You don't have to be a professional athlete or a bodybuilder to want to learn more about high-protein, low-carbohydrate food. In fact, there are several benefits to cutting back on refined and processed sugars while including more protein-packed ingredients in your diet. Yes, protein is essential to building lean muscle and boosting metabolism for fat-burning, and studies also reveal a correlation between protein and increased energy levels, as well as focus. But according to a report in the Journal of Sports and Medicine, it's also important to incorporate enough healthy fats and plant-based protein sources in your diet rather than eating steak for every meal and ditching grains altogether.
In other words, moderation and balance are key. So if you want to find healthier alternatives to refined carbs or need to switch to a gluten-free diet for health reasons while also getting enough protein, these 12 recipes will help you get started. We made sure to include vegan-friendly options, as well as a few meals for meat lovers so everyone will find something that fits their lifestyles and cravings. Click through for breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that will keep you full and energized all day long.
FOR BREAKFAST: Avocado on Baked Sweet Potato
Avocado toast isn't going anywhere, and we're glad about that. But if you want to cut back on carbs or simply want to try something new, this recipe from Minimalist Baker is a great option. All you have to do is cut your sweet potato into a few slices, and then bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes. Then cover it with avocado, and sprinkle some salt and chili flakes on top.
FOR BREAKFAST: Oatmeal Apple Smoothie
If you aren't eating many carbs, it's important to make sure you're still getting enough natural sugars and proteins to feel energized. That's where fruit smoothies come in. Brought to us by Mitzy at Home, this oatmeal apple smoothie is perfect for anyone who needs a quick breakfast to enjoy on the go. It calls for dates, bananas, apples, hazelnuts, old-fashioned oats, and the milk of your choosing.
FOR BREAKFAST: Chickpea Fritters With Eggs
Step up your egg game with this Half Baked Harvest recipe. Instead of toasting a piece of bread and filling up on refined sugar, opt for these protein-packed fritters made with chickpeas, kale, and leeks. Of course, they may take a little more time, but if you make them over the weekend, you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week. Simply top them with eggs prepared however you like them.
FOR BREAKFAST: Blueberry Banana Almond Smoothie
If you like smoothies and also want a breakfast that doesn't require a full sit-down ordeal but want something with a little less sugar, here's your solution. All it takes is a handful of blueberries, a banana, smooth almond butter, vanilla almond milk, flax seeds, and five minutes. Feel free to use peanut butter if you want, though almond butter is higher in vitamin E, iron, and fiber.
FOR LUNCH: Roasted Vegetable Bowl
We all know it's important to eat our veggies, but sometimes they're not the most appetizing options on the menu. This is not one of those times. Complete with carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, radishes, broccolini, red peppers, kale, and cabbage, this rainbow medley of vegetables is full of essential nutrients, and it's also incredibly eye-catching. All together, this bowl is about 13.2 grams of protein, according to Minimalist Baker. And drizzled with hemp seeds and tahini sauce, it's also perfectly hearty.
FOR LUNCH: Grilled Chicken and Plantains
This Paleo-friendly dish from Food Faith Fitness is something you'll return to again and again. It's unique, flavorful, and healthy so you won't have to worry about feeling unsatisfied and craving carbs. Plantains contain natural carbohydrates, so it's a much better side dish to accompany your grilled chicken as opposed to a slice of white bread, which usually contains high contents of refined sugar. And then instead of Spanish white rice, opt for cauliflower rice, which will soak up all the delicious Caribbean-inspired flavors featured in this recipe.
FOR LUNCH: Skirt Steak and Burrata Salad
Who needs carbs to have a decadently delicious meal? This grilled skirt steak salad from Spoon Fork Bacon is something you'll want to savor. We already like the sound of this salad with just the sliced peaches, creamy burrata, basil bunches, green onions, and baby kale. But when you introduce the hero ingredient, it's a game changer. The skirt steak is marinated in garlic, sage, thyme, rosemary for an aromatic, juicy flavor.
FOR LUNCH: Jerk-Style Grilled Veggies
For another delicious, meat-free option, try this jerk-style grilled veggie recipe. Though you can follow this recipe using any vegetables of your choosing, The First Mess opts for a head of cauliflower and pairs it with spinach and grilled tempeh for added protein and contrasting textures. It's doused in a tangy mango-ginger-miso sauce and sesame seeds for a fine finish.
FOR DINNER: Skillet Chicken With Mushroom and Thyme
Grilled or roasted chicken is always a staple in high-protein, low-carb diets (unless you don't eat meat), so it's important to keep things exciting and tasty by trying new recipes. This version of skillet-made chicken is smothered in mushrooms and thyme for a rich and filling meal. Prepared in this gravy-like mixture, the chicken won't be too dry or boring. Just serve it over a bed of cauliflower rice, and voilà.
FOR DINNER: Pomegranate Glazed Pan-Roasted Salmon
How delicious does this salmon look? If you're cooking for a large group of family or friends, this pomegranate-glazed, pan-roasted salmon Half Baked Harvest recipe is great because not only is it impressively photogenic, but it also allows everyone to customize the rest of the meal without being bored. With such a perfect texture and decadent flavors on its own, that buttered demi-baguette or biscuit won't be as tempting, so you can just load up on Brussels sprouts instead.
FOR DINNER: Zucchini Noodles with Garlic Shrimp
Zucchini noodles are an amazing substitute for grain-based noodles. If you have a spiralizer, they're super easy to make, and they also add a nice crunch to any dish. These zoodles are topped with succulent garlic shrimp and refreshing curry leaves for an equally light and filling finale.
FOR DINNER: Sesame Garlic Noodles
If you've spent all day cutting back on carbs, consider treating yourself to a serving during dinner. Comforting, fragrant, and vibrant, this sesame garlic noodle dish from The First Mess includes crispy tempeh bites, basil, and plenty of broccoli. The key to making this while sticking to your high-protein, low-carb diet is by cutting the noodle portion in half and doubling up on veggies and tempeh. This way, you can have your carbs and eat them too, guilt-free. Or opt for zucchini zoodles instead.
Drummen M, Tischmann L, Gatta-Cherifi B, et al. Dietary protein and energy in relation to obesity and co-morbidities. Front Endocrinol. 2018. doi:10.3389/fendo.2018.00443
Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein - Which is best? J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3:118-130.