38 Delicious Lunch and Dinner Ideas That Are High in Protein

Protein is important to include on your plate, but it can be tricky to make sure you’re getting enough of it. These quick high-protein meals have you covered, providing tasty options for lunches and dinners that will leave you satisfied.

Before we get into the tasty high-protein recipes, though, let’s back track a bit and discuss what exactly protein is—and what it does for our bodies. First, protein is one of three macronutrients (along with fat and carbs) that our bodies need in sizable amounts. Why? It serves as a building block in our bodies, meaning it helps the cells in our bodies grow and repair. This is important for all of us, but it’s especially vital for people who exercise, since working out leads to tiny tears in the muscle—and protein helps muscles repair those tears so they can grow back stronger. Eating protein also helps us feel full and satisfied throughout the day.

You’re probably most familiar with animal products, like poultry, beef, and eggs, as protein sources. While the nutrient is most abundant in those kinds of foods, it’s also readily available in plenty of plant-based ingredients well, so it’s possible to find foods high in protein for all types of eaters.

As for how much protein to eat in a day? Well, that number varies, based on things like age, sex, overall calories consumed, and activity level, as SELF reported previously. But a decent baseline for the recommended daily allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. (For a 150-pound person, for instance, that’s around 54 grams of protein a day.) 

Despite the fact that it’s definitely tempting to knock out all of these protein demands with a single, protein-rich meal, experts say it’s best to have some protein throughout the day, rather than loading it all up in one sitting. (Keeping snacks high in protein at the ready is a great way to make this a reality, as is brushing up on some high-protein breakfast options.) The main reason for doing this is that eating high protein foods with each meal helps keep your energy levels consistent, so you’re less likely to run into a 3 P.M. slump or feel tired right after you wake up. Plus, including a variety of protein-rich ingredients in your diet means you’ll also be getting other important vitamins and nutrients—like fatty acids from seafood or fiber from beans—at the same time, SELF has reported. 

So now that we’ve established the importance of protein, let’s get to the fun part: delicious dinners and lunches that are full of that macronutrient. These 38 high-protein meals encompass a range of lunch and dinner ideas for every kind of craving, schedule, and eating habits. You’ll find options for vegans and vegetarians that don’t leave you wanting, meaty meals that can be prepared entirely in one pan, and fresh and flavorful salads for the days when it’s too hot to turn on the oven. Whether you’re trying to eat a high-protein diet to meet your fitness goals or just want to feel your best each day, these ideas have you covered.