6 Easy Sources of Protein

These energizing and filling high-protein foods can help fulfill your daily protein needs.

You may be looking for easy sources of quick and versatile protein if you are often on the go. Various animal and plant-based products can help satisfy your daily protein intake. 

Your body needs protein to grow and repair cells. Getting enough protein in your diet is essential since your body does not store protein as it does with carbs and fats.

In the United States, most people consume enough protein, even plant-based eaters. Research has found that the idea that vegetarian and vegan diets do not supply enough protein is a common misconception. Although meat is a significant source of protein, beans, lentils, grains, and Greek yogurt make great high-protein snacks, too.

Here are six easy protein sources you might know about, plus simple ways to incorporate them into balanced meals.


Protein Health Benefits

Protein is an essential nutrient that is found in many foods, both animal and plant-based products. Your body needs protein to grow and repair cells.

The health benefits of protein include:

  • Building and strengthening your bones, muscles, and skin
  • Fight infections 
  • Transporting fats, other nutrients, and oxygen to different body parts
  • Maintaining a healthy balance of fluids in your body
  • Clotting your blood to avoid excess bleeding when you are injured

Protein is especially essential for children, adolescents, and pregnant people to facilitate growth.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Everyone needs protein in their diets since the body does not store it. How much protein you need depends on your calorie needs. How many calories each person eats daily depends on several factors, such as age, sex, health, and activity level.

About one gram of protein is four calories. Generally, recommendations advise a daily protein intake of 10% to 35% of their daily calories. If you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, 100 grams of protein would be 20% of your daily calories.

A dietitian or nutritionist can help you figure out how many calories or how much protein is suitable for you. They can advise you on how to eat enough nutrients based on your unique factors.

Easy Sources of Protein

Both animal and plant-based products have protein. Animal products are sources of complete proteins, which pack all amino acids the body cannot make naturally.

Most plant-based foods have incomplete proteins, so you need a wide variety to get all the essential amino acids. Though, there are a number of plant-based sources with complete proteins, such as whole soy products (e.g. tofu and tempeh), amaranth, quinoa, and chia seeds.


Protein per serving: 47.2 grams

In addition to canned and frozen options, you can purchase steamed, ready-to-eat lentils in the produce section of many grocery stores. A one-cup portion of raw lentils provides roughly 47.2 grams of protein and 20.5 grams of fiber.

Fiber is another essential nutrient. The National Institutes of Health advises women to consume 25 grams daily, while men consume 38 grams. Most people in the United States only eat 14 grams of fiber daily. Fiber, like the kind found in lentils, adds bulk to your meals and satiates your appetite. Fiber aids digestion and keeps your bowel movements regular.

For a meal in minutes, toss a generous handful of leafy greens with a dressing made from balsamic vinegar, stone ground mustard, and Italian herb seasoning. Top with lentils, avocado, and a few tablespoons of pumpkin seeds.

Pea Protein Burgers

Protein per serving: 23 grams

Research has found that eating a lot of red meat increases the risk of many chronic diseases, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and some cancers.

Instead of a classic hamburger, try a burger made from pea protein derived from yellow split peas. Pea protein is naturally gluten-free and not a common allergen. Some brands of pea protein burgers provide about 23 grams of protein.

What's more, pea protein burgers are versatile. You can crumble them on top of salads, add them to stir-fries, or roll them up in collard wraps with chopped veggies and vinegar-based slaw. Or enjoy a pea protein burger whole, placed between lettuce leaves, along with tomato, onion, and avocado served with fries.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Protein per serving: 6.3 grams

While hard-boiled eggs are easy to make, you can purchase them pre-cooked. One large hard-boiled egg provides about 6.3 grams of protein. The yolk contains the bulk of an egg's nutrients, including vitamins A, D, E, and K, and many B vitamins.

Plus, research has found that the cholesterol in eggs, which is entirely found in the yolk, has little to no negative impact on blood cholesterol. One study published in 2017 found that in healthy adults, up to three whole eggs per day increased levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

You can add hard-boiled eggs to salads for an instant protein boost. Or chop a few, then toss them with spinach, tomatoes, red onion, celery, and bell pepper. Add a small scoop of cooked, chilled quinoa dressed in half of mashed avocado.

