The Best Lean Protein Foods, No Matter Your Dietary Preferences

Lean Protein Dishes
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A dietitian shares the perks of choosing lean proteins over other options — and explains what a "lean protein" food is in the first place.

01 of 13

What Is Lean Protein?

Lean Protein
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

02 of 13

White Chicken Meat

Grilled Chicken
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

03 of 13

White Turkey Meat

Turkey Burger
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

04 of 13

Lean Pork

Pork Chop DIsh
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

05 of 13

Lean Beef

Steak Dish
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

06 of 13

Eggs and Egg Whites

Egg Omelette
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

07 of 13

White Fish

Cod Dish
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

08 of 13

Salmon and Tuna

Salmon Dish
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

09 of 13

Oysters

Oysters
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

10 of 13

Shrimp and Lobster

Shrimp Pasta
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

11 of 13

Greek and Icelandic Yogurt

Bowl of Yogurt
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

12 of 13

Tofu and Tempeh

Tofu Dish
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

13 of 13

Beans, Peas, and Lentils

Bean Chili
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You've likely heard time and time again just how important it is to score enough protein each day. And for good reason: The macronutrient supports essential body functions such as tissue repair, cell maintenance, hormone function, enzymatic reactions, and muscle building. Protein also helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling full, making it useful for weight management (if that's what you're after).

But the type of protein you choose matters, and generally, you'll want to opt for "lean protein." The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a lean protein source as having less than 10 grams of total fat (4.5 grams or less from saturated fat) and fewer than 95 milligrams of cholesterol in a 3.5-ounce serving. Another way to define lean protein is a protein source that has 2 to 3 grams of fat per ounce.

Due to the lower fat content, lean protein foods also tend to have fewer calories per serving. ICYDK, fat contains 9 calories per gram and protein offers 4 calories per gram, so a higher-fat meat such as a ribeye steak will have more calories than the same portion size of a leaner cut, such as a filet mignon. So if you're keeping an eye on calories or your intake of saturated fat (which can raise LDL cholesterol levels when consumed in excess), incorporating lean protein foods into your diet can help you achieve your goals without going hungry.

Here, some great sources of lean protein, plus tips on how to choose which one is best for you.

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