While most people associate a high-protein diet with bodybuilders and professional athletes, eating a lot of protein can benefit anyone. But with how busy our daily lives are, it can be tough to make sure we get enough protein.
That's where meal prepping comes in. These healthy high-protein lunch meal prep recipes make it easy to hit your goals while juggling work, school or parenting.
High-Protein Meal Prep Tips for Beginners
There are many benefits of meal prepping, from saving time in the kitchen to making weight loss more manageable. If you're new to meal prepping, it can be tough to figure out where to start. Here are some tips to get you going:
Find Out What You'll Need
Having the right equipment can make a big difference in the meal prep process. Here's a breakdown of what you'll need:
- Reusable containers: You'll need dishwasher- and freezer-safe containers to store your meals. Some companies design special containers that have sections to keep your meal-prepped food separate.
- Cooking equipment: Tools like spiralizers, food processors, food scales and measuring cups help make meal-prepping high-protein lunches easy.
- A plan: Planning out your meals ahead of time helps ensure you'll stick to your diet. Usually, you'll want to prep meals between three and five days in advance. Choose recipes you can make in batches so that you can spend less time in the kitchen.
In terms of ingredients, stocking up on high-quality sources of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats is essential for high-protein food prep meals.
Experiment With Different Protein Sources
Protein comes in many different forms, from meat and dairy to beans and legumes. Experiment by trying new proteins in your favorite recipes.
You can also combine protein sources in each meal to hit your target. Here are some examples:
- Seared salmon with edamame, carrot and cucumber over buckwheat noodles
- Tofu burgers on multigrain buns and baked sweet potato fries with Greek yogurt dipping sauce
- Grilled chicken breast with almonds, spinach and quinoa in a citrus dressing
Once you find recipes you love, it'll be easy to prep high-protein lunches.
5 High-Protein Meal Prep Recipes
Get through the week with these quick and easy high-protein lunch ideas. All the following recipes provide at least 30 grams of protein, but you can customize as you'd like to change the nutrient content.
1. Blackened Chicken
This recipe is one of the easiest healthy high-protein meals you can make if you have a busy lifestyle. All you need is 30 minutes and some pantry staples.
First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare your seasoning. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon each of garlic and onion powder, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, ½ teaspoon of Italian seasoning and ¼ teaspoon each of cumin, cayenne pepper and ground black pepper.
Coat four dried boneless, skinless chicken breasts with 2 tablespoons of avocado oil and roll them in the seasoning mix until evenly coated. Then blacken in a greased oven-safe skillet over high heat, about 30 seconds per side.
Once blackened, transfer the pan to the oven, and cook for another 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the pan from the oven, and cover immediately with foil. Wait at least five minutes before portioning.
Serve with veggies and healthy carbs like cauliflower rice or quinoa. This recipe is also great for adding protein to salads and wraps.
Some other tips and substitutions:
- Oil: Avocado oil is great for this recipe due to its neutral flavor and high smoke point. You could also use light olive oil, which has a higher smoke point than extra virgin olive oil.
- Pan: Make sure your pan is oven-safe up to or over 450 degrees. A cast iron skillet will be your best bet.
- Spices: We recommend smoked paprika for maximum flavor, but sweet paprika would also work well. You can also omit the cayenne pepper if you prefer less spice.
2. Clean Beef Burgers
While you might think burgers are unhealthy, this easy recipe has the protein you need without the fat and calories. You'll get four juicy beef burgers with approximately 343 calories and 25 grams of protein per serving.
Combine 1 pound of extra-lean, grass-fed ground beef with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 3 tablespoons of marinade. You have ultimate freedom with flavor here — classic black pepper, steak sauce, Jamaican jerk or Thai chili marinades are all great choices.
Form four patties using your hands or a hamburger press and grill for two to three minutes per side. The center should be juicy and pink. If you prefer your meat to be a little more well-done, feel free to extend the cooking time.
