It’s nothing new: a high-protein, low-carb diet (such as the keto diet) is one of the best ways to lose weight. And if you’re training, extra protein is also the best way to build lean, strong muscle after a workout.
To brush up, protein is one of three macronutrients that humans need in their diets — the others being carbs and fat. It’s made up of smaller amino acids, which serve a few key purposes in our bodies including hormonal balance, transportation and storage of molecules, and most importantly, cell building. For anyone trying to lose weight, protein has a very special power: it makes us feel full, even if we consume less of it than carbs or fats (think: eating a piece of steak versus a chunk of bread). Plus, protein increases your metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories while digesting it than after eating carbs or fat.
To summarize, protein fills you up faster, works harder and leaves you fuller than other macronutrients. It’s a great way to stop those after dinner cravings, replace a meal or refuel after a hard workout.
These unique powers of protein have created a huge market of protein-boosted snacks for losing weight or gaining muscle. But even if you’re a fitness or diet expert, all the options can be very overwhelming. The best protein snacks come in many forms from bars to shakes to chips — but they’re not all created equal. Some are packed with unhealthy sugar, while others don’t actually contain that much protein.
To help find the best protein snack, we’ve combed through Amazon to find ten of the best. They’re all in different forms, but whichever one you pick really just depends on preference; they all deliver a healthy dose of protein.
1. Quest Protein Bar
Protein bars are the most well-known protein snack for a reason. The right one can pack a ton of nutrition without extra ingredients, and many of them taste (pretty) great too. Our favorite is this bar from Quest because it only has one gram of sugar (compare that to 21 grams in a Clif Bar), and they pack 21 grams of protein in just 200 calories. Plus, they come in genuinely tasty flavors that can satisfy sweet tooth cravings, keeping you from reaching for the ice cream.
2. think! Keto Protein Bars
BEST FOR KETO
If you’re currently undertaking a keto diet, these think! snacks are ideal. They deliver 10 grams of protein on top of 14 grams of fat for achieving ketosis. This is a huge help when trying to keep your appetite under control during a keto diet. The bars also have a delicious chocolate peanut butter pie flavor, making them perfect for dessert or late-night snacking.
3. Canned Fish
Canned fish such as tuna and sardines are some of the most underrated health foods around. They typically pack a massive amount of muscle-building, appetite-reducing protein, as well as vitamins and minerals. But unlike processed protein snacks, canned fish has just a few wholesome ingredients (usually fish, salt, and water or oil). Pick up a few cans of tuna or sardines on your next grocery run, or order the canned tuna linked below from Chicken of the Sea. The tuna cans have minimal ingredients and come in portable, ready-to-eat cups.
4. Roasted Unsalted Jumbo Peanuts
Nuts are another basic protein snack that are great to have on-hand at all times. Peanuts usually have the highest protein content of any nut, but you’ll want to avoid salted or flavored peanuts. Go for something like this jumbo bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts below from We Go Nuts. Keep a baggy of these in your car, backpack or pocket for keeping up your protein intake and keeping hunger away.
5. Power Up Trail Mix
BEST TRAIL MIX
Trail mix is great because it delivers protein in natural whole nuts, while dried berries add some healthy sugar to make it enjoyable. This trail mix from Power Up is especially good because it has as much protein as possible, instead of being full of chocolate and raisins like some big brand trail mixes. At 7 grams of protein a serving, it’s a little less protein than you get from bars or shakes, but it makes a great quick snack to keep in your car or bag for when you get hungry.
6. Nuts ‘N More High Protein Nut Butter
BEST NUT BUTTER
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think healthy food, but nut butter is actually a great way to boost your protein intake. However, nut butters come in very different forms, with some being very unhealthy. This peanut butter from Nuts ‘N More, on the other hand, is made with extra protein (11 grams) and less sugar (2 grams) than most of the regular stuff. Have it with fruit for a healthy breakfast, throw it on crackers for a snack or use it in desserts.
7. HighKey Mini Cookies
Deserts are the kryptonite of a good diet because after a day of limited eating, those brownies or cookies sound extra good. Protein desserts like these mini cookies from HighKey make a great alternative to keep close at hand for sweet-tooth emergencies. They only have one gram of sugar and very few calories, but they do have some added protein to suppress your appetite. Plus, they’re gluten-free and made with natural ingredients.
8. Pure Protein Bars
Another great protein bar is this pack from Pure. They’re very small at 1.76oz (the Quest bars above are 2.12oz), but boast 20 grams of protein, as well as calcium and iron to boot. The small size makes them great for on-the-go nutrition, so they’re easy to throw in a gym bag, day pack or car. They also contain very little sugar (2 grams) and only 200 calories.
9. Quest Protein Chips
Protein and chips don’t normally go together, but protein chips like these from Quest have become a great replacement for snack foods. They ditch the unhealthy aspects of regular chips by providing a low-carb, gluten-free chip that is baked instead of fried. They also have an incredible 18 grams of protein per serving, ensuring that you don’t keep reaching your hand in the bag like we all do with regular chips. They come very highly-rated with 4.3 stars and over 2,100 reviews, as many users say they taste just as good as Doritos without the calories.
10. Simply Fuel Protein Balls
BEST PROTEIN BALLS
Protein balls have become a favorite health food snack recently. They’re easy to snack on while working or watching TV, and good ones pack a punch in terms of nutrition. We like these from Simply Fuel because they utilize limited, natural ingredients, they have whey powder for added protein, and also a probiotic for gut health too. Although they’re simple and nutritional, they taste great thanks to peanut butter and honey.
11. Stryve Protein Jerky
This Stryve beef jerky offers a healthy upgrade to the favorite snack with next to no carbs, 16 grams of protein per serving and zero sugar. It also contains just a few natural ingredients — beef and seasonings — unlike many protein snacks that have added coloring and chemicals. The jerky comes in four tasty flavors (hickory, teriyaki, zesty garlic and spicy peri peri) so we recommend grabbing one of the variety packs below.
12. Premier Protein Shake
Shakes are a classic protein snack that many people swear by, and it’s easy to understand why. They’re super easy to drink while commuting or coming home from the gym, and good ones deliver a ton of protein. This one from Premier is our favorite because it has 30 grams of protein per bottle, only one gram of sugar, 160 calories and 24 vitamins and minerals. Plus, it boasts a decent taste that many nutritional shakes cannot match.
13. Orgain Organic Protein Powder
BEST PROTEIN POWDER
If you’re going to the gym regularly, protein powder is a must, but it’s also useful for losing weight. Throw a spoonful in your morning smoothie for all-day energy, or have some in a shake after dinner instead of dessert. Just be sure you buy the right protein powder, as some can be quite unhealthy. We suggest this one from Orgain because it has 21 grams of plant-based protein, and it doesn’t have any sugar, dairy, gluten or soy. It also comes very highly-rated with 6,600 reviews and four stars thanks to a nice taste and a formula that mixes easily.
14. Kidney Beans
OK, beans might be more useful in a full meal than as a snack, but if you’re meal-prepping a few small snacks to eat throughout the day then beans are a great idea. Kidney beans are a super versatile choice, packing a good amount of protein and making a tasty addition to salads, meats, rice and other basics. Just stick them in a microwave for a couple minutes and you’re good to go.
15. Palouse Brand Chickpeas
Another great addition to your meal-prepping kit is the mighty chickpea. They’re a staple in many vegan kitchens because they deliver a variety of nutrients (including a hearty serving of protein) without any unhealthy extras. Check out some great recipes here.