20 Ideas For 20g Protein Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

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Prioritizing protein by aiming for at least 20 grams per meal is a great way to manage hunger levels, reduce cravings, and increase muscle mass.

  • If you want meal ideas that contain 20g of protein, I’ve created a list of 20 meals below (click here to skip to that section). 

Let’s start by understanding what 20 grams of protein looks like and then discuss who should eat 20 grams of protein in a single meal. 

What Does 20g of Protein Look Like?

what does 20g of protein look like?

Want to learn more about meal planning? Check out our complete guide on Bodybuilding Meal Plans For Beginners.

Can You Consume 20g of Protein in a Meal?

Current research suggests that you should aim for 20-30 grams of protein per meal across four daily meals because it is optimal for building and repairing tissue in the body, which is particularly important if you’re active.

20g Protein Meals: 20 Examples

Here are the best meals that contain 20g of protein. 

Check out our entire meal plan category if you want more meal and recipe inspiration.

Download these 20g protein meals to reference them later.

1. Chicken and Spinach Salad

chicken and spinach salad

Chicken is an excellent source of high-quality protein, so you won’t need much with a 20-gram protein target. This is especially true in this meal because it also contains goat feta, which has a decent amount of protein.

Chicken thighs contain slightly less protein per gram than chicken breast, so you must eat more to reach your protein target. I chose to use chicken thighs in this recipe to increase the food volume because I prefer a voluminous meal.


  • 2.5 oz roasted chicken thigh
  • 0.25 oz goat feta
  • 2 cups spinach
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

TOTAL: 20 grams of protein

2. Plant-Based Chocolate Banana Protein Smoothie

plant-based chocolate banana protein smoothie

Using a plant-based protein powder in your smoothie will help you reach your protein target for that meal while also helping to balance out the carbohydrates and sugar content from fruit in the smoothie.

While this particular smoothie utilizes a plant-based protein, you are more than welcome to substitute for your favorite whey protein powder if you prefer it.

My favorite plant-based protein powder to recommend is Truvani since it contains only seven ingredients with no added fillers or harmful sweeteners and is certified organic and non-GMO.


  • ¾ scoop chocolate plant-based protein powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened chocolate almond milk
  • Ice

TOTAL: 21 grams of protein

3. Grilled Salmon and Asparagus

grilled salmon and asparagus

This simple yet delicious meal of grilled salmon and asparagus will provide you with a good source of protein while providing you with high-quality fats, fiber, and nutrients essential for your overall health.

To make your salmon absolutely delicious, I recommend using spices such as parsley, dill, sage, rosemary, and some lemon juice.


  • 2.5 oz Pacific Salmon (flavored with spices and lemon juice)
  • 10 asparagus spears, roasted
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (for the asparagus)

TOTAL: 20 grams of protein

4. Egg White Blueberry Oatmeal

egg white blueberry oatmeal

While adding egg whites to your oatmeal bowl may sound strange, cooking egg whites into your oats is a fantastic way to boost the protein in this dominant carb meal and fluff up your oats, increasing the overall volume.

You can cook egg whites into your oatmeal on the stovetop or microwave, and you can’t even taste them! Make sure to stir the mixture a few times while cooking to avoid getting any egg white clumps.


  • 1/3 cup quick oats
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut shavings
  • Cinnamon

TOTAL: 20 grams of protein

5. Cottage Cheese with Apples and Cinnamon

cottage cheese with apples and cinnamon

A simple combination of cottage cheese, apples, almonds, and cinnamon can provide a high-protein snack that will keep you full for hours.

If you have a sweet tooth and want to add additional sweetness to this snack, try adding a sprinkle of stevia. Stevia will give the bowl a sweet flavor without any additional calories.


  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 small apple chopped into cubes
  • 1 oz almonds
  • Cinnamon

TOTAL: 19 grams of protein

6. Chocolate Greek Yogurt and Strawberries

chocolate greek yogurt and strawberries

This meal is a great way to hit your protein and micronutrient goals while feeling like you are eating a dessert! Adding in cacao powder gives the Greek Yogurt a chocolate flavor without the added sugar that a regular dessert has.

I recommend using Enjoy Life chocolate chips because of their quality ingredients, free from common allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, and more.


