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When you are looking to increase your protein intake, it can be difficult to achieve this without simultaneously increasing your fats. This is due to the fact that many protein sources (in particular those that are coming from animal products) can also contain a lot of fat.
If you are trying to bulk up and keep calories are high, this likely will be a non-issue for you. However, if you have a high protein diet and want to lose or maintain your body weight then an increased fat intake could negatively affect your progress.
So, how do you increase your protein intake without increasing your fat? To increase your protein intake without increasing your fat prioritize lean cuts of meat and seafood (shrimp, tilapia, or chicken breasts), low-fat dairy options (nonfat Greek yogurt, skim milk, skim cheese), and enhance your meals with higher protein grains (such as quinoa, buckwheat, and whole wheat pasta).
In this article I will discuss:
- 9 ways to increase your protein intake without fat
- 18 protein sources with a low fat content
- 6 protein sources to avoid if you are reducing fat intake
9 Ways To Increase Your Protein Intake Without Fat
The 9 ways you can increase your protein intake without fat are:
- Add low or nonfat dairy products into your diet
- Choose high protein grains as your carbohydrate
- Try a protein shake as your meal
- Opt for chicken or fish over higher fat red meat
- Remove the skin from your fish and chicken
- Try adding beans and legumes into your meal
- Use powdered peanut butter instead of traditional peanut butter
- Go for “grilled” over “fried” when ordering out
- Swap out eggs for egg whites in your omelet
1. Add Low or Nonfat Dairy Products Into Your Diet
One of the most efficient ways to boost your protein intake while simultaneously reducing your fat consumption is to switch out any high fat dairy in your diet for low fat or nonfat options.
For example, one cup of whole milk contains 150 calories, 8 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein.
In comparison, one cup of 1% milk contains 110 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein.
If you want to reduce your fat intake even more, you could opt for one cup of skim milk, which contains the same 8 grams of protein, but only has 0.2 grams of fat and 83 total calories.
This simple switch from conventional to low or nonfat milk, yogurt, or cheese not only ensures you are still getting the same amount of protein as you would have, but it also guarantees that you won’t overdo your calories coming from fat.
- Related Article: Whey Protein Foods: 10 Foods Naturally Rich In Whey Protein
2. Choose High Protein Grains As Your Carbohydrate
While typically grains are not thought of as a food that is rich in protein, if you are looking to increase your protein intake it is worth taking a look at the grains you currently have in your diet, and consider swapping them out for higher protein options.
For example, if you are already eating one cup of rice as your carbohydrate in your meal, that serving only yields around 4 grams of protein.
If you were to swap out this rice for one cup of cooked quinoa instead, you would be taking in 8 grams of protein. This strategic yet very simple swap of carbohydrates gives you an extra 4 grams of protein, all while having a minimal effect on your fat intake.
One other way that we can increase our intake of protein is to opt for high protein bread. For example, while a plain white bread might have 6 grams of protein for two slices, the same two slices of Dave’s Killer Bread contains 10 grams of protein. Again, this simple swap in your day gives you an easy 4 extra grams of protein.
- Related Article: Will I Lose Muscle If I Stop Taking Whey Protein?
3. Try a Protein Shake As Your Meal
One of the easiest and most effective ways to drastically increase your protein intake while adding virtually no extra fat to your day is by including a protein shake.
While the protein-to-fat ratio in every type of protein powder will vary slightly depending on what they are made of, it is usually quite easy to find a protein powder that has a lot of protein with very little fat.
For example, one scoop of Gold standard Whey Protein Powder has a whopping 24 grams of protein, with only 1 gram of fat.
If you wanted to go for a vegan option, such as Vega Sport Protein Powder, you are still getting 25 grams of protein per scoop, with only 0.7 grams of fat
Keep in mind; this is only the case if you mix your protein powder with water. If you choose to mix your protein with milk, the fat coming from the milk would have to be accounted for.