Plant Protein Powder

Protein per serving: 21 grams

One scoop of plant protein powder can provide about 21 grams of protein with little carbohydrates and fat. Since plant-based foods only have incomplete proteins, adding different types of plant protein powder can help get all the essential amino acids your body cannot make naturally. For example, you can mix pea and rice protein powders.

In addition to using it in smoothies, try adding plain, unflavored plant protein powder to boost the protein content in your favorite meals. For example, you can add a scoop of protein powder to oatmeal, overnight oats, banana pancakes, savory soups, and cauliflower mash.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

Baked Beans

Protein per serving: 12.1 grams

Beans are a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets since they are a low-cost, versatile ingredient. What's more, beans have a low glycemic index and pack vitamins and minerals that help protect against chronic diseases, promote gut health, and reduce inflammation. One cup of organic vegetarian baked beans contains roughly 12.1 grams of protein and 10.4 grams of fiber.

For a quick vegan meal, serve baked beans with steamed frozen broccoli tossed with jarred dairy-free pesto. Or pair baked beans with a fresh garden salad dressed in an extra virgin olive oil-based balsamic vinaigrette.

Greek Yogurt

Protein per serving: 16.1 grams

Both plant- and dairy-based Greek yogurts can be good sources of ready-to-eat protein. Greek yogurt has less lactose than regular yogurt, making it a suitable option for lactose-sensitive people. Still, Greek yogurt has less calcium than regular yogurt. So, look for ones fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

One container of plain non-fat Greek yogurt has about 16.1 grams of protein, nearly twice that of regular yogurt. Plant-based Greek yogurts, made from coconut or almond milk, typically have less protein than dairy-based ones.

You can enjoy plain Greek yogurt, either sweet or savory. Add fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, a drizzle of maple syrup, a dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of fresh-grated ginger for a sweet version. For a savory option, add garlic, fresh dill, red wine vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Then, toss with veggies like sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and a bit of red onion.

A Quick Review

Finding easy protein sources may be hard if you are often on the go. Luckily, many versatile high-protein options exist, even if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Try incorporating lentils, beans, eggs, and Greek yogurt into your meals and snacks for a mix of quick high-protein foods.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health's contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.

Was this page helpful?
22 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Dietary protein.

  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How much protein should I eat?.

  3. Mariotti F, Gardner CD. Dietary protein and amino acids in vegetarian diets-a reviewNutrients. 2019;11(11):2661. doi:10.3390/nu11112661

  4. MedlinePlus. Protein in diet.

  5. Kudełka W, Kowalska M, Popis M. Quality of soybean products in terms of essential amino acids compositionMolecules. 2021;26(16):5071. doi:10.3390/molecules26165071

  6. Rogerson D. Vegan diets: Practical advice for athletes and exercisersJ Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:36. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9

  7. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 5 whole grains to keep your family healthy.

  8. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Simple quinoa with spinach, tomatoes and walnuts recipe.

  9. Department of Agriculture. Lentils, raw.

  10. NIH News in Health. Rough up your diet.

  11. MedlinePlus. Dietary fiber.

  12. National Institute of Health. Risk in red meat?.

  13. Department of Agriculture. Beastly sliders, plant-based burger patty with pea protein.

  14. Department of Agriculture. Egg, whole, cooked, hard-boiled.

  15. Réhault-Godbert S, Guyot N, Nys Y. The golden egg: Nutritional value, bioactivities, and emerging benefits for human healthNutrients. 2019;11(3):684. doi:10.3390/nu11030684

  16. DiMarco DM, Missimer A, Murillo AG, et al. Intake of up to 3 eggs/day increases HDL cholesterol and plasma choline while plasma trimethylamine-n-oxide is unchanged in a healthy populationLipids. 2017;52(3):255-263. doi:10.1007/s11745-017-4230-9

  17. Department of Agriculture. Plant-based protein 21 g powder, unflavored, unflavored.

  18. Hertzler SR, Lieblein-Boff JC, Weiler M, et al. Plant proteins: Assessing their nutritional quality and effects on health and physical functionNutrients. 2020;12(12):3704. doi:10.3390/nu12123704

  19. Mullins AP, Arjmandi BH. Health benefits of plant-based nutrition: Focus on beans in cardiometabolic diseasesNutrients. 2021;13(2):519. doi:10.3390/nu13020519

  20. Department of Agriculture. Beans, baked, canned, plain or vegetarian.

  21. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What to look for in yogurt.

  22. Department of Agriculture. Yogurt, Greek, plain, nonfat.

Related Articles