For many, sticking to a nutrition regimen can be a real struggle—especially when it comes to snacks. After all, we are constantly surrounded by the temptation of very palatable highly processed foods filled with salt, sugar, and fat. Plus, we might not have a sense of what the ideal snacks for our health and fitness goals look like.
Whether you want to build muscle, seek sustained energy throughout the day, or aim to manage your weight, a go-to array of high-protein snacks is tremendously beneficial to have in your arsenal. Protein plays an important role in building muscle, supporting immune function, and promoting a feeling of fullness, making it a quintessential piece to the nutrition puzzle for anyone who snacks, and especially for those focused on health and fitness.
So, what protein-rich snacks should you keep stocked for when hunger strikes? Here, I’ll share the quick bites I rely on and recommend as a sports dietitian.
1. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a fantastic high-protein snack option that is convenient, quick, and customizable. Depending on the variety, one cup of Greek yogurt provides a significant 15 to 25 grams of protein.
What I particularly love about Greek yogurt, though, is that you can manipulate it however you want to reach your specific goals or satisfy your cravings. Need to gain weight? Add some mixed nuts, a banana, honey, and chia seeds to your yogurt. Looking for a low-calorie, but high-protein nighttime snack? Add some mixed berries and zero-calorie sweetener. The possibilities are endless.
When choosing a Greek yogurt, keep your unique goals in mind. If your main focus is on weight loss or healthy body weight maintenance, opt for a non-fat option and watch out for added sugars in some of the flavored varieties. If you want to gain weight, feel free to pick a flavored version, and don’t worry about choosing the lowest fat option.
Pro tip: In addition to making the perfect base for a high-protein snack, unflavored non-fat Greek yogurt can also serve as a perfect sour cream substitute in all sorts of recipes.
2. Protein Pancakes
A far cry from the pancakes you ate as a kid, high-protein pancakes are a delicious, muscle-fueling, and satisfying snack option that you can whip up in just minutes. These days, you can buy instant pancake mixes that go heavy on protein (and sometimes fiber!), resulting in pancakes that keep you feeling full and provide sustained energy. You can also DIY protein pancakes using your favorite protein powder (more about powders and bars soon) and one of the million recipes you’ll find online.
Like yogurt, protein pancakes offer a customizable canvas for adding toppings—like fresh fruits, nuts, or a drizzle of nut butter—that enhance both the flavor and nutritional value. Want to increase the protein even further? Add ingredients such as eggs and milk to the pancake mix. Whether enjoyed as a post-workout refuel or a wholesome anytime snack, protein pancakes strike a delightful balance between satisfaction and nourishment.
Pro tip: When you meal prep, make a big batch of protein pancakes and store them in the freezer. When you’re ready to indulge, simply warm them up in the microwave.
3. Cottage Cheese
Commonly dubbed the ultimate bedtime snack by bodybuilders, cottage cheese is a super-quick and slow-digesting protein option. The slow-digesting aspect is due to the fact that cottage cheese is high in casein, a slowly-digested protein found in milk. (Most cheese is derived from casein!)
Since casein breaks down so slowly, it is often suggested that you consume it before sleeping to give your muscles a steady stream of amino acids throughout some hours of the night. That said, you don’t have to reserve it for bedtime. I think cottage cheese is delicious on its own, but you can also customize it with various ingredients to add nutritional value and flavor (like you would yogurt).
4. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-boiled eggs are portable, convenient protein-packed snacks. They offer high-quality protein that contributes to muscle building and satiety, making them an ideal choice for those looking to fight off hunger in between meals or work towards hitting a daily protein intake goal. Additionally, eggs are a rich source of essential nutrients, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, and choline.
Their natural packaging—the eggshell—also makes hard-boiled eggs hassle-free and portable. You can easily make a big batch in advance and store them in the fridge, grabbing a couple as needed for on-the-go snacking.
If you’re not too enthused about the prospect of plain hard-boiled eggs, consider adding salt and pepper to take the flavor up a notch.
5. Roasted Chickpeas
Looking for a vegan-friendly high-protein snack? Go for roasted chickpeas. Not only are chickpeas rich in protein but they also boast a significant amount of fiber, aiding in digestion and promoting a feeling of fullness. Roasted chickpeas can be easily prepared at home with a little bit of olive oil and whatever seasonings you like to suit your taste preferences. (A combination of garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper is my favorite.) They offer a satisfying alternative to traditional, less nutritious crunchy snack options like chips and pretzels.
In addition to munching on roasted chickpeas solo, you can also add them to other foods, like salads, for an extra protein boost.
6. Cheese Sticks
If you want a whole-food snack that’s satisfying and requires zero prep, cheese sticks are about as convenient as it gets. Packed with protein and calcium, these portable snacks are not only delicious but also contribute to bone and muscle health. Not to mention, the built-in portion control offered by cheese sticks makes them an excellent choice for those who want to eat something flavorful and protein-rich while remaining mindful of their calorie intake.
Enjoy cheese sticks as a standalone treat or pair them with whole-grain crackers for added crunch. I find this combo particularly helpful for satisfying midday cravings.
7. Protein Powder and Protein Bars
Of course, if you’re looking for an efficient and customizable way to meet your protein needs, protein powder is a valuable ally. Whether blended into smoothies, stirred into yogurt, or baked into treats, protein powder provides a concentrated source of high-quality protein. It’s a particularly game-changing option for individuals with busy lifestyles or who struggle to reach their total daily protein targets. With a variety of flavors and formulations available, there’s sure to be something out there for everyone, whether you’re interested in whey or prefer a plant-based pick.
When looking for a protein supplement, try to find one that has been third-party certified, which adds another layer of trust that the contents of the product truly match what’s listed on the label. This is especially important if you are a competitive athlete.
When you’re looking for something a little more substantive than a shake, try opting for a protein bar. Protein bars offer a convenient and delicious way to easily down a solid amount of protein (some offer 20-plus grams) while satisfying cravings. Today, you can find bars in a wide variety of flavors—and even an array of different textures.
Despite today’s food environment, you can still achieve your goals while listening to your body cues and snacking when desired. The high-protein snack options listed here will help you to stick to your goals all while satisfying your cravings.
Jacob Green, M.S., R.D., C.I.S.S.N., is a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist from Cleveland, OH. Jacob completed his Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, along with 1,200 hours of supervised internship experience, at the University of Akron, and went on to complete a Master’s in kinesiology at Texas Tech University after passing his registered dietitian examination. During his time at Texas Tech, Jacob worked in Dr. Grant Tinsley’s Energy Balance and Body Composition laboratory, where he assisted with research related to dietary supplements, nutrition, body composition, and resistance training. Jacob is also a certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition and currently practices as a dietitian and online training and nutrition coach. You can find him on social media at @Jacobgreen_RD.