Top 10 Lean Proteins

Looking to build lean muscle mass for this swimsuit season? Or, simply looking to cut higher fat and calorie meats and other proteins out of your diet? Protein is an essential nutrient to the body and plays a crucial role in cell and tissue growth, but remember not all proteins are created equal.

Check out this “Top Ten” list for easy-to-prepare, relatively inexpensive, and best of all lean protein sources that are good for the whole family. Note: lean protein sources contain less than three grams of fat per serving. You may also be interested to know that over half of these lean protein sources are vegetarian, and one-third are vegan friendly. Can’t beat that!

The best lean protein money can buy:


A heritage grain, quinoa has a wonderful fluffy texture and a unique nutty flavor when cooked. For a simple dish, combine 1 cup of quinoa with a can of (drained, rinsed) black beans, and a can of (no salt added) corn. Splash in a little lime juice, hot sauce, pepper, and cumin for a zesty side dish that offers the one-two punch of high fiber and protein for a satisfying, yet guilt-free addition to any meal. If quinoa isn’t your thing, try another heritage grain like barley (tabouli, anyone?) or buckwheat (pancakes perhaps?)


This Icelandic-style yogurt is made from nonfat milk. It offers more than double the protein of standard yogurt and offers a unique tangy flavor. Eat it plain, turn it into a parfait, or mix it into a smoothie for a balanced breakfast or post-workout snack.

Egg whites

Separating the white from the yolk yields the majority of an egg’s protein without the fat, calories, and cholesterol. Stir pasteurized whites into a smoothie, or create your favorite egg white omelet for any meal.

Nut butters

Whether it’s peanut, almond, cashew, or another nut butter that strikes your fancy, incorporate them into meals or snacks for more lean (and flavorful!) protein. Almond butter, banana, and honey sandwich on whole grain bread? Don’t mind if I do.


An unsung breakfast hero, oatmeal delivers fiber and protein with a unique texture perfect for cold mornings. Stir in dried fruit and nuts for an even heartier breakfast…or snack!


In any form, soy offers a vegan-friendly lean protein alternative. Be it soy milk, tofu, edamame, or toasted soybeans, incorporate some soy into your day.

Black beans

Black beans have 8.5 grams protein and 7.5 grams fiber per half cup. Enough said.

White meat chicken 

You can prepare chicken hundreds of ways. Pick up frozen breasts or tenderloins to keep on hand for quick weeknight dinners.

Daily catch

As a general rule, Americans do not consume enough fish. From sushi grade tuna to canned tuna, from salmon to sardines, just add it in at least twice per week. Omega-3s here you come!

Sunflower seeds

Sprinkled on a salad or eaten by the (small) fistful, sunflower seeds are no longer only for the baseball diamond. Not a sunflower seed fan? Try pumpkin seeds!

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a best selling author and the creator of "The F-Factor Diet", an innovative nutritional program she has used for over a decade to provide thousands with the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, and improved health and well-being. In January 2011 Tanya launched the F-Factor food line with the largest natural foods company in the US, the Hain Celestial group. She is thrilled to be able to offer the highest fiber products on the market to date. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.