We all need protein. It is essential for the building and maintenance of muscle, and because it helps keep you feeling full long after you've eaten, protein is a useful weight loss tool. There is just one problem: meeting your protein needs often requires eating lots of meats, beans, and nuts, which also means consuming a lot of calories. But all is not lost. There are recipes out there that are chock full of protein (and flavor) that manage to keep the calorie count at a minimum. Here are our favorite meals under 500 calories:
Full of tofu and mushrooms, you won't even miss the meat in this vegetarian classic.
Per One Serving:194 calories; 14 grams protein
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil
- 1 (12 to 14-ounce) package extra firm tofu (do not use silken)
- 8 ounces baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit if sensitive to spice)
- 4 green onions, finely sliced, divided
- 8 large inner leaves romaine lettuce (from a romaine heart) or butter lettuce leaves
- Optional for serving: Grated carrots, additional red pepper flakes
- In a small bowl, stir together the hoisin, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Press the tofu between paper towels to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Refresh the paper towels and press again. Heat the 2 teaspoons canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Once the oil is hot, crumble in the tofu, breaking it into very small pieces as it cooks. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, then add the diced mushrooms. Continue cooking until any remaining tofu liquid cooks off and the tofu starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes more. Stir in the water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and half of the green onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds more.
- Pour the sauce over the top of the tofu mixture and stir to coat. Cook just until you hear bubbling and the sauce is warmed through, 30 to 60 seconds.
- Spoon the tofu mixture into individual lettuce leaves. Top with remaining green onions, grated carrots, and additional red pepper flakes as desired. Enjoy immediately.
If you like your meals to have a little bite to them, this colorful, fragrant dish is the one for you!
Per One Serving:402 calories; 15.9 grams protein
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1/2 cup diced carrots
- 3 Tbsp red curry paste
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 2/3 cup dry red lentils, thoroughly rinsed in cold water + drained
- 1-2 Tbsp coconut sugar (or maple syrup)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, plus more to taste
optional:1/3 cup light coconut milk
- Thoroughly rinse lentils in a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
- Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add coconut oil, garlic, ginger, and carrots. Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add curry paste and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add tomato paste, vegetable broth, water and stir to combine. Then add lentils, coconut sugar, turmeric, and stir.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat slightly to low (or medium-low), and gently simmer for 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Stir frequently to incorporate flavors, and add more vegetable broth as needed if the mixture becomes too thick.
- An optional (but recommended) step: stir in coconut milk for additional creaminess, and to balance the heat of the curry paste.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more turmeric for depth of flavor, coconut sugar for sweetness/flavor balance, or a pinch of salt for saltiness.
- To serve, divide brown rice (optional) and lentils between 2-3 serving bowls and garnish with cilantro, pickled onions, and pita or naan for dipping (optional).
- Store leftovers separately in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop, adding water as needed for moisture, or in the microwave.
*To make quick pickled red onions, add 3/4 cup warm water, 1/2 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp organic cane sugar, and 1/2 tsp sea salt to a mason jar and seal tightly. Shake to combine/dissolve sugar. Then add 1 small red onion (110 g), thinly sliced, and shake. Set in refrigerator to "pickle" for at least 15 minutes, preferably 30 minutes. Will keep for 1 week.
What's better than straight up cream sauce? Avocado cream sauce!
Per One Serving: 162 calories; 25 grams protein
- 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons blackened seasoning
Avocado Cream Sauce:
- ½ cup plain, 0% Greek yogurt
- ½ avocado
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
- Place the chicken breasts and blackened seasoning in a large resealable bag. Seal and shake a few times to evenly coat the chicken.
- Lightly coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the yogurt, avocado, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt and pulse until smooth and creamy.
- To serve, top each chicken breast with 2 tablespoons of the creamy avocado sauce and garnish with ½ tablespoon green onions.
This spicy vegetarian stew is perfect over a bed of healthy grains.
Per One Serving: 335 calories; 19 grams protein
- 1 (14 oz) package organic extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
- 1½ Tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- ¼-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ⅓ cup water
- ½ Tablespoon garam masala
- ½ Tablespoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 bag frozen baby peas, thawed slightly
- fresh chopped cilantro, for topping (optional)
- Placed onion, ginger, garlic and cayenne pepper into the container of a blender or food processor along with ⅓ cup water and blend until the mixture turns into a smooth paste. Set aside.
