Properly stocking your kitchen is the first step towards healthier eating habits. Because when your fridge, freezer, and pantry are packed with good-for-you ingredients, delicious and nutritious meals practically cook themselves.
There are many high-protein ingredients to choose from, but some are more affordable and easier to store than others. So which ones should you shop? Registered dietitians recommend starting with these seven picks, because they fit that cheap-and-easy description, and they’re super versatile so they work well in any number of dishes. Make like a pro and add them to your grocery list stat.
“I tend to save my organic dollars for my animal proteins. Though egg whites may be lower in fat and calories, the whole egg—that includes the yolk—is far richer in nourishing micronutrients. The whole egg is an excellent source of protein and is filled with nutrients like immune-boosting zinc, iron, and phosphorus. As for vitamins, egg yolks contain vitamins B, A, and D.”
— Katie Cavuto M.S., R.D., chef, author of Whole Cooking And Nutrition and the Nourish.Breathe.Thrive. Blog
2. Nut butter
“Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats. I always have almond or peanut butter on my shelf for a quick high-protein snack—I’ll spread it on anything from crackers to fruit. It’s also a good ingredient to throw into a smoothie for an extra protein boost, because just 2 tablespoons provide approximately 8 grams of protein.”
— Jen Flachbart, M.S., R.D.N.
3. Frozen salmon
“A 3-ounce serving provides 17 grams of protein, along with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. If you’re like me and can’t remember to thaw your fillets out, you can easily cook them straight from frozen—simply rinse them under cold water, pat them dry with paper towel, then cook them a few minutes in olive oil over medium-high heat before flipping. Cover the pan and let them cook for six to eight minutes.”
— Dianna Sinni, R.D., L.D., wellness dietitian and blogger at Chard in Charge
4. Hemp seeds
“I keep a bag of raw shelled hemp seeds in plain sight. Sometimes I just eat them straight by the spoonful when I know I need a little boost of protein, but more often I’ll stir them into steamed brown rice to make an even better-for-you rice. And rather than protein powder, I like whirling hemp seeds in a blender until powder-like and then using that powder in smoothies.”
—Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., C.D.N.
“One of the only grains that’s a complete protein, I always keep quinoa on hand. One cup of quinoa provides 220 calories and 8 grams of complete protein, plus it’s high in many vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants. I’ll always cook extra and keep it in the fridge to add to salads or use as a quick side dish. You can also blend cooked quinoa into any smoothie recipe for added protein. For breakfast, quinoa can work as a substitute to oatmeal and at dinner you can use it in quiche, chili, burritos, or stuffing.”
— Patricia Bannan, R.D., author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight
6. Cottage cheese
“I wasn’t always a fan of cottage cheese, but now I always have a container on hand. I rarely eat it alone and instead mix it into other recipes to boost the protein and calcium content. I blend it into smoothies, mix it into overnight oats, or use it in place of mayo with chickpea or tuna salad sandwiches. A half cup serving packs 13 grams of protein, nearly half of what I aim to get in each meal.”
— Cara Harbstreet, M.S., R.D., L.D., of Street Smart Nutrition
7. Canned Beans
“Canned beans are my go-to protein source for easy weeknight meals. I rinse and drain them, heat them on the stove for a few minutes, then toss them with some farro, roasted veggies, olive oil, and spices. It is a simple meatless meal that is quick to make and high in protein.”
— Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics