack, how much protein to have, and our favorite high-protein snacks for busy days.
Why Are High-Protein Snacks So Healthy?
If you want your snack to work overtime for you, protein should be your top choice. Here’s why:
- Protein promotes feelings of fullness because it signals the release of appetite suppressing hormones (1).
- It slows digestion, and stabilizes blood sugar levels to keep your energy steady for hours after eating (2), (3).
- Plus, protein can help build muscle (4) and boost metabolism (5)
Our bodies need protein to run optimally, but we tend to load up on protein naturally at dinner. Interspersing protein throughout the day can help you feel full so you can make it in between meals without feeling hangry.
How Much Protein Should a Snack Have?
The RDA (recommended dietary allowances) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. So, a person who weighs 155 pounds, should consume about 55 grams of protein per day. Keep in mind if you’re injured, pregnant, or extremely active you may need more.
There’s no standard guideline of how much protein you should eat at snack time. But six to seven grams of protein is a good starting point—that’s about how much you get from a handful of nuts or a hard-boiled egg. If you’re refueling after a workout, aim for 10-15 grams of protein to help initiate the muscle recovery process.
Best High-Protein Snacks
Here are the tastiest and most convenient protein snacks to hold you over until your next meal.
Jerky is protein-packed, boasting 9 grams of protein per ounce (6). If you’re limiting your beef intake, try chicken, turkey, or salmon varieties. Just look out for added sugars and artificial ingredients and avoid them when possible.
2. Trail Mix
Trail mix isn’t just a great hiking snack, the combination of dried fruit and nuts is a good source of protein to satisfy your sweet tooth. Reach for a blend that cuts back on candy and processed add-ins.
3. Turkey Roll-Ups
Turkey roll ups are essentially a sandwich without the bread. This delicious snack is cheese and veggies wrapped inside slices of turkey breast. Try it with cream cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes for about 5 grams of protein per wrap.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is an ideal healthy high protein snack. Each cup averages about 15 grams of protein. Plus, it’s packed with calcium, which is essential for bone health. Look for options low in added sugar.
5. Veggies and Hummus
Veggies are great when you’re craving a crunch, but they’re not very satisfying on their own. Try adding hummus, or yogurt dip (which you can make by mixing plain Greek yogurt with ranch seasoning mix or lemon juice and garlic).
6. Hard-boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are the perfect high-protein snack. At 6 grams a pop, they’ll keep you feeling full and satisfied until your next meal. Egg whites are a great lean source of protein but eat the whole egg (yolk and all) for a boost of healthy fats and B vitamins.
Tuna is packed with lean protein and provides anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Eat it with multi-grain crackers or on its own.
8. Lettuce Wraps
Think of lettuce wraps as a vessel for flavor, you can pack nearly anything inside. Buffalo, BBQ, teriyaki, or even chicken or tuna salad play well. Try these easy rotisserie chicken wraps, or mix it up with salmon or tofu.
9. Black Bean Dip and Whole Grain Chips
Beans are a great plant-based source of protein. For a fun afternoon snack try a black bean dip or hummus with whole grain chips. This snack delivers protein, fiber, and healthy fats to keep you satiated all afternoon.
10. Ants on a Log
Who said ants on a log are just for kids? If your mom never whipped you up this fun snack, it’s basically just celery with peanut butter and raisins on top (the ants in this equation). If you don’t like raisins sub for dark chocolate chips or peanuts for even more crunch.
11. Energy Bites
If you love granola bars, try our peanut butter and chocolate chip energy bites for a sweet pick me up. By making them at home you’ll have full control over the ingredients in your snack so you can minimize added sugars and preservatives usually packed in store bought bars.
Eating a handful of almonds or other nuts or seeds is a great way to fill up on protein. One handful of almonds contains about 6 grams of protein, as well as high amounts of vitamin E, riboflavin, trace minerals, and healthy fats.
In addition to being quick and easy, cheese is rich in protein. One slice of cheddar clocks in at 7 grams. Plus, it’s a great source of calcium, phosphorus, and selenium which is essential for immune function. Just enjoy cheese in moderation, it’s high in saturated fat which can increase LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) (7).
14. Cottage Cheese
Before you pass on cottage cheese, know that it’s extremely dense in protein. There are 14 grams of protein in just half a cup of the stuff (8). Enjoy it in a bowl with fresh veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, and everything but bagel seasoning.
15. Apple and Peanut Butter
Some things are just better together. With apple and peanut butter that’s the case. The fiber and antioxidants in apples may improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease (9), while the peanut butter can increase HDL (good) cholesterol (10). Plus, the carbs in the apple, make this combo a perfect post-workout snack.
