Bang for Your Buck: The Cheapest High Protein Foods
Take a moment to imagine an ideal world where you could eat whatever you wanted all the time – where money was no object. If you’re a fitness enthusiast, this probably conjures up images some of the most amazing high-protein foods: wild Alaskan salmon, wild venison, grass-fed beef, fresh chicken breast and that really fancy branded protein powder you keep being tempted by. The sad part is these foods can easily break the bank if you’re not too careful, so you’re going to need cheap protein sources, especially if you’re trying to sustain a high-protein diet whilst at university or on a tight budget.
WHY CONSUME MORE PROTEIN?
Because ‘more protein = more muscle gains’, right? Well, protein is for much more than building muscle and plays a huge role in the way your digestive system and metabolism work. Proteins contain amino acids, which the body uses for just about everything: repairing tissues (which also means repairing and building muscle between workouts), make up the antibodies that fight infection and are the enzymes that make life possible.
It’s fair to say protein is the dietary building block of muscles, organs, and other key tissues you need to live and grow. Protein is also massively important for weight loss as it is the most filling nutrient… so regardless of whether your goal is muscle gain, recovery or weight loss – you need to make sure you are eating enough protein, which for many people on a budget can be a challenge.
CHEAP ANIMAL PROTEINS
Most of us get our protein from animal sources: meat is made of muscles (for the most part) and muscles are made from proteins. Chicken breast is basically synonymous with the fitness lifestyle and many other animal products are rich in protein, iron, B12 and other key vitamins and minerals. The problem is these also tend to be the most expensive protein sources.
Next time you’re shopping for food, consider these low-cost protein sources…
Canned tuna is a great source of protein at a relatively low price. Tuna is a plentiful source of protein, with around 24 grams per 100. This makes it a great choice, even more so when you realise that you can get 100g for as little as 58p in many supermarkets.
OTHER BITS OF CHICKEN
“Other bits of chicken” might sound suspicious, but chicken breast is not the only high-quality protein source available on the market. Frozen chicken breast is just as high in protein as its fresh counterpart, and chicken thigh fillets make a great cheap, high-protein food choice. Chicken thigh meat is also far tastier and is a versatile food – try it in a simple, healthy stir fry, for example.
You probably predicted this one: eggs are a staple of many fitness enthusiasts’ diets, with a high protein content and some of the best fats and nutrients you’ll find in any food. Eggs are technically dairy, making them a versatile, cheap protein source for vegetarians. If you’re looking to keep the calories low, you can remove the yolk from your egg, or combine whole eggs and whites to improve the protein content whilst keeping the texture and nutrient density.
We know, protein powders can be expensive. However, finding a good, cheap protein powder is difficult, but rewarding. A protein powder that is both good tends to be expensive, whereas a cheap product will tend to be low-quality. However, they do exist and if you can get your hands on one, you can make protein shakes relatively cheaply with water or milk. By simply adding in fruit, leafy greens or other supplement powders, you can make it a whole meal, and really get the best bang for your buck.
CHEAP PLANT PROTEINS
We get it, you’re sick of the age-old question, “where do you get your protein from?”, and you’re here to figure out what kind of quality, cheap protein for vegetarians we have to share with you. These protein sources are a great addition to anyone’s diet, and boost your fiber intake, too!
Beans are a great source of protein, and should make up a portion of any plant-based diet. Whilst some argue that beans contribute to a heavy anti-nutrient burden, or cause universal inflammation, the evidence suggests that this is a heavily dose-dependent relationship. What this means is the effects of beans require you to eat a lot of beans to suffer a significant amount of nutrient malabsorption.
Beans are incredibly cheap and can be bought in bulk for less than 50p per can, with foods like black beans providing around 15g of protein per cup. This provides a great accompaniment to other high-protein, high-fibre plant foods and goes a long way towards meeting your daily protein requirements.
Sunflowers seeds are a great source of protein, at approximately 19g protein per 100g, but they are also incredibly high in fats. The fats in these seeds are good fats, but they should mainly be considered as a protein and fat source when you’re attempting to gain quality weight.
Quinoa (keen-wah, so you don’t embarrass yourself) is a small seed, often mistaken for a grain, and has become immensely popular in recent times. Quinoa only contains 9g of protein per serving, but it is a great “filler” food that can be added to most curry, soup, or casserole dishes to boost the protein content.
Chickpeas are one of the best legumes in existence, as a fantastic filler food for casseroles and other dishes, as hummus, or simply by themselves in a sauce. They provide as much as 15g of protein per cup, with all the fibre and nutrient perks you’d expect from a plant food.
Tofu is a common replacement for meat in many vegan and vegetarian dishes, being made from various fungi and containing around 15g of protein per serving. The only problem is that tofu is incredibly nutrient-sparse, so make sure to pair it with other fruits and veg.
Bookmark this post, so next time you’re out food shopping, you’ve got a handy list of cheap and healthy protein sources!