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Low-Carb, High Lean Protein Meals

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Low-Carb, High Lean Protein Meals
Grilled chicken with veggies makes a simple low-carb, lean-protein meal. Photo Credit gkrphoto/iStock/Getty Images

While it has been shown that low-carb diets can help you lose weight, one of the major concerns is that the diet doesn't restrict intake of high-fat meats like bacon and porterhouse steak. These meats are high in saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease and stroke. However, you can still lose weight on a low-carb diet and maybe improve your cholesterol, using lean sources of protein and getting your fat from plant sources, according to a 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. If you're struggling to put together meals for a low-carb diet that emphasizes lean protein, consult a registered dietitian to help you develop a plan that suits your needs and taste buds.

Low-Carb, High-Protein Breakfast

Bacon might be out, but you can still have eggs for breakfast on your low-carb, lean-protein meal plan. To keep it really lean, use egg whites instead of the whole eggs. Make a six-egg white omelet stuffed with three chopped asparagus spears and five sliced cherry tomatoes for a breakfast with 22 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbs.

Although not carb-free like eggs, low-fat cottage cheese is a lean source of protein. It contains 14 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fat per 1/2-cup serving. Pair it with 1/2 cup of sliced cucumbers and 1/2 cup of sliced red peppers for a savory breakfast. The veggies add another 5 grams of carbs to the cottage cheese breakfast meal.

Ham is also a lean protein and makes a good sandwich filler. Cook two egg whites in a nonstick pan over medium heat in two round cookie cutters to make "bread." Place 2 ounces of ham on one "slice," top with one-quarter of an avocado and finish off with your second "slice." This meal has 20 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbs.

Keep It Lean and Low at Lunch

There is no shortage of low-carb, high-lean-protein options for lunch on your meal plan. You can't go wrong with 4 ounces of sliced, grilled chicken breast on top of 2 cups of lettuce with 1/2 cup of sliced cucumbers and 2 tablespoons of red onions with 2 tablespoons of ranch dressing. Add seven chopped walnuts for extra protein and a little healthy fat. This lunch meal has 41 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs. Saute 4 ounces of shrimp with 1 cup of zoodles -- zucchini cut into spaghetti-like noodles -- garlic, olive oil and soy sauce for a lunch containing 28 grams of protein and 3 grams of carbs. Grill a 4-ounce 93-percent lean beef patty, wrap it in a lettuce leaf with sliced tomato and serve with 1/2 cup of broccoli and 1/2 cup of cauliflower sauteed in olive oil. This lunch has 28 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbs.

Dinner Done Right

In addition to very lean ground meat, sirloin, top round, pork loin and pork chops also make lean red meat options for a low-carb, lean-protein meal plan. You might enjoy 4 ounces of broiled, boneless pork loin with 1 cup of steamed red cabbage and 2 tablespoons of applesauce for 21 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs. Although not one of the leanest protein options, fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fats, which are good for your heart and mind and so are worth the extra fat. A 4-ounce portion of grilled tuna steak pairs nicely with 1 cup of roasted Brussels sprouts. This heart-healthy, low-carb, high-protein meal has 29 grams of protein and 7 grams of carbs. For 34 grams of protein and 5 grams of carbs, grill up 4 ounces of prime sirloin steak and serve with 1 cup of turnip fries seasoned with olive oil and paprika.

Snacks Low in Carbs and High in Protein

No meal plan is complete without snacks. Some lean-protein options for your low-carb meal plan include hard-boiled eggs, low-fat string cheese, rolled carb-free deli turkey, beef jerky or canned tuna. If you like to have some carbohydrates with your protein, try peanut butter with celery, a handful of almonds, a container of nonfat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese or mixed greens topped with sliced hard-cooked egg and Caesar dressing. Each of these mixed carb and protein snacks has 10 grams of carbs or less.

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