16 High-Protein, Low-Carb Snacks, According to a Dietitian

16 High-Protein, Low-Carb Snacks, According to a Dietitian

Eating low-carb, high-protein foods may aid in weight loss, regulating appetite, preserving muscle, and managing blood sugar levels. While there is no solid consensus on what exactly constitutes low-carb and high-protein diets, for many people it’s just about reduce the amount of carbs they consume everyday, and increase their protein intake overall.

A good way to begin to modify your diet to include more protein and less carbs is to change up the snacks you eat. When buying snacks, make sure you check the nutrition facts label. Choose foods that provide 10-20% or more of the daily value (DV) for protein per serving, as this is considered a good to excellent protein source, and 5% DV or less of total carbohydrates per serving, which is regarded as low-carb.

Here are 16 high-protein, low-carb snacks that are healthy, satisfying, and can help support your wellness goals.

A 200-gram (7-ounce) serving of low-fat Greek yogurt provides 19.9 grams of protein, 7.88 grams of carbs, and 18% and 22% of the daily values for calcium and phosphorus, respectively, both important for bone health. Choose plain Greek yogurt to minimize sugar intake and enhance sweetness naturally by adding fresh fruit.

A large whole egg offers 6.24 grams of protein, mostly in the egg white, and less than half a gram of carbs. Plus, it supplies 30% of the daily value of choline, which helps with memory, mood, and muscle control. The yolk contains nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin A and vitamin D. For a quick snack, enjoy a hard-boiled egg on its own with a sprinkle of your choice of seasoning.

Nuts offer healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds with antioxidant effects. Eating an ounce of nuts daily may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Experiment with various nuts such as almonds, which offer 6.01 grams of protein and 6.12 grams of carbs per one-ounce serving, or pistachios, which provide 5.73 grams of protein and 7.71 grams of carbs. Opt for low- or no-salt-added nuts without added sugar. Pair with fresh fruit for a balanced snack.

Cheese provides essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. Research shows that eating cheese regularly is linked to lower risks of various health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and dementia. An ounce of part-skim milk mozzarella cheese offers 6.89 grams of protein and less than a gram of carb. Combine cheese with fruits or vegetables to create a well-rounded snack.

Low-fat cottage cheese is rich in protein, containing 24.2 grams per one-cup serving, alongside 9.48 grams of carbs. Plus, it provides 17% of the daily value for calcium and 26% for phosphorus, along with other essential nutrients. Enjoy cottage cheese as a flavorful snack by mixing it with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of nuts.

Canned light tuna in water offers 21.7 grams of protein and zero carbs per 3-ounce serving. Fish like tuna contain healthy omega-3 fats, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. And an omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, found in fish, keeps the brain functioning normally and efficiently. Mix tuna with Greek yogurt and seasoning, then spread it on whole grain crackers or lettuce leaves for a quick snack.

Apart from containing healthy fats and protein, fish like salmon also provide other important nutrients. For example, canned pink salmon delivers 19.6 grams of protein, zero carbs, and 13% of the daily value for choline, 61% for vitamin D, and 18% for calcium. Combine canned salmon with plain Greek yogurt or mayonnaise, and lemon juice for an easy snack. Spread the mixture on cucumber slices or whole-grain toast.

A 3-ounce serving of shrimp offers 20.4 grams of protein and less than half a gram of carb. It also provides 16% of the daily value for phosphorus and 14% for zinc, a nutrient that supports immune health. Shrimp, like salmon and canned light tuna, is low in mercury, making it a great seafood option. For an easy snack, coat cooked shrimp in olive oil and garlic, then refrigerate and serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Hemp seeds are high in protein and healthy fats. They contain natural plant compounds called polyphenols and terpenoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. A 3-tablespoon serving of hulled hemp seeds offers 9.48 grams of protein and 2.6 grams of carbs.

Hemp seeds are rich in other nutrients including phosphorus (40% of the DV), zinc (27% of the DV), and magnesium (50% of the DV), a mineral involved in over 300 bodily reactions including muscle and nerve function and blood pressure control. Sprinkle hemp seeds on yogurt or for a healthy snack.

