When I first started trying to lose weight and began working out on a consistent basis, I was convinced that I needed to drink protein shakes in order to meet my goals. I followed a lot of fitness influencers online and they all drank protein shakes, so I thought I needed to drink them, too.
Here’s the problem with protein shakes. They’re expensive, especially if you want to drink a high-quality one (which I recommend if you’re going to drink them at all). If I could get back all the money I wasted on protein powder, I could buy myself a pretty nice gift.
I wish I had realized back then that there are so many other, more affordable foods you can consume to hit your protein goals, including the ones listed down below.
Highly Affordable Protein Sources
The following are five highly affordable protein sources that you can pick up at your local grocery store and use to reach your daily protein target. They’re delicious, nutrient-dense, and super easy on your bank account.
If you had told Past Natalie that she would come to love canned fish when she got older, I would’ve laughed in your face.
I really do love canned fish, though, especially tuna and salmon (but I’m only going to talk about tuna in this post because it’s the more affordable option).
Wild-caught canned tuna has 30 grams of protein per cup. I like to mix it with Primal Kitchen mayo and add some salt and dill to make an easy and delicious tuna salad. It’s great on top of salad greens or on crackers!
If you eat a plant-based diet, lentils a great food to use to reach your protein goals.
One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein. I love lentil soups or adding lentils to my salads to make them a little more filling.
Lentils are super cheap, too, and you can buy them in bulk to save even more money.
I said it already but I’ll say it again — I love canned fish. And, it wouldn’t be a list of affordable protein sources without mention of sardines.
One can of sardines contains 23 grams of protein.
Sardines are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for good cognitive health and reducing inflammation.
I throw sardines on top of salads all the time, or I eat them straight of the can with a little dijon mustard thrown on top (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it).
Eggs are another food that I hated until just a few years ago.
Now, I eat at least one egg every. single. day. And I’m not planning to stop any time soon. One egg contains 7 grams of protein.
If I’m short on protein for the day, I like to throw one or two fried eggs on top of my dinner. It’s a great way to add some extra protein and some extra flavor to my food.
I throw fried eggs on top of roasted or shredded chicken, steak, ground beef, fish — pretty much any food tastes better when you throw an egg on it (at least savory foods — don’t throw an egg on top of a brownie, for the love of God).
Here’s another affordable protein source that’s perfect for those following a plant-based diet.
To be honest, I’ve never tried tempeh myself, but I know that it’s super high in protein — 33 grams per cup!
If you’re going to be plant-based, I definitely recommend adding tempeh to your diet to make sure you’re getting adequate protein in each day.
Does This Mean I Can Never Have Protein Shakes Again?
No, absolutely not. Sometimes, protein shakes are the most convenient option.
You don’t always have time to hard boil eggs or prep lentils so they’re ready to eat when you’re short on time. When you’re in a pinch and need some extra protein, there’s nothing wrong with turning to a protein shake.
In general, though, I do think it’s best to get your protein from whole foods. Not only is it more affordable, but it also allows you to get other micronutrients that you might not be getting from a protein shake.
If you need more portable protein sources, check out this post for some high-protein snacks you can eat on the go. If you’ve been relying heavily on protein shakes and want to increase your daily intake in another way, consider one of these options instead.