  • ¾ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp cacao powder (for a chocolate flavor)
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 tbsp Enjoy Life chocolate chips

TOTAL: 20 grams of protein

7. Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich

peanut butter and jam sandwich

Who knew you could eat one of your childhood comfort meals while meeting your protein targets?! This sandwich uses whole-grain bread products and high-protein nuts to increase the protein content of your meal with only plant-based proteins.

I recommend using natural peanut butter that does not contain added sugar or oils and jam with minimal added sugars.


  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 3 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp strawberry jam

TOTAL: 19 grams of protein

8. Spaghetti and Tomato Sauce

spaghetti and tomato sauce

This may surprise you, but getting enough protein from your pasta dish without adding meat to your sauce is possible. You can quickly get 20 grams of protein in your pasta dish by choosing whole wheat pasta and adding a bit of parmesan cheese. 

Another benefit of skipping the meat in your pasta dish is that it can help you save money on your weekly grocery bill since pasta is much more affordable than meat.


  • 1 cup cooked whole wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1/3 cup low-sugar marinara sauce
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 oz parmesan cheese

TOTAL: 19 grams of protein

9. Cream Cheese and Smoked Salmon Bagel

cream cheese and smoked salmon bagel

Believe it or not, even a bagel can contain a decent amount of protein if you choose one of the whole-grain varieties. Adding a combination of cream cheese and smoked salmon to your bagel will help to boost this meal’s protein content to 20 grams.


  • 1 whole grain bagel
  • 2 Tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 oz smoked salmon

TOTAL: 22 grams of protein

10. Chocolate Banana and Peanut Butter Mug Cake

chocolate banana and peanut butter mug cake

You can have your cake and eat it too, with this delicious protein mug cake. While you are welcome to change up the combination of flavors of your mug cake, this one focuses on chocolate, banana, and peanut butter.

The primary protein sources in this mug cake are protein powder and peanut butter. Feel free to use different flavors of protein, along with other nut butter such as almond or cashew butter.


  • 2 tbsp oat flour
  • 0.5 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ of a mashed banana
  • 4 tbsp almond milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter

TOTAL: 20 grams of protein

11. Shrimp, Vegetable and Rice Stir-fry

shrimp, vegetable and rice stir-fry

Shrimp is an excellent option for fulfilling your protein target since it is high in protein and very low in fat. Combining this with rice and stir-fried vegetables will create a healthy and satisfying meal full of fiber to keep you feeling full.

Keeping different types of frozen vegetables in your freezer helps to ensure that you can create a well-balanced and healthy meal, even if you are low on fresh vegetables.


  • 3 oz Tiger shrimp
  • ½ cup white Basmati rice
  • 1 cup frozen stir-fry vegetable mix
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

TOTAL: 21 grams of protein

12. Chicken Thighs, Mashed Sweet Potato and Broccoli

chicken thighs, mashed sweet potato and broccoli

The combination of chicken thighs, sweet potato, and broccoli provides all the healthy protein, carbs, fats, and fiber your body needs from whole food sources.

If you want to replace the chicken thighs with chicken breast (which has less fat), I recommend adding a healthy source of fat to your meal, such as avocado oil or olive oil, to compensate.


  • 3 oz roasted chicken thigh
  • 4 oz mashed sweet potato
  • 1 cup roasted broccoli

TOTAL: 19 grams of protein

13. Eggs and Avocado Toast

eggs and avocado toast

This meal contains simple ingredients, is easy to make, and contains many essential nutrients to maintain optimal health! I recommend spreading the avocado onto your toasted bread, adding your over-easy egg on top, and finishing with sea salt and pepper.


  • 2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
  • 2 eggs, cooked over easy
  • 40 grams of avocado

TOTAL: 21 grams of protein

14. Turkey and Swiss Wrap

turkey and swiss wrap

This wrap would be a great option to pack for your lunchtime meal since it does not require reheating or cooking on the spot.

You can prepare this wrap in the morning before heading out the door, ensuring you hit your 20-gram protein target at lunch!


  • 1 whole wheat tortilla wrap
  • 2.5 oz turkey breast deli meat
  • 0.5 oz Swiss cheese
  • 3 slices tomato
  • 3 leaves of lettuce
  • 1 pickle
  • 2 tsp mustard

TOTAL: 22 grams of protein

15. Chicken Pesto Meatballs

chicken pesto meatballs

These chicken meatballs are full of flavor and could be served on a bowl of pasta or fresh greens, depending on your carbohydrate requirements.