The best thing about burgers is their versatility. You can serve them with any toppings and sides you want, and you can switch it up depending on the day. Here are a few suggestions:
- Toppings: When in doubt, pile on the veggies. Classic choices include sliced beefsteak tomato, lettuce, onion or sautéed mushrooms.
- Cheese: Choose a cheese that's high in protein and low in fat, such as Swiss cheese.
- Sides: A garden salad with low-sugar dressing, baked sweet potato fries, green beans or asparagus are healthy options.
- Buns: Multigrain or sprouted wheat buns can bump up your burger's protein content by up to 8 grams. You can also skip the bun entirely and go for a lettuce wrap or salad.
These burgers make an excellent high-protein meal prepped lunch.
3. Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas and Corn Salad
If you're always on the go, slow cooker meals are going to be a game-changer for you. All you have to do is put your ingredients in the slow cooker, set it and forget it until it's time to dish up.
Add 2-3 pounds of seasoned boneless pork shoulder carnitas and ½ cup of chicken stock to your slow cooker and cook on low for three to five hours. You could also use an Instant Pot for this step, which will cut the cook time to between 30 minutes and an hour.
While the meat is cooking, add 1 cup drained sweet corn and 1 cup of rinsed and drained black beans to a large bowl. Mix in ½ cup diced red onion, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and a few shakes of salt and pepper. If you'd like, add ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro as well. Place the salad in an airtight container and store in the fridge for later.
Once the pork is done, shred it and broil it on high for three to five minutes or until the edges are slightly crispy. Divide into portions with the corn salad and a side of your choice.
Here are some quick tips and substitutions:
- Sides: Serve with an unrefined, high-protein grain such as brown rice, quinoa or amaranth. You could also swap out the grain for more veggies to keep your lunch recipes low-carb.
- Toppings: Salsa, sliced avocado or guacamole, cherry tomatoes, lime wedges and roasted bell pepper are all great ideas.
- Meat: If you don't eat pork, lean ground beef is going to be the best substitute. It'll taste slightly different, but it'll bump up the protein content by up to 10 grams.
This recipe makes four servings and offers around 33 grams of protein per serving.
4. Chimichurri Steak and Quinoa Bowls
This recipe is a little more involved, but it's well worth it for a juicy steak with fresh chimichurri. You'll get four servings with 34 grams of protein in each.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, then peel and cube between 1 and 2 cups each of sweet potatoes and red beets. Toss with 2 tablespoons avocado oil and season to taste with salt, smoked paprika, black pepper and garlic powder. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. While that's baking, cook 1 cup of rinsed quinoa according to package directions.
To make the chimichurri sauce, finely chop 1 cup tightly packed fresh parsley, 4 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano. Combine these with ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon sea salt and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Add a pinch of black pepper and a splash of fresh lemon juice for a little zing.
Finally, it's time to prep your steak. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. While it's heating up, heat 2 tablespoons avocado oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 lean eight-ounce steaks to the skillet and sear for two minutes on each side. Baste the steak throughout this step to ensure an even sear.
Add 6 whole peeled garlic cloves and 6 sprigs fresh thyme to the skillet and place in the oven for four to five minutes. Allow the steak to rest for at least five minutes before slicing and serving with quinoa and 2 tablespoons of chimichurri.
Here are some cooking tips and substitution ideas:
- Quinoa: Swap the quinoa for another complex grain like brown or wild rice. You could also leave out the grain altogether and replace it with a starch like mashed plantains, baked sweet potato or even some roasted yucca.
- Toppings and sides: Fresh avocado and tomato would be a great addition to this meal. If you want to swap either the beets or sweet potatoes, you could add roasted red and yellow bell peppers, sauteed spinach or blanched green beans.
- Sauce: The chimichurri is the highlight of this dish, but you can use another sauce if you'd prefer. Black pepper marinade, steak sauce or even lemon pepper seasoning would all work well.
5. Low-Carb Philly Cheesesteak Bowl
Who doesn't love a hot, melty Philadelphia cheesesteak? But with anywhere from 600 to 1200 calories per sandwich, regularly stopping by the sub shop for a traditional cheesesteak can make meeting your nutritional goals tough. It's much more sustainable to prep your own at home. This deconstructed version makes three servings with approximately 35 grams of protein in each.
