10 High-Protein Foods with the Least Calories

This Evidence Based article was written by

High protein low calorie foods are an effective way to help build lean muscle without adding to the total number of calories for the day. In many instances a high protein food is also high in calories, so you end up getting the benefit of the protein, but the drawback of an excessive amount of calories. Meeting your protein needs without exceeding the number of calories you’re allowed for the day is a balancing act, and these foods will help you stay on the right side of the equation.

These are the Top 10 foods highest in protein with the least calories…

1. Shrimp (4.13 calories per gram of protein)

Shrimp is one of the highest protein, lowest calorie foods you can eat, so if you’re looking to keep your calories down but still meet your protein needs for the day, this is your best bet. It’s a bit high in cholesterol, so you’ll want to keep your portion sizes in check, and be sure to see if the preparation process is adding any calories to it. Many shrimp offerings in restaurants have added calories in the way of butter, breading, and deep frying.

24g Protein, 99 Calories per 100g


2. Tuna (4.46 calories per gram of protein)

Tuna is one of the healthier options to go with if you want plenty of protein but not a lot of calories. It contains omega-3s as well, so you’re getting those benefits in addition to it being a high-quality protein. Canned tuna in water is how we made our calculations, but you can also eat raw tuna in sushi for a low cal high protein meal. Avoid tuna salad as the mayonnaise used to make it is full of calories and will cancel out the high protein low calorie factor of tuna itself.

26g Protein, 116 Calories per 100g

3. Tilapia (4.96 calories per gram of protein)

Tilapia is one of the most popular white fish varieties and it’s a great example of how most fish is high in protein while low in calories. The best way to enjoy tilapia without adding to its caloric value is to bake it or steam it. It’s also rich in omega-3s, and is low in fat so as long as it’s not cooked in a way that adds to its fat content it makes a great item for weight loss and weight management. Tilapia is commonly seen on restaurant menus, and is often one of the healthier options as long as it’s cooked in a healthy way.

26g Protein, 129 Calories per 100g

4. Turkey Breast (6.52 calories per gram of protein)

Turkey breast is a winner when it comes to providing you with protein and not being big on calories. Go with roasted turkey breast over deli meat as it will cut down considerably on the amount of sodium. The only problem is that most of the turkey breast that you’ll find while on the go is not roasted turkey breast like the kind you have on Thanksgiving, but processed turkey meat. It also usually gets served on a sandwich with plenty of other ingredients that will bump up your calories, so try to find it and eat it on its own for best results.

29g Protein, 189 Calories per 100g

5. Chicken Breast (6.56 calories per gram of protein)

Much like turkey breast, chicken breast provides you with a substantial amount of protein, and keeps your calories to a minimum. You can have a sizable portion of chicken and really rack up the protein without putting a big dent in your allotted calories for the day. Chicken breast is often used by bodybuilders as a way to get their grams of protein up, and they’ll usually steam it or bake it in order to keep the fat and calories down. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder in order to want to put on some lean muscle for an improved metabolism.

30g Protein, 197 Calories per 100g

cottage cheese is high in protein

6. Nonfat Cottage Cheese (7.2 calories per gram of protein)

Going with nonfat cottage cheese cuts out some calories and still leaves you with a good amount of protein. Perhaps that’s why it’s long been used by bodybuilders and others looking to put on lean muscle without going overboard on calories. Cottage cheese goes great with fruit, and can also be used as a healthier cheese substitute for fatty, calorie laden cheeses like ricotta or mozzarella. Try putting a dollop of cottage cheese on your next plate of spaghetti and see how it makes it taste better while also providing low calorie protein.

10g Protein, 72 Calories per 100g

7. Tofu (9 calories per gram of protein)

Tofu can help you meet your protein needs and doesn’t contain much in the way of calories. It’s a soy product, which generally means a good protein source and not too many calories. Tofu tends to take on the taste of the other ingredients used in a recipe, which makes it a great addition to any meal, and comes with its own list of health benefits including isoflavones from the soy used to make it. It can also replace fattier cuts of meat like ground beef, or hot dogs via a tofu burger or tofu dog.

8g Protein, 72 Calories per 100g

8. Sirloin (9.03 calories per gram of protein)

Sirloin may have a lot of calories, but it also has a lot of protein, so if you need a good dose or protein to round out a meal, it’s the way to go. It’s a leaner cut of meat, and has far fewer calories than the same serving size of ground beef. Because of its high protein concentration you can eat less of it and get the same amount of protein as a food that has fewer calories but less protein as well.

27g Protein, 244 Calories per 100g

9. Tempeh (10.16 calories per gram of protein)

Tempeh is a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets, and for good reason. It supplies plenty of protein, helps you feel fuller longer, and isn’t very big in the calorie department. Once you start experimenting with the different ways you can use tempeh you may find that you end up eating it more often. It makes a great substitute for meat and can be used in plenty of recipes for a main dish.

19g Protein, 193 Calories per 100g


10. Eggs (11.9 calories per gram of protein)

Eggs are a great way to get your protein, and while they may not have the best ratio of calories to protein on our list, they still make a better choice than the vast majority of foods out there. Eggs are a fast and easy way to get your protein, and since they’re a popular breakfast item you can start your day with a portion of your protein needs already met.

13g Protein, 155 Calories per 100g

Users Comments:

  • J Luther Barnhart

    What about egg whites? Egg whites have just 5 calories per gram of protein.

  • Live Peachy

    Eggs are definitely my go-to food for a quick and easy boost of protein! I love them because there’s so many different ways to include them in a meal anytime during the day! Nuts are also my other favorite protein source, but they definitely have a high calorie content. Thanks for the read!

  • jean shields

    my address is; Jean Shields
    17921 scenic dr
    Boonville mo 65233

  • Tom

    Thanks for this. Im currently making my 2400kcal meal plan and was looking for high protein low calories food to complete my meal plan

  • Wayne

    All the experts agree that one needs to get about 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight every day when trying to avoid burning muscle while losing fat. None of those experts addresses the obvious contradiction. Which is that in order to get that much protein, one has to get too many calories to achieve the calorie deficit necessary to lose the fat!

    • Eddie

      One thing I read that made a lot of sense, was that you should use your target weight / lean body mass (not your true weight) in determining how much protein you should eat.

      Considering it’s the muscle that uses protein (that we care about), it makes a lot more sense than including my 25 lbs of fat I’m trying to lose into the calculation.

      That should make hitting that calorie deficit while eating the necessary protein “easier”. Good luck >_<

  • Michele Canary

    I have been using the lose it all and am down 14 lbs in two weeks!! I’m not that overweight but after having 7 kids and letting myself go a bit I went from 150 to 199 in 14 years. Thank u for this as I’m not getting much protein at all just really staying under 1200 calories and feeling tired and blah so I’m boosting my protein up there to stay on track. This is awesome for me!!

  • SomeGuy

    Well almost everything in here is meat or fish, this isn’t useful for me. There is so much vegetarian high protein food.

    What about “Harzer” Cheese, it has 30g protein in 100g, having only 120 calories. That makes for a density of 4 calories per 1g protein. Plus it has zero fat and almost no carbs.

    What about low fat quark (curd?). It has 12g protein on 100g with about 60 calories, that is 5 calories on 1g.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please type Comment


Name field required

Email field required

Please submit valid email


Website field required

Website is not valid