20g Protein Meals: 14 Ideas for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

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

It is best to have lots of protein options to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients and prevent you from getting bored of eating the same thing over and over.

In this article, I’ve provided 14 meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, each containing 20 grams of protein.

I will also discuss:

  • Can you consume 20g of protein in a meal?
  • Who should be eating 20g protein meals?
  • How to get 20g of protein per meal? 6 tips

Can You Consume 20g of Protein in a Meal?

The exact amount of protein ideal for each meal will depend on the individual and their dietary requirements; however, a minimum of 20 grams of protein per meal is recommended.

Current research suggests that you should aim for 20-30 grams of protein per meal because it is an optimal amount for building and repairing tissue in the body.

If you consistently eat less than 20 grams of protein per meal, you may have difficulty hitting your daily protein goal and maximizing your muscle-building efforts.

Who Should be Eating 20g Protein Meals?

In general, it is safe to say that most people would highly benefit from consuming at least 20 grams of protein in a meal. However, the exact amount of protein you eat in each meal will depend directly on your daily protein target and the number of meals you eat in a day.

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

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 bodyweight.

For example, a 190-pound male bodybuilder would aim to consume roughly 190 grams of protein per day. 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, certain individuals should eat more than 20 grams of protein per meal to meet their daily protein requirements.

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

How to get 20g of protein per meal 6 tips

Six ways that you can get 20 grams of protein per meal are:

  • Choose small portions of lean cut meat & seafood
  • Use protein powder as a snack or in your meals
  • Eat egg whites alongside your eggs
  • Choose high-protein grains and legumes
  • Consume high-protein dairy options
  • Use high-protein nuts and seeds as a garnish in your meals

1. Choose Small Portions of Lean Cut Meat & Seafood

When your goal is 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 anywhere from 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. Weighing will help to ensure you are always getting the correct serving size to achieve 20 grams of protein since eyeballing your food could put you over or under this protein goal.

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

Utilizing a good quality protein powder can be a great way to hit your 20-gram protein target, especially when it is used in meals that would not have enough protein on their own.

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.

You can choose a whey protein powder, or you can opt for a plant-based protein powder if you are someone who prefers to avoid dairy products.

3. Eat Egg Whites Alongside Your Eggs

Another way to boost the protein content of your meal up to 20 grams is to add additional egg whites to your eggs. Egg whites have more protein than egg yolks, so if you add extra egg whites, you can easily bump up the protein content of your meal.

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 that a whole egg would have.

You can also add egg whites to baked goods, your morning oatmeal bowl, or pancakes. To get 20 grams of protein from egg whites alone, you would need to consume roughly 6.5 egg whites in one meal.

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. In fact, you could hit your 20-gram protein target in one meal with whole grains and legumes alone, without adding any animal protein at all.

For example, two slices of whole wheat bread contain a whopping 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 you with a substantial 18 grams of protein, putting you only 2 grams away from your target per meal.

If you prefer to limit your meat consumption or are vegetarian/vegan, then focusing on whole grains and legumes is a great way to get in 20 grams of protein 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 to lose weight, 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 you with roughly 14 grams of protein. If you pair this with ½ cup of blueberries and 2 tbsp of chia seeds, you will be eating a total of 20 grams of protein in the form of 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 great 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.

The only downside to using nuts and seeds as a protein source is that they have more fat than protein, and fats have nine calories per gram whereas protein only has four calories per gram. 

So, nuts and seeds may not be the best protein option if you’re trying to reduce your caloric intake while keeping your protein consumption high.

20g Protein Meals: 14 Examples

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

1. 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 as well.

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

Ingredients

  • 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 to 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.

Ingredients

  • 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 a bit of lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 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 in the 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.

Ingredients

  • 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 feeling full for hours.

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

Ingredients

  • 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.

Ingredients

  • 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 that you could eat one of your childhood comfort meals while also 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.

Ingredients

  • 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 it’s possible to get enough protein from your pasta dish without adding meat to your sauce. You can easily 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.

Ingredients

  • 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.

Ingredients

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

Ingredients

  • 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-fry 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 can also help to ensure that you can create a well-balanced and healthy meal, even if you are low on fresh vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 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 you with 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.

Ingredients

  • 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 you need to maintain optimal health! I recommend spreading the avocado onto your toasted bread, adding your over-easy egg on top, and finishing with a bit of sea salt and pepper.

Ingredients

  • 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

This wrap would be a great option to pack along with you for your lunchtime meal since it does not require reheating or cooking on the spot. You can prepare this wrap in the morning before you head out the door, ensuring that you hit your 20-gram protein target at lunch!

Ingredients

  • 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

 More High-Protein Meals


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.