- Want to learn all the ways you can mix protein? Check out: What Can You Mix Protein Powder With (13 Examples)
4. Opt for Leaner Cuts of Chicken and Fish Over Higher Fat Red Meat
One of the more obvious ways to increase your protein intake while not increasing your fat is to make sure you are opting for leaner meats, such as chicken breast or (most) fish, over higher fat meats like beef or pork.
For example, a 3oz serving of top sirloin steak (one of the leaner cuts of red meat) contains roughly 210 calories, 12 grams of fat and 23 grams of protein. In comparison, roughly 200 calories of cod yields 35 grams of protein, and only 7.5 grams of fat.
However, if you are someone who can’t resist a good steak, choosing a grass fed cut over grain fed will help to reduce your intake of fat. Grass-fed beef is typically leaner than it’s grain-fed counterpart, which means that you will be consuming less fat while getting in the same amount of protein.
Similar to grass fed beef, wild game such as elk, moose and deer tends to contain lower amounts of fat, being that it is all grass fed. Opting for wild game if you have access to it can be a leaner option in comparison to grain-fed, conventionally raised livestock.
- Related Article: Meat Protein vs Whey Which Is Better? (Science-Backed)
5. Remove the Skin From Your Fish and Chicken
While chicken and fish are often considered a staple in a high protein and low fat diet, the skin of the animal can actually contain considerable amounts of fat.
If we take chicken for example, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 100 grams of chicken skin can contain a whopping 32 grams of fat. Similarly, fish skin also tends to be the fattiest part of the fish.
Simply removing the skin from your chicken or fish before you eat it can help to ensure you are not overdoing fat while working to increase your protein.
6. Try adding beans and legumes into your meal
Because beans and legumes pack in a high amount of carbohydrates, they are often overlooked for their high protein content.
One cup of lentils, for example, contains roughly 18 grams of protein, while only containing around 1 gram of fat.
Try adding these legumes to your salads or stir-fry dish in order to pump up the protein content of your meal.
7. Use powdered peanut butter instead of traditional peanut butter
While peanut butter can be a delicious way to get in more protein, it is accompanied by a very high amount of fat. Two tablespoons of peanut butter may give you 7 grams of protein, but the 16 grams of fat that come with it are not ideal if you are trying to keep your fats low.
If you enjoy having peanut butter in your diet, try swapping it out for a powdered version. Powdered peanut butter is made by pressing all of the oil out of the peanuts, leaving you with mostly fiber and protein.
In comparison to regular peanut butter, two tablespoons of powdered peanut butter has 60 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. This easy swap will help you to save on fat while not compromising your protein intake.
- Related Article: 30 Ways To Increase Protein Intake Without Protein Powder
8. Go for “Grilled” Over “Fried” When Ordering Out
When you are eating out at a restaurant or ordering takeout, it is typically the fried foods that will drastically drive up the fat content of your dish.
If we compare grilled chicken to fried chicken we can see the following:
- 3 ounces of grilled chicken breast contains 110 calories and only 2 grams of fat
- 3 ounces of fried chicken breast contains 220 calories and 11 grams of fat
Therefore, the clear solution to your take out meal is to make sure that when you are ordering your protein, specifically asked for grilled to help ensure that you aren’t consuming any unnecessary fat.
9. Swap Out Eggs for Egg Whites in Your Omelet
The yolk of an egg is packed with nutrition and flavor, however it is also what contains all of the fat.
It is important to remember that we don’t demonize dietary fat, especially that coming from eggs, as it is an essential nutrient for our bodies. However, if you are hoping to increase the protein content in your daily egg scramble without simultaneously increasing the fat content, try swapping out a few of the eggs for egg whites.
If you wanted to add ¼ cup of egg whites (or roughly 2 egg whites) to your meal, you would be adding about 7 grams of protein, while not adding to your fat intake at all.
- Learn more: Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Egg Whites Only?
