Protein Power: 6 g per 1 large egg
These white orbs are near-perfect muscle food. That’s because the biological value—a measure of how much protein from the food can be incorporated into proteins in the body—of an egg is higher than that of nearly any other item in the grocery store. The biological value is largely dictated by the amount of essential amino acids a food possesses, and the humble egg has these in spades.
Keep an eye out for cartons containing eggs with beefed-up omega-3 levels to make your morning scramble work even harder for you.
Protein Power: 8 g per 1 cup serving
Moo juice remains a reliable source of top-notch protein with a biological value just shy of that found in an egg. But why try to chug watery, flavorless skim milk when you can still enjoy the richer taste of 2 percent without breaking the fat bank. Besides, the extra fat will help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D present in the great white.
Need to Know: Studies show that cows raised using organic farming methods produce milk richer in a range of nutrients, including body-friendly omega fats.
Protein Power: 14 g per 1/2 cup serving
This curd-riddled cheese product is laced with casein protein—a slow-digesting protein that supplies your growing muscles with a steady supply of vital amino acids. Think of it as the MVP of snack time, especially before bedtime.
Cottage cheese is notoriously high in sodium, but you can now compare nutrition labels to find brands that contain less.
4. Ground Beef (95% Lean)
Protein Power: 18 g per 3 oz. serving
Using 90 percent ground beef provides just the right amount of fat so your burgers and meatloaf won’t taste like cardboard. Beyond a payload of protein, this red meat is also a good source of the almighty creatine.
If you’ve got some extra cash in your wallet, opt for grass-fed beef, which is more nutrient-dense than its factory-farm counterparts.
5. Chicken Breast (Boneless And Skinless)
Protein Power: 24 g per 3 oz. serving
This bodybuilding staple delivers more protein than other poultry cuts, which is why it should remain a constant presence in your shopping cart.
To keep more greenbacks in your wallet, get chummy with the meat guy at your supermarket, who can give you a heads-up when the poultry is likely to be marked down for quick sale.
6. Dried Lentils
Protein Power: 13 g per 1/4 cup serving
Often located alongside the canned proteins, bags of inexpensive dry lentils are a sure-fire way to ramp up your intake of protein, fiber, and a range of vital minerals.
Unlike dried beans, lentils don’t require an annoying presoak. Simply simmer them in a pot of water until tender, about 20 minutes. For a nutritious lunch, toss cooked lentils with chopped turkey or chicken breast, diced vegetables, and a lemon vinaigrette.
7. Mixed Nuts
Protein Power: 6 g per 2 oz. serving
Nuts like peanuts, cashews, and almonds make for a crunchy way to add more protein and healthy unsaturated fats to your diet.
If you’re watching your sodium intake, look for packages labelled “unsalted”.
8. Smoothie Drinks
Protein Power: 16 g per 1 cup serving
Homemade protein shakes are always preferred, but if you want a quick shot of protein in liquid form you can pick up bottles of premade smoothie drinks such as Bolthouse Farms.
Make sure the drink you choose contains a source of protein in the ingredient list such as whey protein and not just fruit, which can quickly send you into a sugary overload.
Protein Power: 7 g per 1 cup serving
While protein is not abundant in most vegetables, subzero green peas contain enough that you’ll want to keep a bag stashed in your freezer at all times. They’re also a good source of fiber to help keep cravings for junk food at bay.
When buying frozen green peas make sure to fondle the bag. You should be able to feel the individual peas. A giant pea ice cube means they have been thawed previously and then refrozen, which can degrade quality.
10. Wheat Germ
Protein Power: 6 g per 1 oz. serving
The wheat grain is made up of three components—endosperm, bran, and germ. The germ is the most nutrient-dense part and includes notable amounts of plant-based protein. You can use it to add a protein boost to your oatmeal, pancakes, and even shakes.
To preserve freshness, it’s best to store wheat germ in the refrigerator or freezer.