The type of person that should be eating high calorie, low protein food, are endurance athletes.
This is because they rely on carbs as their primary energy source, which can comprise up to 60% of their total daily calories. In order to achieve that level of carbohydrate intake, it means they likely need to decrease their protein to compensate.
Although protein is essential for muscle mass, having a high-protein intake might not be the way to go for endurance athletes. They rely on having a primarily carb-based diet to provide the energy needed for their high level of activity. Also, if you have kidney problems, you need to moderate your protein intake.
In this article, you will learn the top 10 foods that I recommend when people need to increase their calories, but without adding too much protein.
Before we begin talking about those foods, we first need to define what is considered to be a high-calorie and low-protein food.
What Defines A Food High In Calories and Low In Protein?
Defining High Calorie
A high-calorie food needs to have a lot of calories (obviously), but the key part is looking at the number of calories per serving, as it needs to have a lot of calories in a small volume.
In this case, I typically consider food to be a high-energy dense food (high calorie) when it has more than 100 calories per 100 grams of product. These are usually foods like dried fruit, avocado, and nuts.
On the other hand, low energy-dense foods are things like veggies. While still healthy to eat for all their vitamins and micronutrients, they don’t have a lot of calories per volume. In other words, you’d have to eat a lot of veggies in order to equal the same amount of calories that come from a handful of nuts.
Defining Low Protein
In terms of defining a “low protein food”, it would be something that has less than 7 grams of protein per serving size.
Food that has 7g of protein per serving would be one large egg, 1 oz of chicken, or 1 cup of milk.
So, anything less than this would be considered “low protein”.
High Calorie Low Protein Foods: 10 Options
The best foods high in calories but low in protein are:
- Brown Sugar
- Cranberry Sauce
- Dark Chocolate
- Coconut Oil
- Calories: 384
- Carbs: 91.3 g
- Protein: 4.3 g
- Fats: 0.4 g
As you can see, breakfast cereal is very energy-dense since it has over 300 kcal for 100 g of product. It has only 4 g of protein, making it an ideal food to add when looking to increase your calories without adding too much protein.
When making cereal, and you are looking to control your protein intake, make sure to have it with almond milk or coconut milk instead of cow milk. Almond and coconut milk don’t have any protein in their composition, while cow milk has 8 g of protein per cup (250 mL).
2. Brown Sugar
Sugar is an excellent choice when looking to add calories without adding protein. Since sugar is carb-based, the amount of protein found is very minimal. In 100 g of brown sugar, you have the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 380
- Carbs: 98.1 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Fats: 0.0 g
Whether it is brown sugar, raw sugar, or white sugar, they all have more or less the same nutritional composition. In 100 g of product, you have less than 1 g of protein. This can be considered protein-free—ideal for increasing the calories without any protein.
3. Cranberry Sauce
Jellies, jams, and sauces are another great option when trying to increase the calories without adding protein. In 100 g of cranberry sauce, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 160
- Carbs: 40.6 g
- Protein: 1.0 g
- Fats: 0.0 g
I’m this case, in 100 g of cranberry sauce, you find only 1 g of protein. This is considered to be a deficient protein intake. Regarding jams and jellies, the caloric content might vary between them. Still, they are all very high in calories and contain almost no protein.
Just like sugars, fruits are mainly carb-bases. This is a great option to increase your calories with low protein. Not all fruits are energy-dense though, but most dried or dehydrated fruit are. Since raisins are dehydrated, they are very energy-dense. In 100 g of raisins, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 301
- Carbs: 80.0 g
- Protein: 3.3 g
- Fats: 0.2 g
Raisins are an excellent option for a snack that can provide you with sufficient energy if you have an endurance-based workout. It only has 3 g of protein per serving size, making it an ideal food high in calories and low in protein.
- Calories: 277
- Carbs: 75.0 g
- Protein: 1.8 g
- Fats: 0.2g
Dates are a good option for those that want to add something sweet to their diets. It has a caramel taste that goes along with a bowl of oatmeal or with some almond butter. Since it is a dehydrated option, it gives you plenty of calories without adding too much volume and protein:
- Calories: 198
- Carbs: 46.1 g
- Protein: 4.3 g
- Fats: 0.1 g
Since potatoes are primarily composed of carbs, they are a good option for those that need an energy boost before a workout. Have it without the skin to provide fast-acting energy to avoid any bloating.
Since potatoes are also low in protein (which might upset the stomach while working out), some runners use mashed potatoes with salt during their race to provide quick energy. If you decide to try it, make sure to avoid adding any fat, like butter, and remove the skin.
- Calories: 304
- Carbs: 82.4 g
- Protein: 0.3 g
- Fats: 0.0 g
As you can see, honey is very high in calories and provides almost no protein. This is one of the top choices for providing energy during a workout in case you feel fatigued. Additionally, honey seems to have immune properties that help prevent you from getting sick.