18 Protein Sources With a Low Fat Content
The following table illustrates 18 different protein sources that have a low fat content:
|Nonfat Greek Yogurt||1 cup||21 grams||0 grams|
|Egg Whites||1 cup||26 grams||0 grams|
|Beef Bone Broth||1 cup||9 grams||0 grams|
|Protein Powder (Gold Standard Whey)||1 scoop||24 grams||1 gram|
|Tuna||4 ounces||22 grams||1 gram|
|Halibut||4 ounces||23 grams||1 gram|
|Cod||4 ounces||20 grams||1 gram|
|Mahi Mahi||4 ounces||21 grams||1 gram|
|Turkey||4 ounces||26 grams||1 gram|
|Lentils||1 cup||18 grams||1 gram|
|Snapper||4 ounces||23 grams||1.5 grams|
|Shrimp||4 ounces||23 grams||2 grams|
|Chickpeas||½ cup||7 grams||2 grams|
|Edamame||1 cup||7 grams||2 grams|
|2% Cottage cheese||½ cup||14 grams||2.5 grams|
|Venison||4 ounces||34 grams||3 grams|
|Pork Tenderloin||4 ounces||23 grams||4 grams|
|Beef Tenderloin||4 ounces||23 grams||6 grams|
6 Protein Sources To Avoid If You Are Reducing Fat Intake
It is also helpful to know which protein sources are high in fat, and should be avoided if you are not looking to add more fat into your diet.
1. Chicken Thighs and Wings
Although chicken breast may be a great low fat, high protein option, the thighs and the wings of the chicken have a much higher fat content.
In comparison to chicken breast, which only has 3 grams of fat per 4 ounces, the same amount of chicken thigh contains 10 grams of fat. The fat content in 4 ounces of chicken wings contains the most amount of fat at 18 grams.
2. High Fat Cuts of Meat Such As Filet Mignon, Rib Eye, and NY Strip Steak
If your goal is to keep fat intake low, you are best to save fattier cuts of red meat such as filet mignon, rib eye, and New York strip steak for special occasions.
3. Full Fat Dairy
Although full fat dairy products provide a large amount of protein, it comes with a significant amount of fat as well. If you are looking to adopt a higher protein for the purposes of fat loss, this extra fat intake would be counterproductive to your goal.
For example, one cup of Oikos full fat Greek Yogurt will provide an impressive 20 grams of protein, but also comes with around 9 grams of fat. If we were to switch that out for a nonfat version, one cup of Greek yogurt would still give us around 20 grams of protein, but with zero added fat.
Making the switch to lower fat dairy products is an easy and extremely effective way to reduce your fat intake while increasing the protein in your diet.
- Related Article: Top 10 Foods High in Calories But Low In Saturated Fat
The fat content of one egg is around 5 grams, and it is contained within the yolk.
Therefore, the amount of fat you are intaking can multiply quite quickly if you are having multiple eggs a day for their protein content. Avoid having too many full eggs if you are aiming to keep fat low in your diet.
5. Fatty Fish Such As Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines
Although fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are considered highly nutritious, they have some of the highest sources of fat in the world of seafood.
Both Atlantic salmon and mackerel, for example, contain a fairly significant 11 grams of fat for a small 3oz serving. Similarly, a 3 oz serving of fresh sardines contain 8 grams of fat.
When it comes to seafood, there are many other great options (such as the ones listed in the table above) that will provide a great source of protein without the large amount of fat.
6. Fatty Cuts of Pork Such As Bacon
We can’t talk about high fat protein sources without mentioning the best one of all; bacon. Bacon can be a tasty treat, but it will absolutely sabotage your fat loss goals if your aim is to keep fat grams low while increasing your protein.
One slice of bacon alone contains around 3.3 grams of fat. If you were to eat 4 oz of bacon, you would be consuming a whopping 48 grams of fat. For some people, this would get close to their entire fat intake for the day. For this reason, bacon is best limited to rare occasions.
If you do go over your daily fat intake, then read what you should do next: What To Do When You Go Over Your Fat Macros.
Want to learn more about fats after a workout? Check out Should You Eat Fat After A Workout? (No, Here’s Why)
Learn more about weight loss in the article Do Macros Matter for Weight Loss? (Yes, Here’s Why)
Learn more about Lean Bulk Macros: How To Calculate (The Proper Way)
About The Author
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.