Protein power! Today we’re taking a look at this essential nutrient that helps you stay full, fuels your day, and supports your body to keep it energized. Read on for all the powders, bars, and recipes you need to keep protein front and center in your diet.
What Is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that’s essential to the human body. It serves as one of the building blocks of body tissue and can also be a source of fuel, too. When proteins breaks down, they transform into amino acids, which help build muscle mass, repair cells, and keep organs healthy. There are 20 different amino acids that can be combined to make every type of protein in the body, and they fall into two categories:
- Essential amino acids: Required for normal body functioning, essential amino acids can’t be made by the body—you can only get them through food. Of the 20 amino acids, only nine are considered essential.
- Nonessential amino acids: These types of amino acids can be made from the body as proteins break down naturally. Eleven of the 20 amino acids are considered nonessential.
Now, not all proteins are created equal. Since dietary proteins are made up of different amino acid combinations, they’re lumped into categories based on how many of the essential amino acids are provided. Here’s a breakdown.
Complete proteins contain all nine amino acids. Sources of complete proteins include:
Incomplete protein sounds negative, but it just means some of the amino acids are missing, or the foods don’t contain enough amino acids to be considered a complete protein. Many plant-based foods fall into this category.
- Nuts and seeds
Complementary proteins occur when two or more incomplete protein sources join forces. Eaten together (either during the same meal or on the same day), they compensate for the lack of amino acids. For example, when you combine grains and legumes—think rice and beans or peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread—that forms a complete protein.
Wondering how much protein you need to eat in a day? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends 50 grams of protein per day (based on a 2,000-calorie diet).
Benefits of Protein
There are lots of reasons to chow down on protein. Here are some of the ways getting enough protein benefits your body.
- Provides calories (aka energy) for the body
- Supports growth in all stages of life, and especially during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy
- Helps build muscle and repair body tissue and cells
- Supplies various vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, selenium, vitamin D, and zinc
Ready to stock your fridge and pantry with all things protein? Here’s a list of Thrive Market favorites to get you started.
Meat and Seafood
Meat and seafood are protein sources that can be used every which way. From low-key burgers to elegant seafood dishes, you can make meals on the fly knowing you’re getting ample protein, too.
From ground beef to ribeye, this box has a little bit of everything, and every cut is 100 percent grass-fed beef, pasture raised in Osorno, Chile.
Our pasture-raised pigs are encouraged to forage for food as nature intended, and raised on farms in Georgia. This box has a sampling of breakfast sausage, ribs, bacon, ground pork, pork chops, and a pork loin.
Poultry fans will love the variety in this box—breasts, tenders, thighs, plus one cut-up whole chicken. The free-range birds were raised on family farms in Virginia and never given added hormones or antibiotics.
This packet features an assortment of our wild-caught, sustainable seafood, from sockeye salmon to peeled and deveined shrimp, all ready to eat and enjoy.
Healthy Protein Powders
Protein powders are easy to add to smoothies, but you can also stir a scoop into batter for pancakes and even desserts! (Check out our recipes below for more ideas.)
Enjoy the benefits of bone broth—fast. Just use a scoop of one of these powders and they’ll be no need to simmer a pot all day.
Ready, set, blend! Start your day with a protein source made from the bones of cows that are grass-fed 365-days a year. Each serving has 20 grams of protein, plus amino acids and collagen for added health benefits.
Coming in hot! You get beloved superfoods—like ashwagandha, smoking hot peppers, and bone broth—in every scoop of this protein powder,. Each serving boasts 20 grams of protein and only 1 gram of sugar.
Plant-Based Protein Powders
For plant-based and vegan protein powders, we’ve got you covered.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice. Indulge in your cravings with a boost of added vegan protein (10 grams per serving) to your morning or post-workout shake.
There’s nothing plain about this protein powder that’ll help you level-up your protein intake. Each serving has 30 grams of complete protein, 6 grams each of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) and glutamine, plus added ingredients like turmeric and probiotics.
Hip, hip, hemp! Every serving of this powder delivers 13 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein. Try it in smoothies or your favorite morning muffin recipe.
Pea protein powder? Oh yes. This green veggie is known for being a source of bioavailable protein, so it’s the perfect thing to add to smoothies for a boost of vegetarian protein.
Best Protein Shakes and Meal Replacements
Shakes make a great meal replacement on the run, or a recovery drink after a tough workout. Checkout our lineup of options for your active lifestyle.
For nutrition in a hurry, whip up a glass of this meal replacement beverage that offers protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Just mix one scoop into 8 ounces of water and give it a good shake before enjoying.
