Top 10 (or 11) Best Protein Sources for Sustainable Eating Success

One of my most-fielded questions is:

What type of protein should I be eating? 

The answer that I generally give back is:

What type of protein do you feel like eating?

...I know...you can't answer a question with a question.

However, my first food philosophy is that you should choose the food that you want to eat. Then, see if it fits in your macros. Naturally, you should be planning your day to include mostly Practical Power Foods, and then speckling your day with a few Pleasure Foods, but if we've already addressed that part of the equation, we can move back to the original question...which is really:

What are my most sustainable options for protein?

Here is my list, naturally in order of my most to least favorite, because that's how I do things around here.

[disclosure: this post contains a few affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of those links, I may receive a small commission.]

 

Cottage Cheese

I know, I know...you hate it. You hate the texture, the smell, the taste. 

Or...you LOVE IT!

Cottage cheese is a total love/hate food, and I've found that there is no real middle ground. 

However, cottage cheese is my personal favorite, and I generally eat cottage cheese no less than two times per day. If dairy is your jam, cottage cheese is a fantastic source of lean protein, calcium, and B vitamins.

And lets face it...if you love cottage cheese, it's the way to go.  

Eggs

In my world, eggs are basically the perfect food. In the 'olden days', I used to crack them, separate them, and throw away the yolks. The New Me cringes at the Old Me for having wasted so many precious egg yolks. Eat 'dem yolks, folks! Your body will love them.

 

Chicken 

You can choose from several different types of chicken, and any cut is really fine if you like it. Darker meat contains more fat, which is a healthy part of most people's macro profile. 

I prefer chicken breast, but that's just because I don't care for the taste of other cuts (not because I'm avoiding fat...I'm so not).

The nutritional profile for chicken will vary pretty drastically depending upon whether you're eating (logging) breasts, thighs, drumsticks or wings, and it will also depend greatly upon whether it's skinless, and whether you're basing the weight upon boneless or with-bone. So, just pay attention when you're logging chicken--it can get tricky.

Greek Yogurt

As someone who doesn't enjoy yogurt all that much, I can tell you that the idea of eating a tiny little plastic container of yogurt is one of the most unappealing ideas in the whole universe to me.  However, when I branched out a little and tried a few different brands and styles (Greek, coconut milk, kefir, etc.), I learned that I actually love the flavor and texture of Greek yogurt.

I do enjoy Greek yogurt plain, but more often, you'll find me mixing it with ranch dip mix (instead of sour cream) to make a savory dip for veggies or chips, stirring it together with pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice, or throwing in some ripe bananas and stevia for a sweet, protein-packed snack. 

My favorite brand is Fage, and it is absolutely packed with protein, and has a fabulous pudding-like texture!

Protein Powder

There are so many types of protein powder on the market these days, and the quality of protein has gotten so much better since the the 2000's when I was first doing a macro (un)diet. I wasn't a big meat-eater back then, so protein powder was sort of unavoidable for me. I would drink at least a shake per day, and I would feel terrible afterward with bloating, an overly full feeling, and general gut discomfort.

Due to that prior experience, I was hesitant to try protein powders again, and I know that oftentimes my clients are too. 

"I'd rather eat my calories than drink them!" 

I've heard it a million times, and I know that you would. But what if you're at the end of the day, you're 25 grams low on protein, and you don't feel like firing up the kitchen to make yourself a chicken breast? You're gonna drink a shake. 

My favorites are Paleo Protein (Chocolate flavor) and Primal Protein (Vanilla flavor). Both of these are easy on the gut (for me), and they mix really well with just a regular shaker bottle, and they taste good even when they're mixed only with water (incidentally, these are my 3 non-negotiables for protein drinks). I also keep some ready-made shakes on hand that are a big higher in carbohydrates. I find that it's nice to have a few different protein drinks on hand with different flavors and macro profiles. Sometimes you need protein without carbs or fat in order to meet your macros, so the ones I linked above are perfect for that. 

 

Protein Bars

My next favorite are protein bars. However, I generally can't stand protein bars--it just so happens that I found the perfect (for me) protein bars, and although they're a little bit pricey, they're worth it to me. So, what I really should say is...

Marigold Bars!

They are a nice snack if I'm running around like a crazy mama and don't have time to stop for an actual meal. I generally buy the Marigold Variety Pack and keep them in the fridge. The variety pack will last me about a month, because I really only eat them sparingly. But they're seriously SO good. They don't have that crazy protein bar aftertaste, and they're not chalky like most others. 

I love all of the flavors in the variety pack (I haven't tried any outside of the ones that come in the variety pack), but my favorite is Almond Mocha Crunch, because coffee.

Nuts

My favorite option in this category is of course peanut butter...which isn't a nut, but clearly it's made out of them, so it counts in my book. Peanut butter is one of my favorite foods, but you do have to consider it in the grand scheme of your macros because it is very fat-dense, which makes it calorie-dense as well. 

Almonds are a fantastic choice, especially if you need protein and fat at the same time. They're crunchy in texture, which is in itself very satisfying (because we eat with all of our senses), and the macro profile makes them a great snack that will keep you full for a couple of hours. Combine them in the same snack with some cottage cheese or Greek Yogurt, and it's a winning combination! 

Shrimp

These little guys are a major Practical Power Food! They have a ton of protein, B vitamins, selenium, and they are very easy to eat. Look for "wild caught" shrimp at the grocery store so that you know you're not eating farm-manufactured shrimp, which is just pretty gross, and probably not the best for your body.  

Brussels Sprouts

I could've easily moved these up the list, because I love brussels sprouts...but I added them to the bottom because it takes considerably more brussels sprouts than it does cottage cheese to get a nice protein punch. 

Brussels sprouts are a fantastic food. I call them "muscle sprouts" in my house, because they really are! I like to marinate mine in the fridge overnight with olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley, then roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Delicious!

Fish

I only added fish at the bottom of the list because it's not my favorite...remember, that's how we're doing this list? I am terrible at cooking fish (it usually turns out tasting either like you're licking a piece of ocean coral or chewing on a charcoal briquette), but I do order fish when I'm at a restaurant if I'm in the mood. But I have the same "no farm-raised" rule with fish, because lots of fish packed into a tiny pond just grosses me out. 

My favorite fish is salmon (when it's cooked in such a way that it doesn't taste like a barnacle), and the health benefits of eating salmon are huge! Salmon contains healthy fats, and lots of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to perform at optimal levels.

Beef

I know that there are lots of reasons why people don't eat beef very often these days, but there are definitely benefits to partaking in a steak, if that's your fancy. I am not a huge beef eater (I'm more of a chicken breast and cottage cheese kind of girl), but I do love me a steak every now and again, and there's nothing quite like a good-quality burger on the grill on a hot summer day. Amirite?

The great thing that I find about beef is that it tastes fantastic if it's cooked well, and you don't really need to eat very much in order to feel full.

So there you have it. My list of "Top 10 (or 11...because I couldn't decide) Best Protein Sources". What are your favorites?