16. Protein Bar
Protein bars have come far since the Power Bar days. They’re one of the easiest ways to consume a significant amount of protein, and there’s tons of good tasting options. Make your own bars at home or scan the nutrition facts to find a bar low in added sugar and preservatives.
17. Beef Sticks
Meat sticks can make a great protein snack, so long as you choose the right ones. Often, they’re loaded with salt, preservatives, and even sugar. Look for options that cut the fluff, like Chomps, and opt for turkey for a leaner choice.
18. Chia Pudding
If you’ve had a bad run in with chia pudding, hear this: chia seeds are high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and manganese (11). Try this chocolate chia seed pudding, that blends the chia seeds to give it a smoother texture.
19. Protein Shake or Smoothie
You can’t go wrong with a classic protein shake or smoothie, it’s an easy and delicious way to hit your protein needs, while sneaking in some nutrition from a handful of greens or berries. Try this chocolate peanut butter protein shake, tropical green protein smoothie, or vanilla matcha protein shake.
One cup of edamame provides 17 grams of protein, and is loaded with essential vitamins like vitamin K and folate (12). Pick up pre-cooked edamame at stores like Trader Joes and Sprouts so all you have to do is throw it in the microwave and go.
21. Chicken Salad
Love chicken salad? So do we. That’s why we created this healthier rotisserie chicken salad that replaces most of the mayo with Greek yogurt to bump up the protein content. Promise it tastes even better than the original.
22. Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are so easy to make, portable, and highly nutritious—no wonder this snack has a fan following. Thanks to their high fiber and protein content, oats are known to increase feelings of fullness (13). Add your favorite ingredients like blueberry or bananas for a boost of flavor like we did in this blueberry acai overnight oats recipe.
23. Egg Bites
If you’re tired of hard-boiled eggs, egg bites are a great way to mix it up. Simply combine eggs with your favorite veggies, cheese, and breakfast meat and you have a healthy snack perfect for busy mornings. Try our favorite healthy frittata feta bites.
24. Homemade Adult Lunchables
For your daily dose of nostalgia, pack some deli turkey or salami, Swiss or cheddar slices, and whole grain crackers in your lunch box to go. It doesn’t get any easier, and it’s healthier than the original.
25. Quinoa Salad
When you’re in a food rut, you may need to call on your creativity. That’s where quinoa salad comes in. Quinoa contains about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup. Whip up our Greek quinoa salad, or power quinoa salad for a nutrient-dense snack that tastes like it’s straight off the Whole Foods salad bar.
26. Nut Butter
If you were looking for one more reason to pack nut butter into your day, here it is. Search your local grocery store for to-go snack packs that come in individual servings. These make for quick and tasty fuel on the run.
27. Whole Wheat Pita 'Tostadas'
If you’re craving something a little fancier, this black bean and butternut squash ‘tostada’ will do. We’ve loaded our ‘tostada’ on a whole wheat pita with black beans, butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, and a Greek yogurt and lime drizzle. But rotisserie chicken, refried beans, lettuce, and tomatoes would be just as good.
(1) ‘The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance’ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25926512/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(2)‘The Effects of Increased Protein Intake on Fullness: A Meat-Analysis and Its Limitations’ Journal of Academic Nutrition and Diet, 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26947338/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(3) ‘Effects of dietary protein on glucose homeostasis’ Current Opinion on Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2006. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16778578/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(4) ‘Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training’ Nutrients, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5852756/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(5) ‘The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety, and weight loss: a critical review’ Journal of American College Nutrition, 2004. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15466943/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(6) ‘Snacks, beef jerky’ Nutrition Data. ‘http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/snacks/5332/2. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(7) ‘Saturated Fat’ The American Heart Association, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(8) ‘Cheese, cottage, low fat’ Nutrition Data. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/15/2. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(9) ‘Apple and cardiovascular health—is the gut microbiota a core consideration?’ Nutrients, 2015. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26016654/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(10) ‘Effects of peanut processing on body weight and fasting plasma lipids’ British Journal of Nutrition, 2010. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20456815/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(11) ‘Seeds, chia seeds’ Nutrition Data. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(12) ‘Edamame’ Nutrition Data. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/9873/2. Accessed 18, November, 2022.
(13) ‘Acute effect of oatmeal on subjective measure of appetite and satiety compared to ready-to-eat breakfast cereal: a randomized crossover trial’ Journal of American College Nutrition, 2013. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24024772/. Accessed 18, November, 2022.