This meal replacement shake will help keep you full until your next meal with comforting chai spices like cinnamon and vanilla.
This creamy beverage offers 20 grams of grass-fed protein plus beneficial B12 vitamins and fiber. The golden color is all thanks to turmeric, and there’s a hint of ginger inside the bottle for added flavor, too.
High-Protein Nuts and Seeds
For tossing into salads, sprinkling on top of smoothies, or just plain ol’ snacking, nuts and seeds are a must-have for any protein-filled pantry.
Each serving of these hemp seeds has 10 grams of protein, plus omega-3s and fiber. Made in small batches, this delicious snack is the perfect crunchy topping for salads and soups.
There’s so much you can do with chia seeds (at least 18 things, to be exact). These gluten-free seeds offer 3 grams of protein per serving, plus antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3s. Sprinkle them on oatmeal or yogurt, or add to smoothies.
With 9 grams of protein per serving, these seeds are small but powerful. Scooped from organic pumpkin, they’re rich in vitamin E, manganese, and zinc. Add a handful to pesto, toast them with fragrant spices, or enjoy right out of the bag.
These super-sized nuts are rich, buttery, and serve up a dose of complete protein, plus 2,500 times more selenium than any other nut. Add them to trail mix or make into a creamy nut milk.
Top Protein Bars
With a protein bar in your purse or workout bag, you’re never far from fast nutrition when you need it most.
Collagen is an essential nutrient that declines as we age, but you can help boost your bod with a bite of this bar that offers 15 grams of protein.
This 12-pack will curb your chocolate cravings and help you feel full. Low-fat and covered in delicious dark chocolate, these bars have a subtle sweetness you’ll love—and boast 10 grams of protein each.
Here’s a wholesome, savory protein that’s not your average bar. Made with free-range and grass-fed venison, fruit, and nuts, these bars nix gluten, grains, soy, and dairy and provide 12 grams of protein each.
13 High-Protein Meal Ideas
If powders and bars leave you wanting more, no worries, just whip up one of these tasty recipes that offer plenty of protein from ingredients like eggs, meat, and fresh veggies.
Healthy Smoothie Recipes
Ready, set, blend! These healthy smoothie recipes have good-for-you ingredients that’ll start your day off right.
This satisfying morning bowl has a nut milk base of both almond butter and almond milk, plus a pour of organic and cold-pressed cacao creamer for added flavor and antioxidants.
Get jamming with this peanut butter and jelly smoothie that comes with a superfood maca powder boost.
With five gorgeous layers of smoothie blends, chia pudding, and a berry mash, this drink is dressed to impressed and tastes just as good as it looks.
Inspired by a favorite dessert duo, this breakfast has a creamy base made from almond milk, dates, and vanilla protein powder.
Protein-Rich Breakfast Recipes
When you have time to sit and savor your morning meal, turn to one of these protein-rich breakfast recipes.
These vegan and gluten-free muffins are a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. Apple sauce keeps every bite moist, while salted caramel protein powder makes them a little indulgent.
Loads of herbs make this egg bake extra vibrant alongside a combination of crisp pancetta, leeks, and onion. It’s a hearty morning dish that’ll keep you full until lunch.
Take your eggs to the Mediterranean with fresh zucchini, EVOO, and juicy cherry tomatoes. Just swap the butter for Whole30-approved ghee for a perfect start to your morning.
This recipe takes a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Fancier than scrambled, these baked eggs come out just right with runny, golden yolks surrounded by firm whites. It’s all nestled in a skillet with dairy-free creamed spinach (thank you, coconut milk) for an irresistible brunch.
Lunch and Dinner Recipes With Protein
Protein powder gets a lot of the breakfast love, but there are plenty of protein-rich ingredients to serve at lunch and dinner, like tuna, shrimp, chicken, eggs, and more.
This is tuna salad with a twist. Indian spices like cumin and coriander add global flavor. Just scoop into lettuce cups and enjoy!
This Whole30 dinner—with shrimp, broccoli, and savory sesame oil—is made right on a sheet pan for a super easy weeknight meal.
Here’s a recipe that’s both elegant and easy. Sage-infused meatballs are tucked into a bed of spaghetti squash—it’s so delicious you won’t even miss the noodles.
Use your muffin tin for dinner—really! These make-ahead lunches serve up a savory cup of ground chicken wrapped in bacon and slathered with a spicy sauce. Every portion has 3 of protein.
Eggs aren’t just for breakfast! The traditional tortilla española—or Spanish tortilla—is a simple omelet made with caramelized onions and potatoes. We've upped the flavor factor with sweet potatoes and spices for a Paleo-friendly dinner option.