8. Dark Chocolate
Although most of the foods we have seen are carb-based, here is an option that is high in calories, low in protein, and high in fat. Dark chocolate is the way to go for those who crave something sweet. In 100 g of dark chocolate (55%), you find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 546
- Carbs: 61.6 g
- Protein: 4.9 g
- Fats: 31.3 g
Dark chocolate is very high in calories. You find over 500 kcal per 100 g of product. Although it does contain some protein, it is not enough to be considered high in protein. However, the more chocolate solids it has (over 70% chocolate), the more protein it will have.
Donuts are a tasty treat to have that are high in calories. In 100 g of donuts, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 417
- Carbs: 57.4 g
- Protein: 4.5 g
- Fats: 19.9 g
Donuts are a great option when you need to add on calories without adding too much protein. However, since donuts are fried, they contain many fats. A high fat intake could potentially increase bloating in some people.
With over 400 kcal per 100 g of product, donuts are an excellent option for increasing their calories without adding protein.
10. Coconut Oil
Finally, coconut oil is another healthy fat that offers a lot of calories without adding protein. In 100 g of coconut oil, you can find the following nutritional information:
- Calories: 892
- Carbs: 0.0 g
- Protein: 0.0 g
- Fats: 99.1 g
Additionally, coconut oil, high in MCT (medium-chain triglycerides), has fat-burning properties. It helps increase oxidation, which helps take the fat you already have in your body and use it as an energy source.
Another benefit of coconut oil is that it offers no protein.
Sample Menu: High Calories, Low Protein
If you don’t know how to build a menu with these foods, here is a sample menu for you to get an idea of how to build it:
100 g of oats
50 g peanut butter
50g Dark chocolate
75 g Cranberry Sauce
15g Coconut oil
100g Donut (dessert)
Remember that this is just an idea of how the foods stated above can be eaten during the day.
You still need some healthy fat sources like avocado, olive oil, and olives; and even though you’re on a low protein diet, some protein will still be beneficial.
Regarding the protein intake, you need to determine how many grams per day you need to consume depending on your goals or any conditions that you might have.
Once you know how many grams of protein you can add foods high in protein like chicken, fish, eggs, and meat to reach that amount. Add them to your lunch or dinner to balance the meals.
Finally, remember to add veggies to get a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Tips on How To Increase Calories Without Increasing Protein
Here are some of the tips on how to decide which food to add:
Go For The Carbs
The amount of protein and fat is usually very low in carb-based foods. Thus, when looking to increase your calories without adding too much protein, always go for carbs.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams are great options when you want to increase your calories.
Love Your Sugar
Sugars, sweets, syrups, and honey are all great options that are very energy-dense and low in protein. Thanks to their composition, they all gave similar nutrition. They are high in calories, high in carbs, and almost no protein.
Increase Your Fats
Like carbs, healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and olive are very high in calories and contain almost no protein.
However, keep in mind that nuts and seeds do contain protein, so you need to be careful about adding them if you control your protein intake.
Not all carbs are low in protein. Legumes like beans, lentils, chickpeas, edamame, and quinoa are high in carbs but high in protein. This you need to control the portion size if you are thoroughly controlling your protein intake.
Reasons To Include High-Calorie Foods With Low In Protein In Your Diet
Consuming a high-calorie diet is necessary for those that need to gain some weight. Without a caloric surplus (eating more calories than your body needs), your muscles won’t grow.
Sometimes it might be hard to find foods that are high in calories. Although you need calories for muscle building, you don’t need a significant protein intake. Most people think you need to consume lots of protein to gain muscle. However, you can consume 1.6 g of protein per kilogram of body weight and still see results.
Hence, that is where a high calorie and low protein comes in. If you like eating meat, you might want to control the protein from other foods to make sure you don’t overcome protein.
Endurance athletes like marathon runners or ultra-marathons have a considerable caloric increase. Since their primary energy source depends on carbs, their can intake might even be as high as 60% of their caloric intake (it can sometimes be more).
Previous a competition you need to carb load to increase your glycogen stores (the fuel found in your muscles) Hence, the carb intake might be as high as 70%. This means that you need to decrease the other macros to balance this out. The protein intake could reach 10% of the total calories.
Since you need a lot of energy (and carbs) with a low protein intake, these foods are helpful.
Finally, you might want to be careful with your protein consumption for those who have kidney problems. Those with kidney disease need to control their protein intake since having a significant protein diet could worsen the condition.
Other High Calorie Foods
Check out our other high-calorie food lists:
- Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Sugar
- 4:1 Carb-To-Protein Ratio Foods (16 Meal Examples)
- 10 Best High-Calorie Low-Fiber Foods
- 15 Best High Calorie Low Carb Foods
- Top 10 Foods High In Calories But Low In Sodium
- 15 High Calories Low FODMAP Foods
- High-Calorie Alternatives To Milk: 3 Dairy-Free Options
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.