The Shocking Truth About How Much Protein You Really Need — and the Best Places to Get It

Are you eating enough of the right foods to stay healthy? Protein, one of three major nutrients you should consume at every meal, isn’t as hard to get as you might believe. The problem is, people who spend all their calories on junk food struggle to meet basic protein requirements — and many turn to powders and supplements, which can be dangerous if taken irresponsibly.

Here are the best sources of protein and a rundown on how much protein you actually need to consume.

Grilled chicken

Grilled Chicken White Meat

Marinate some chicken the night before for a quick and delicious dinner. | AVNphotolab/iStock/Getty Images

When choosing animal sources of protein, go for the leanest meat possible. Chicken, which is much lower in fat than beef, won’t let you down. Four ounces of grilled chicken provides 36 grams of protein, says SFGate. Since chicken is easy to prepare and store, you can grill a week’s worth of chicken breasts over the weekend, stick them in the freezer, and quickly reheat them for a quick lunch or effortless dinner.


Fresh Spinach in a wooden bowl.

Use fresh spinach to make soups and salads. | Vkuslandia/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Meat isn’t the only way to fill up on protein. Some plant sources provide multiple grams per serving — without the added saturated fat and cholesterol. One cup of spinach provides about 1 gram of protein, which can really add up when you toss together a spinach-based vegetable salad. It’s a simple ingredient to incorporate into every meal of the day — even breakfast. These recipes all include five ingredients, with spinach in its rightful starring role.

Plain Greek yogurt

Fresh Greek yogurt in a wooden bowl.

Never leave the supermarket without Greek yogurt. | Vinst/iStock/Getty Images

If yogurt is one of your breakfast staples, always go Greek. Healthline says Greek yogurt has more protein than both regular yogurt and milk — about 3 grams per ounce. You can add other foods to your yogurt to make them healthier. Try using a little honey to add sweetness, and mix in a little homemade granola to make it crunchy. Use Greek yogurt in place of less healthy spreads, like cream cheese.

Chia seeds

Chia seeds with flowers on a white table.

Sprinkle chia seeds in your smoothies and salads to sneak in some fiber. | White_caty/iStock/Getty Images

Looking for a healthy yet nutritious snack that isn’t a protein bar? Give chia seeds a try. Just an ounce of these small plant-based foods can provide 5.6 grams of protein, plus additional benefits like healthy fat, fiber, and iron. In general, nuts and seeds are considered a high-calorie snack, packing at least 100 calories in each handful. Incorporate small amounts of seeds into other foods like oatmeal to give yourself a healthy boost.


Two eggs laid on the table in egg dishes.

Boiled eggs are easy to make. | Nirad/iStock/Getty Images Plus

According to Healthline, the average egg provides only about 77 calories — and you get 6 whole grams of protein in such a small package. There’s another great reason to keep a carton of eggs in your fridge at all times — you’ll never get bored eating them. Different preparation methods completely change the way an egg tastes, and you can mix in other ingredients to pack in even more nutrition per serving. If you’re looking for a meatless lean protein source, eggs have your back.

Canned tuna

Canned tuna in a bowl with seasoning.

Tuna dishes are super easy to fix up. | HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Tuna is an easy to prepare, inexpensive ingredient to grab when lunch is your busiest time of day. It isn’t just convenient, though — it’s also healthy, and loaded with protein. A cup of canned tuna can provide up to almostĀ 40 grams of protein. Tuna is also rich in healthy fats, another essential part of a healthy and balanced diet. Serve your tuna with spinach as part of a fresh, protein-packed salad, or mix it into your favorite pasta.

Here’s how to figure out how much protein you need

Shopping cart in a supermarket.

Adding more protein to your diet is easier than you think. | Kwangmoozaa/iStock/Getty Images

You’re going to have to do a little math here, but don’t freak out — it’s simple. According to Harvard Health Publications, the average person needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means a 140-pound female should consume an average of about 50 grams of protein daily. That might seem like a lot, if you’re eating a lot of junk food or choose what you eat from roughly the same food groups. Eating a variety of veggies and lean foods should provide you with just the right amount of daily protein.