Pumpkin seeds are another high-protein seed, with 8.45 grams of protein and 4.17 grams of carbs in a one-ounce serving. They provide 20% or more of the daily value for minerals like zinc, magnesium, and copper, a mineral involved in making energy, connective tissues, and maintaining the immune and nervous systems. Combine pumpkin seeds with nuts and dried fruit to make a trail mix.

Legumes like edamame, which are young soybeans, are rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, and phosphorus. Legumes contain antioxidants that can protect from cellular damage and fight disease. A cup of cooked edamame offers 18.4 grams of protein and 13.8 grams of carbs. Steam edamame and sprinkle with sea salt for a protein-packed snack.

Roll up slices of turkey deli with a slice of cheese and leafy greens for a quick protein snack. A slice of low-salt deli turkey, 28 grams or about an ounce, provides 6.1 grams of protein and less than a gram of carb. Look out for minimally processed turkey that’s low in sodium with minimal to no added sugar and preservatives.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend including dairy products like milk as part of a healthy diet, yet about 90% of Americans don’t consume enough dairy. Dairy products are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. For example, one cup of reduced-fat milk provides 8.23 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs, 14% of the daily value for vitamin D, and 20% or more of the daily values for calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. Add milk to your snack routine by enjoying it with whole grain cereal, blending it into smoothies, or pairing it with a piece of fruit.

Not all plant-based milk alternatives are created equal, but soy milk and pea milk stand out for their protein content. These alternatives are great options for those with allergies or intolerances to cow’s milk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrient database does not list plain soy milk.

However, one cup of soy milk with added sugar provides 7.99 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs. Conversely, a cup of unsweetened pea milk offers 7.99 grams of protein and zero carbs. Both are also rich in calcium and vitamin D. When selecting milk, look for options with little to no added sugars and versions fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Many protein powders, such as whey, casein, and pea protein, are specifically formulated to provide a substantial amount of protein per serving while keeping carbs to a minimum. The USDA nutrient database lists a one-third cup (32 grams) of unbranded whey protein powder containing 25 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbs. To use it as a snack, blend a scoop of protein powder with water or unsweetened milk and fruit for a quick and easy smoothie.

When selecting jerky, look for options with high protein (around 10 grams or more per serving) and minimal to no added sugars. The USDA’s nutrient database lists unbranded beef jerky (1 ounce or 28.35 grams) with 9.41 grams of protein and 3.12 grams of carbs, and pork jerky (42 grams) containing 13.9 grams of protein and 4.62 grams of carbs.

Jerky is generally a high-sodium product. It’s best to moderate its consumption and fit it into a snack mix with various whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, or nuts to create a more balanced and nutritious snack.

Remember, reducing carbs doesn’t mean eliminating them. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your body’s cells, tissues, and organs. Nutrient-rich carbs like fruits, legumes, and whole grains are essential and should be included as part of a balanced diet. Here are a few tips for increasing protein and reducing carbs in your diet:

  • Choose lean animal proteins like lean beef, chicken, turkey, and fish.
  • Incorporate plant-based proteins such as tofu, tempeh, and legumes like lentils and beans.
  • Keep easy high-protein, low-carb foods like Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and canned tuna on hand for quick snacks and meal prep.
  • Add low-carb vegetables to meals and snacks, such as leafy greens in a smoothie or omelet or veggies sticks with a seasoned yogurt or bean dip.
  • Limit sugary snacks and beverages, opting for water or unsweetened drinks and fruits for a naturally sweet snack.
  • Focus on whole, unprocessed foods for better nutrient balance.
  • Consider using protein powder in smoothies, drinks, and yogurt bowls, especially if you find it challenging to meet your protein needs.

Incorporating a variety of high-protein, low-carb snacks into your diet ensures you have convenient options for any occasion. From on-the-go choices like nuts and cheese to easy-prep ideas involving canned fish and deli turkey, there’s something for everyone. Including both animal and plant-based options creates a well-rounded approach to nutrition.

Remember to complement these snacks with other nutrient-rich food groups, including fruits and vegetables, to further support your overall well-being and health goals.

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