8 Best High-Protein Dinner Foods for Weight Loss, According to a Dietitian
Dinner is a meal that many of us (especially us at EatingWell) don't want to miss. First, it's often our most social meal of the day—eating with family or friends or both. And also, dinner plays a key role in helping you lose weight, if that's a current goal of yours.
Skipping dinner might encourage weight gain, according to recent research published in the journal Nutrients in January 2021. The study was in college students and found that those who regularly skipped dinner gained about 10 percent more weight over a 6-year period compared to the students who ate dinner daily. Dinner skippers were also more likely to have a BMI in the overweight or obese category.
That said, dinner doesn't have to be an all-you-can-eat buffet. Research suggests that making breakfast or lunch your largest meal of the day could help you slim down more than if you made dinner your biggest meal.
This is where protein comes in: if your goal is to make dinner a lighter meal, including a protein-rich food would be wise. Protein is extremely satisfying, and it also makes sticking to a lower-calorie diet easier.
So, with that said, here are some of the best high-protein foods to add inspiration to your dinner menu!
Related: Healthy High-Protein Dinner Recipes
8 High-Protein Dinner Foods for Weight Loss
1. Chicken Thighs
35 grams per 1-cup chopped
This dark meat cut clocks in a little lower protein-wise compared to its chicken breast sibling, but deserves points for its extra zinc and iron. Size-wise a thigh is much closer to the recommended 3 to 4-ounce serving of protein than a typical chicken breast—choosing a thigh over a breast is an easy way to keep portion sizes in check.
Save money and eat well with these budget-friendly chicken thigh recipes.
2. Turkey Breast
40 grams per 1 cup (approximately)
We're still in support of the chicken breast (aka America's favorite cut of chicken), but its turkey cousin is ever-so-slightly lower in calories and the flavor just different enough to break up the monotony of chicken breast.
These turkey breast dinner recipes offer healthy inspiration.
30 grams per 1-cup (approximately)
Shrimp are incredibly lean (a full cup of them has only a little over 1 gram of total fat), yet—as you can see—they're packed with protein. Unless your doctor has advised you otherwise, don't sweat their cholesterol content: most (not all) studies have shown that dietary cholesterol doesn't significantly raise your risk for heart disease.
36 grams per 1 cup (approximately)
Ounce-for-ounce bison is leaner than even 95 percent lean ground beef and only slightly lower in protein. Use it exactly how you use ground beef, or get some other ideas here! Another game meat that's a great source of protein is venison (deer meat)—it's just not as commonly available as bison.
18 grams per 1 cup
"I think of lentils as 'plant-based ground beef' meaning you can use them in place of ground beef in your favorite recipes like tacos, pasta sauce, burgers, meatballs," says DJ Blatner, R.D.N. and author of The Flexitarian Diet and The Superfood Swap. Including about a 1/2 cup of lentils (or any beans) in your diet regularly may help with weight loss, suggests research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition—likely because they are high in protein and fiber, which increases feelings of satisfaction and also delivers antioxidants to keep cells healthy, explains Blatner.
Add more lentils to your diet with these delicious, healthy recipes.
24 grams per 1 cup
"Breakfast foods make great high-protein dinners. Add eggs to your fried rice or make a pizza frittata," says Blatner. "A single egg has 6 to 7 grams of protein, only 80 calories, and delivers choline, a nutrient that is good for brain health and may also be associated with a healthier body composition."
Try these healthy, quick & easy egg recipes.
7. Cottage Cheese
28 grams per 1 cup
Yes, cottage cheese is healthy! Cottage cheese isn't just high in protein, it's also quite low in carbs (only 6 grams in a cup!). Make it the base of your favorite veggie salad (think: chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, a sprinkling of your favorite herb, and a dash of a zesty spice like sumac). Or use cottage cheese as a toast or cracker topper.
8. Greek Yogurt
11 grams per ½ cup
This breakfast food can pull double-duty as a dinner food. But it's slightly more practical as a high-protein condiment—which is why we gave you the protein breakdown per ½ cup instead. "Use Greek yogurt as a sour cream swap in your taco bowls or base of creamy salad dressings," says Blatner. "Yogurt, eaten regularly as part of a balanced diet, is a food that's associated with lower body weight."