- Heat coconut oil in a large sauté pan. Once hot add tofu cubes in a single layer and stir-fry until golden. This shouldn’t take very long. Once golden place tofu cubes onto a plate and set aside.
- Carefully add the contents of the blender into the same sauté pan you used for the tofu. Just be very careful with this part as the paste may splatter. Cook, stirring constantly until the paste turns a light brown color (about 5-6 minutes).
- Add the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Stir and cook for a few minutes longer. Add in vegetable broth and peas, mix well and bring mixture to a boil.
- Cover, lower heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Lift cover and add the tofu cubes. Simmer ten minutes or until tofu and peas are heated through. Top with a little cilantro and serve with brown, basmati or jasmine rice.
Cheesy, meaty, spicy goodness all in one place! A dream come true in under 500 calories!
Per One Serving: 381 calories; 35.3 grams protein
- 2 lbs ground beef
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon of cumin
- ½ teaspoon of chili powder
- ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of olive oil
- 1 cup of shredded strong cheddar cheese
- ½ cup of salsa
- 2 small hass avocados, thinly sliced
- 4 toasted buns of your choice
- 2 tablespoons of sour cream (more or less to taste)
- sliced jalapeños
- chopped fresh cilantro
- crumbled corn chips
- sliced red onions
- Mix the beef, spices and seasoning together in a bowl and shape into 4 burgers.
- Preheat a skillet over medium hight heat with the olive oil. And place each burger in the skillet to sear for at least 2 minutes before flipping it on the other side.
- Let each flipped burger sear for another 2 minutes, then lower the heat and cover the skillet for 2 more minutes until the burgers are cooked through.
- Place about a ¼ cup of shredded cheese over each burger, turn off the heat and cover the skillet again for the cheese to fully melt.
- Spread a layer of sour cream on the toasted bread, a teaspoon of salsa and top with the burgers, more salsa, sliced avocados, sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro, sliced red onion, corn chips and whatever extra toppings you like.
[bctt tweet="10 High-Protein Dinner Recipes Under 500 Calories"]
What is better than a one-pan meal? A one-pan, low-calorie meal!
Per One Serving: 427 calories, 44 grams protein
- 8 oz Chicken breast (about 2 small breasts)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 Tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive oil
- 2 Cups Cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3/4 Cup Carrot, sliced (about 1 large carrot)
- 1/2 Cup Sweet onion, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp Fresh ginger, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp Ground cumin
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp Paprika
- 1/8 tsp Ground Allspice
- 3/4 Cup Orange juice (not from concentrate)
- 1/2 Cup Organic Crushed tomatoes
- 2 Medjool Dates, sliced
- 1/2 Cup Cilantro, minced + additional for garnish
- 2 Tbsp Roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
- 1/2 A small cucumber, thinly sliced
- Using a meat mallet (or a rolling pin) pound out the chicken breasts until they are flat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet on medium/high heat. Cook the chicken breast until golden brown, about 1-1.5 minutes. Flip and repeat on the other side. Transfer to a plate.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the cauliflower, carrot, onion, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and Allspice to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies just begin to soften and the spices are fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the orange juice, crushed tomatoes and sliced dates. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken back into the pan, nestling it into the veggies and spooning some sauce over top. Cover and reduce the heat to medium/low. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the cilantro and divide the chicken between two plates. Top each with the chopped pistachios and place the sliced cucumbers on the side.
Salmon pairs well with a little nutty sweetness. Don't believe us, give this recipe a try!
Per Serving: 205 calories; 22.9 grams protein
- 4 salmon fillets, about 4 ounces each
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt (can substitute with mayonnaise)
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 10 grams (about 4 teaspoons) finely chopped pecans
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon dried garlic powder
- Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack over top. Spray rack with cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup and yogurt until smooth. Spread about 2 teaspoons of the syrup mixture on top of each salmon fillet.
- Mix remaining ingredients in a separate small bowl. Gently press approximately 1 tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture onto the top of each fillet.
- Lightly spray each piece of fish with cooking spray or canola oil (this will help it turn crispy and brown).
