High Protein Diets & Recipes

When sports supplements, vitamins and protein powders are concerned there’s a lot of misinformation and false marketing aimed at increasing product sales.  It’s important to note that you can achieve any and all of your fitness goals, even the seemingly unattainable ones, through a natural diet and proper fitness training program.  To give you an idea of the right types of foods to eat, our nutrition expert at Lucas James Personal Training in Scottsdale, Arizona weighs-in on the benefits and effects of consuming a high protein diet for both weight-loss and lean muscle gains.   We’ve even included some delicious chicken recipes and high-protein vegetarian options to help you on your way to a leaner body!

High Protein Diets & RecipesWhile goals for weight-loss and gaining lean muscle might seem like two completely opposite concepts, they’re actually quite similar processes.  Physiologically, the more lean muscle you have, the easier it is for your body to burn fat. Vis-vera, the less fat you have, the easier it is for your body to metabolize the foods you eat and build more dense, leaner muscle tissue.  Current research also suggests that protein may satisfy hunger better than both fats and carbohydrates.

With either fitness goal in mind, eating a high protein diet will help you both burn fat and reduce your body weight, while helping support lean muscle growth, weight loss, and reduce muscle catabolism or breakdown.

Aside from its dietary functions, our bodies use protein at all stages of growth and development throughout our lives for a variety of bodily processes. Protein is a major component in all body cells, including both muscle tissue and bones. It is also a crucial component of our immune systems, helping to fight off infection and protect our bodies.

In terms of eating too much protein, there are no real dangers associated with high protein intake unless you have specific digestive problems or kidney disease.  If this is the case, the high nitrogen content found in protein can place added stress on an already damaged kidney filtration system. Too much protein can have side effects if it comprises too large a part of your total diet, causing gastro-intestinal disorders or problems with proper nutrient absorption. Keeping this in mind, protein is important, especially for weight loss and healthy muscle growth, but so are carbohydrates and fats within a balanced diet.

High Protein Diets & RecipesThe best sources for protein are typically lean meats, but also include plant sources such as tofu, beans, soy, nuts, saitan and quinoa.  For animal protein sources  we suggest incorporating foods such as chicken breast, lean fish such as Tuna, ‘fatty’ Omega-3 fish such as salmon, egg whites, turkey, skim dairy products, shrimp, veal or lean cuts of pork.  Depending on your dietary preferences you might decide to eat only a few of these options, but all will provide you with healthy helpings of protein! However, not all sources of protein are equal. Here’s a list from the United States Department of Agriculture describing the differences in amounts for some of the foods listed above.

Protein Source

Grams of Protein

1 ounce meat, fish, poultry


1 large egg


4 ounces milk


4 ounces low-fat yogurt


4 ounces soy milk


3 ounces tofu, firm


1 ounce cheese


1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese


1/2 cup cooked kidney beans


1/2 cup lentils


1 ounce nuts


2 tablespoons peanut butter


1/2 cup vegetables


1 slice bread


1/2 cup of most grains/pastas


There are no real dangers associated with high protein intake unless you have specific digestive problems or kidney disease. Too much protein can have side effects. If they take up too large a part of your diet it can cause gastro-intestinal disorders the likes of which you have never seen.  The chances of consuming too much protein is typically unlikely, but it’s always important to consult your physician or dietician before starting any new diet.

The main concern with high protein diets is a lack of carbohydrates. When there’s an insufficient carbohydrate intake, you have a drop in blood sugar and your body if forced to convert stored glycogen or sugar from the liver and muscles to its usable form.  The main issue is that this process known as ‘gluconeogenesis’ results in muscle breakdown.  Another concern is that high-protein diets are often high in saturated fat as well from animal sources such as red meat. For this reason, its important to limit the amount of red meat you eat to 2-3 times a week maximum, while focusing on leaner sources of protein.


Here are a few healthy, high-protein, low-fat chicken recipes:

(Sourced: about.com)

baked honey mustard chicken

This baked honey mustard chicken makes such a simple yet delicious everyday low fat chicken dish. It also uses few ingredients, ones that you’ll likely have in your pantry already. Serve with some rice and your favorite vegetables.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes



  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 six-ounce chicken breasts


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place a rack on top and spray with cooking spray.

-Combine honey, mustard, oil, curry powder, and pepper in a small bowl. Brush chicken pieces all over with the honey mustard mixture, then place chicken breasts on the rack.

-Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning half way through. Baste every 10 minutes or so with the remaining honey mustard glaze.

Per serving: Calories 268, Calories from Fat 52, Total Fat 5.9g (sat 2.2g), Cholesterol 82mg, Sodium 483mg, Carbohydrate 21g, Fiber 0.3g, Protein 32.9g


chicken w/ tomatoes recipe 

Here’s a simple summer chicken w/ tomatoes recipe that makes the most of fresh tomatoes and basil, and a generous dose of garlic. I like to use the punnets of mini heirloom tomatoes or at least a mix of red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes.