One serving is 5 meatballs and yields 21 grams of protein. 


  • 2lb ground chicken
  • ¼ cup basil pesto
  • ¼ cup finely diced shallot
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • Avocado or olive oil for frying

TOTAL: 21 grams of protein

Get the full recipe from All The Healthy Things Blog here.

16. Southwest Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

southwest quinoa stuffed bell peppers

These stuffed bell peppers are great if you are trying to limit your meat intake but still want to meet your protein requirements. 

Quinoa is a great plant based source of protein, with 8 grams packed into a 1 cup serving. It also provides 5 grams of fiber which will help to keep digestion regular.


  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 3 whole bell peppers
  • 7 oz organic low sodium black beans
  • 1 cup sweet corn, fresh or canned
  • 1 cup Pico De Gallo
  • 1.5 cup Monterey Jack or Mild Cheddar Cheese
  • ⅓ cup chopped cilantro

TOTAL: 20 grams of protein

Get the full recipe from Dude That Cookz here.

17. Chicken Alfredo Biscuit Pizza

chicken alfredo biscuit pizza

Who doesn’t love a good pizza? With this recipe, you can enjoy a delicious personal-sized pizza while also meeting your protein goals.

This recipe makes 8 biscuit pizzas, with each serving containing 20 grams of protein and 410 calories total.


  • 1 can homestyle biscuits
  • 1 cup alfredo sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach

Total: 20 grams of protein

Get the full recipe from Simply Lakita here.

18. Spicy Tofu Peanut Bowls

spicy tofu peanut bowls

Tofu is the perfect food if you are plant-based and focusing on hitting your protein targets.

The peanut sauce will also provide some protein since peanut butter is a great protein source at 8 grams per 2 Tbsp serving.


  • 2 blocks extra firm tofu
  • 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 small heads of broccoli cut into florets
  • 2 red bell peppers cut into strips
  • 1.5 cups uncooked white rice

Total: 22 grams of protein

Get the full recipe from Pinch of Yum here.

19. Coffee Protein Shake

coffee protein shake

This protein shake is the perfect breakfast if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, get your protein intake in, and wake up simultaneously.

With only 6 simple ingredients, this meal will be easy to throw into a blender, grab and go if you are short on time.


  • 1.5 cups cold brew coffee
  • 1 cup unsweetened hemp milk
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 Tbsp collagen protein powder (chocolate or vanilla)
  • ¼ cup Swerve Confectioners
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder

Total: 24 grams of protein

Get the full recipe from All Day I Dream About Food here.

20. Gooey Protein Cinnamon Roll

We obviously couldn’t forget about dessert! Knowing it’s packed with protein, you can eat this delicious cinnamon roll guilt-free.

These cinnamon rolls are different from the traditional ones since they contain collagen powder, where most of the extra protein comes from.

There are also more traditional ingredients that contain protein in this recipe, such as eggs and milk (if using cow’s milk).


  • ¾ cup warm milk of any kind
  • 2 ¼ tsp quick active yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 ¼ cup bread flour
  • 1 cup unflavoured collagen


  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon powder
  • ¼ cup butter


  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ⅓ cup unflavoured collagen

Total: 20 grams of protein

Get the full recipe from Joy To The Food here.

How To Get 20g of Protein Per Meal? 6 Tips

how to get 20g of protein per meal - 6 tips

1. Choose Small Portions of Lean Cut Meat & Seafood

When you aim to eat 20 grams of protein in one meal, you will only require a small portion of red meat, pork, poultry, or seafood to reach this target. 

Depending on the type of meat or seafood you choose, a 20-gram protein portion weighs 2.5-3.5 grams.

For example, roughly 3 ounces of wild sockeye salmon or 3.5 ounces of cod will contain 20 grams of protein. But, if you wanted to eat 20 grams of protein from sirloin steak, you would only need to eat a 2.5-ounce serving.

To ensure you are getting enough meat to hit your protein target, I recommend you weigh your portion on a food scale. 

2. Use Protein Powder as a Snack or in Your Meals

A high-quality protein powder can be a great way to hit your 20-gram protein target, mainly when used in meals without enough protein.

One scoop of protein has an average of 25 grams of protein, so you could add it to a meal that does not already have a protein source, or you could use half a scoop of protein and add it to a meal that already has some protein but not quite enough.

For example, adding protein powder to a fruit smoothie or your morning oatmeal will help to boost its protein content and ultimately help you to hit your 20-gram target for that meal.