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily with a fork and topping is browned and crispy.
Getting tired of chicken? Salmon not your thing? Here comes turkey to the rescue!
Per One Serving: 387 calories; 27.2 grams protein
- 1 tablespoons oil
- ½ onion, minced
- 3 lbs. ground turkey
- 2 tablespoon EACH chili powder and cumin
- 3-5 individual chipotle peppers (canned in adobo sauce), minced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ½ onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon EACH chili powder and cumin
- 4-5 cups chopped veggies like carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, etc. (see notes for specifics)
- 1 cup chicken broth (more as needed)
- 1 14-ounce can pinto or black beans
- 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
- 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
- 15 10-inch tortillas
- avocado, hot sauce, cilantro, etc. for serving
- Filling Part One: Heat the tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the onion and the turkey; as the turkey cooks, add the spices, chipotle peppers, and salt. Cook until the turkey is browned and fully cooked. When the meat is saucy and delicious-looking, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
- Filling Part Two: In the same pot, add the oil, onion, veggies, and spices. Saute for a few minutes until the vegetables are mostly soft. Add enough broth to barely cover the vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft and the mixture has thickened. Add the beans, meat, cheese, and yogurt. Stir until creamy. Also at this point it's a good idea to taste and add salt or more seasoning to make sure you're all good on flavor.
- Fill each tortilla with about ½ cup of the filling, fold up and wrap with plastic or foil. Store in the freezer for quick, grab-and-go lunches and dinners!
- To heat and eat, either pop in the microwave (takes about 5 minutes for a semi-thawed burrito) or in the oven or a combo with the microwave and then on a skillet if you're at home so you can get that golden brown exterior. That's the best way.
This classic chili gets and extra protein boost from quinoa. Yum!
Per One Serving: 380 calories; 30 grams protein
- 1 Tbsp Oil
- 1½ lb Lean Ground Turkey
- 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 2 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 Red Onion, chopped
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1 lb Sweet Potatoes, cubed
- ¼ cup Uncooked Quinoa
- 1 (15-oz) can Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
- 1 (15-oz) can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-oz) can Tomato Sauce (or tomato "puree")
- ½ cup Low-Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- ½ tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Black Pepper
- Shredded Cheese
- Tortilla Chips
- Sour Cream
Pre-Cook Turkey: (Do this up to 3 days in advance and refrigerate the turkey until you're ready to start the slow cooker.) Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add turkey, chili powder and cumin and continue cooking until turkey crumbles and is no longer pink, about 4 minutes.
Slow Cook Chili: Combine cooked turkey and all remaining ingredients (through the toppings). Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve with toppings of choice!
This is no ordinary salad! Take things up a level with crispy coconut chicken.
Per One Serving: 470 calories; 32 grams protein
- 1 lb. chicken tenders
- ¾ cup raw almonds
- ⅓ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg white
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 2 heads of green leaf lettuce, diced
- 1 mango
- 1 cup diced pineapple
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 4 mini red peppers, sliced
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
- 4 tablespoons of honey
- 4 tablespoons of dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 400.
- To make the Coconut Crusted Chicken: Add raw almonds and coconut flakes to a food processor, blend into small rice like pieces. Place in a small bowl. In another bowl add the white whole wheat flour, set aside. In last bowl add 1 whole egg, 1 egg white, and lime zest. Whisk until eggs are scrambled.
- First cover the chicken tenders with the flour, then dunk in the egg mixture, lastly add to the almond coconut mixture. Be sure to press the almond mixture into the tenders using your fingers. Place chicken tenders on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until juices run clear.
- To make the Honey Dijon Dressing: add honey and dijon mustard to a small bowl. Using a whisk stir until smooth. Set aside.
- Assemble the salad: Evenly distribute the following ingredients among four bowl (or add to one large salad bowl) green leaf lettuce, mango, pineapple, avocado, mini red peppers, green onions, coconut crusted chicken tenders, and fresh cilantro. Top with honey dijon dressing.
So many wonderful dishes to choose from! If you find yourself in need of more healthy meal ideas, don't forget to have a look at the BodyRock Meal Plans
These 30-day guides provide you with everything you need to make healthy eating a way of life!