First, prep your veggies. Slice 1 medium white onion, 1 medium bell pepper and 6 ounces of portobello mushrooms into nice, thick pieces. Once that's ready, heat up ½ tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat.
Add 12 ounces of sirloin steak to the pan and cook for about two minutes before flipping and cooking for an additional two minutes. Then add your veggies along with 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Let this cook for about three minutes, then add 3 slices of low-fat provolone cheese. Cover the pan and allow the cheese to melt for a few minutes.
Remove your steak from the stove and allow it to cool before topping with fresh herbs and storing.
Make this meal your own with some healthy substitutions:
- Bread: This recipe skips the bun to prioritize protein and keep carbs low, but you could eat it on bread if it fits your goals for the day. You could also opt for a low-carb wrap or flatbread to create a healthier handheld.
- Cheese: Provolone is the traditional choice, but you could swap it out for another high-protein cheese like Parmesan, low-fat Swiss or nonfat mozzarella.
- Sides: Philly cheesesteaks are versatile, so feel free to mix this recipe up by experimenting with different sides. We recommend baked sweet potato wedges, mashed peas or a green salad. You could even add a scrambled egg for a high-protein breakfast.
This recipe is easy to reheat and enjoy, making it a great healthy, high-protein meal prep lunch for work.
What Is a High-Protein Diet?
Simply put, a high-protein diet is a way of eating that involves consuming more protein than you would if you were to follow traditional dietary guidelines.
For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That amounts to roughly 54 grams per day for a 150-pound individual on a standard diet. On a high-protein diet, that person would consume more than 54 grams.
Some of the top benefits of a high-protein diet include the following factors:
- Aids in weight loss: Eating more protein makes you feel fuller for longer, which can help you reduce the number of calories you eat in a day without intentionally restricting.
- Builds muscle and strength: Protein is the building block of muscle tissue. Adequate protein intake combined with consistent resistance training helps build and maintain muscle mass.
- Boosts metabolism: The thermic effect of food (TEF) describes how your body burns calories to digest your food. Protein has the highest TEF of all three macronutrients, burning up to 100 extra calories per day.
If you need some help figuring out how to get enough protein, working with a nutritionist or registered dietitian may be a smart decision. They can help you determine your macronutrient goals and identify the best foods for your lifestyle.
Where Can I Get Extra Protein?
With careful planning, anyone can follow a high-protein diet. Some popular protein sources include:
- Plant-based: Lentils, edamame, peas, nuts, seeds, some grains, beans and legumes. Soy products like tofu and tempeh are also high in protein and make great meat substitutes.
- Meat: Lean beef, skinless chicken breast and pork.
- Dairy: Low-fat Greek yogurt, Icelandic skyr, cottage cheese and Swiss cheese. Although not technically a dairy product, goat cheese is also high in protein.
- Fish: Tuna, salmon, trout, snapper, tilapia and most shellfish are extremely high in protein.
- Meat substitutes: Plant-based meat substitutes from brands like Gardein, Beyond Meat, Impossible Meat and Tofurky. These products are usually made from soy, pea or lentil protein.
- Supplements: Whey, casein or vegan protein shakes, powders and bars.
One more thing — it's important to choose your protein sources carefully. Quality is just as important as quantity. Prioritize whole, natural foods over processed products such as meat substitutes and protein bars.
Cut the Prep. Fresh Meal Plan Is Here to Make Your High-Protein Diet Easy.
Whether you want to prep high-protein lunches to bring to work or simply find easy ways to enjoy more protein, Fresh Meal Plan can help. At Fresh Meal Plan, we provide healthy high-protein meals without the prep. Our meals are ready in three minutes or less, so you can easily fit meal prepping into your busy lifestyle. Plus, with flexible weekly delivery plans and plenty of a la carte options, you can create a menu that works for you.
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