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 22 minutes


  • 4 5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 ounce basil, slivered
  • 8 ounces cherry tomatoes


-Preheat broiler and spray pan briefly with nonstick cooking spray

-Place chicken breasts on broiler pan.

-Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic together

-Brush half of vinaigrette on to chicken breasts, and sprinkle half the slivered basil on top of chicken.

-Broil 5-6 minutes, then turn over. Brush second side with remaining vinaigrette and sprinkle remaining basil.

-Add tomatoes to broiler pan, surrounding chicken.

-Broil for 5-6 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Serving: Calories 198, Calories from Fat 48, Total Fat 5.4g (sat 1g), Cholesterol 82mg, Sodium 98mg, Carbohydrate 4g, Fiber 1.1g, Protein 33.5g 

chicken and rice dish 

This low fat baked chicken and rice dish has become a staple in our house. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and the whole family will eat it.


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 4 5-6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup long grain rice, uncooked
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped (1/2 a six-ounce bag)


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

-Place chicken breasts in a single layer in baking dish that can accommodate the chicken in one layer.

-Combine uncooked rice, chicken broth, tomatoes, onion, garlic and oregano in a medium bowl. Stir in chopped spinach. Spoon mixture over chicken. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 35-40-minutes, until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees f) and rice is tender.

Serves 4.

Per Serving: Calories 372, Calories from Fat 23, Total Fat 2.5g (sat 0.6g), Cholesterol 82mg, Sodium 266mg, Carbohydrate 48.3g, Fiber 3.8g, Protein 38.9g


Here’s some High-Protein Vegetarian Recipes:

one dish vegetarian casserole This Mexican casserole recipe is a one dish vegetarian casserole perfect for those busy nights. You can get this meatless vegetarian enchilada baked Mexican casserole in the oven in just a few minutes. A simple Mexican-inspired meal the whole family Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped onion, fresh or frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped red pepper, fresh or frozen
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup salsa
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 15.8 ounce cans black beans, drained
  • 12 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack and Cheddar blend cheese shredded
  • 3 tomatoes chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives (optional)


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

-Combine onion pepper, garlic, salsa, cumin and black beans in large skillet and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes.

-Arrange 6 tortillas in bottom of 9″ x 13″ baking dish overlapping them as necessary. -Spread half of bean mixture over tortillas and sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat layering process with remaining tortillas, bean mixture and cheese.

-Cover dish with foil and bake 15 minutes. Carefully remove foil and serve warm.

-Garnish with tomatoes, sour cream and olives.


Makes 8 servings of Mexican enchilada casserole.

Nutritional Information per Serving: (excluding optional ingredients)
Calories: 605
Fat: 11.5 grams
Fiber: 21.4 grams
Cholesterol: 25 mg
Protein: 34.9 grams
Vitamin A: 24% , Vitamin C: 51%, Calcium: 40%, Iron: 39% 

 Whole Wheat Vegetarian Lasagna

Easy Whole Wheat Vegetarian Lasagna. Make your lasagna just a bit healthier by using this recipe, which calls for whole wheat lasagna noodles and spinach. Even though it uses whole wheat noodles, this Italian spinach lasagna is incredibly rich and creamy as it uses plenty of mozzarella, Parmesan, and low-fat cottage cheese. Recipe courtesy of the Wheat Foods Council.


  • 1 8 ounce package whole wheat lasagne noodles, cooked slightly (al dente)
  • 1 9 ounce package frozen raw spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups low-fat cottage cheese
  • 3 cups pre-made or store-bought pasta sauce
  • 3 cups grated low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheese


-Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

-In medium mixing bowl, beat eggs; add cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese. Spray a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

-Put one layer of slightly cooked lasagna noodles flat across the bottom of the baking dish. Add 1/2 the leaf spinach, pressing down lightly and evenly over noodles. Top with another layer of lasagna noodles. Top this layer of noodles with the cottage cheese mixture; add the remaining spinach. Then add the last of the lasagna noodles laid evenly on top of spinach. Spread pasta sauce evenly over the top; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Press down lightly.

-Cover baking dish with foil, using foil sprayed with cooking spray and keeping foil off the center of the lasagna. Secure sides tightly over baking dish.

-Bake about 1 hour 15 minutes in oven. To lightly brown the top, remove foil for a few minutes at the end of baking time.

-Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.


Servings: Provides 10 servings

Calories/Serving: 373 calories/serving

Nutrition: One serving provides approximately: 373 calories, 33 g protein, 33 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 12 g fat (7 g saturated), 110 mg cholesterol, 142 mcg folate, 3 mg iron and 671 mg sodium.

About the Author

, Celebrity Personal Trainer and Fitness & Nutrition Expert headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. He specializes in helping men and women achieve weight loss, muscle building, toning and other customized fitness & nutrition programs to create a Healthy Lifestyle. James offers private luxury personal training, 12-week custom workout plans, and personalized nutrition meal plans. Follow on Google+.

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