3. Eat Egg Whites Alongside Your Eggs

Another way to boost the protein content of your meal up to 20 grams is to add egg whites to your eggs. 

One egg white contains 3 grams of protein, without any carbs or fat, so egg whites can be a great addition to your morning eggs to help boost the protein without adding in the extra fat a whole egg would have.

To get 20 grams of protein from egg whites alone, you must consume roughly 6.5 egg whites in one meal.

You can also egg whites to baked goods, your morning oatmeal bowl, or pancakes. 

4. Choose High-Protein Grains and Legumes

Although grains are generally chosen as a carbohydrate source for a meal, whole grain carbs also contain protein that will count toward your 20-gram target.

You could hit your 20-gram protein target in one meal with whole grains and legumes alone, without adding animal protein.

For example, two slices of whole wheat bread contain 7 grams of protein, almost half of what you need to hit your target for that meal. In contrast, two slices of white bread contain significantly less, with only 2 grams of protein.

Similarly, eating 1 cup of lentils will provide 18 grams of protein, only 2 grams away from your target per meal.

The only downside to using grains and legumes as a protein source is that they’re higher in carbs than protein, so if you’re trying to limit your carb consumption, grains and legumes may not be your best option.

5. Consume High-Protein Dairy Options

Adding dairy to your meals is a great way to increase your protein intake, especially if they are higher-protein dairy options such as Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

For example, eating ¾ cup of plain non-fat Greek yogurt will provide roughly 14 grams of protein. If you pair this with ½ cup of blueberries and 2 tbsp of chia seeds, you will be eating 20 grams of protein as a satisfying and tasty snack.

Another great option is cottage cheese, which can provide 20 grams of protein in a 1-cup serving.

Other dairy products, such as milk and cheese, can also be a helpful addition to bump up the protein content of a meal that’s just short of 20 grams of protein. 

For example, 1 ounce of cheddar cheese contains 7 grams of protein and could serve as a delicious addition or topping to a meal with 13 grams of protein.

6. Use High-Protein Nuts and Seeds as a Garnish or in Your Meals

Utilizing nuts and seeds in your diet is another excellent way to increase the amount of protein you eat from plant-based foods. In addition to being a source of protein, nuts and seeds are also excellent sources of healthy fats.

You can utilize nuts and seeds in your smoothies, salads, yogurt bowls, or even on their own as a snack. 

High protein nut and seed spreads such as almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, and tahini are also great to add to your cooking, baking, or even as a garnish and add around 4 grams of protein per tablespoon.

Who Should be Eating 20g Protein Meals?

Most people would benefit from consuming at least 20 grams of protein in a meal.

However, the amount of protein you eat in each meal will depend directly on your daily protein target and the number of meals you eat daily.

For example, an individual with a daily protein target of 80 grams could eat four meals, each containing 20 grams.

On the other hand, someone with a daily protein target of 160 grams would need to eat more frequently, consuming around eight meals per day containing 20 grams of protein each.

The recommended protein intake for a sedentary adult is around 71 grams of protein for men and 61 grams for women. So sedentary individuals could easily hit their protein targets by eating roughly 3 to 4 meals daily, each containing 20 grams of protein.

On the other hand, the protein requirements for athletes and bodybuilders tend to be much higher. When an individual participates in vigorous activity or aims to build muscle, protein intake will increase to 1 gram per pound of body weight.

For example, a 190-pound male bodybuilder would aim to consume roughly 190 grams of protein daily. If this person were only to eat 20 grams of protein per meal, they would need to eat 9.5 meals daily to reach their goal, which isn’t practical.

While most people will benefit from eating at least 20 grams of protein per meal, specific individuals should eat more than 20 grams of protein per meal to meet their daily protein requirements.

 More High-Protein Meals


Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4

Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1. PMID: 29497353; PMCID: PMC5828430.

Mayo Clinic. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635

Intermountain Healthcare. How much protein is simply too much? Retrieved from https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/how-much-protein-is-simply-too-much

Michigan State University Extension. Protein intake for athletes. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/protein_intake_for_athletes

WebMD. Foods that curb hunger. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/obesity/features/foods-that-curb-hunger

Harvard Health Publishing. Extra protein at breakfast helps control hunger. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/extra-protein-at-breakfast-helps-control-hunger

About The Author

Colby Roy

Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.

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