Low Calorie, High Protein Meal Prep Ideas and Strategies

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It’s not a secret that home cooked meals are healthier than eating out. With a bit of preparation and planning, you might find yourself opting for less processed and convenience foods. Check out these low calorie, high protein meal prep ideas that could work for either lunch or dinner. 

If you’re a working mom, these ideas would be ideal for healthy lunches to bring to work. Further, they could be prepared in advance for busy nights when cooking dinner isn’t feasible. Each portion is 400 calories or less, with 20-30 grams of protein. 

This post explores the long-term benefits of low calorie, high protein meal prep and provides fresh new ideas for these meals. Read 30+ low calorie, high protein meal recipes for more ideas!

When is a Good Time to Meal Prep?

The best time to meal prep is the time that works for you. That could be spending a few hours on Sunday, or distributing it across a couple days a week. 

If you’re someone who needs more variety in your meals, and can’t eat the same thing every day (like me) – it might be a good idea to prep 2-3 different options for the week. 

Whatever you think will work best for you! The more often you have a plan, the more likely you are to stick to it.

table of high protein plant-based sources

Benefits of Low Calorie, High Protein Meals

It is well known that monitoring our calorie intake can promote weight management. Consuming a diet high in protein can assist with weight loss and management as well by increasing our satiation, or in other words – helping us stay fuller for a longer period of time. 

If you’re on a weight loss journey, prioritizing protein at each meal will help to preserve lean muscle mass (which helps increase our basal metabolic rate) (1). Current recommendations suggest 0.8 grams/kg of body weight as the minimum amount of protein we should be eating per day. However, 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day seems to be more ideal for those physically active.

Aim for 20-30 grams of protein per meal, as research has shown that distributing the amount of protein consumed throughout the day can assist with muscle protein synthesis and achieving a higher total protein intake (2). 

table of high protein foods - animal sources

Long-Term Benefits of Low Calorie, High Protein Meal Prep

When it comes to meal prep, striking the right balance of low calorie and high protein can have many advantages for your health and lifestyle. 

Firstly, low calorie, high protein meal planning can help with controlling your intake while keeping you full and satisfied. Additionally, a higher protein diet can be a game-changer for anyone aiming to build or maintain lean body mass.  Studies have also shown that consuming adequate protein can promote positive changes on body composition (3). 

You might find that you have higher energy levels due to more stabilized blood sugar. Further, beyond the physical benefits, low-calorie, high protein meal prep can simplify your daily routine. It can save you time on hectic days, and eliminate the need to spend money for convenience. 

So whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds, boost your metabolism, or simply make mindful choices – low calorie, high protein meal prep should be well worth considering.

How Long Can These Meals Stay in the Fridge?

Prepared meals should be safe in the fridge for 3-4 days for decreased risk of foodborne illness (4). 

Low Calorie, High Protein Meal Prep Ideas

1. Quinoa Mediterranean Bowl; 395 calories + 15g protein

quinoa cucumber chickpea salad portioned out in storage containers for low calorie high protein meal prep

Ingredients:
– 1 cup quinoa, raw
– 1 can of garbanzo beans
– 1/4 cup walnuts
– Greek or Italian dressing
– Chopped cucumber, onion and red pepper
– 1/2 cup feta cheese

Makes 3 servings 

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. Chop cucumber, onion and red pepper. I use this vegetable chopper from Amazon which is so helpful for meal prepping! It ensures all the veggies are the same size. Drain garbanzo beans. 
3. Measure 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans, as well as quinoa, and place in food storage container. Add at least 1/2 cup of the cucumber/pepper/onion mix. Top with 1-2 tablespoons of walnuts, feta cheese, and a drizzle of your favorite dressing. Then add light salt and pepper. 

This meal is super easy to make. For additional protein, add chicken, seitan, or more beans.

2. Chicken Fajita Bowl; 375 calories + 26 grams of protein

chicken fajita bowl for low calorie high protein meal prep

Ingredients:
– 2 cups rice, cooked
– 16 ounces of chicken breast
– 2 bell peppers
– 1 whole onion
– Taco seasoning packet
– 1 can of corn
– 1/2 cup shredded cheese
– 1-2 Avocadoes (optional)

Makes 4 servings

1. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
2. Julienne the bell pepper and onion. Place in a hot pan with olive oil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the taco seasoning packet (to taste- you don’t have to use it all), and about a 1/4 of water. Let this cook down for another 10 minutes.
3. Assemble in food storage containers: 4 ounces of baked chicken, 1/2 cup of rice, 1/4th of the pepper and onion mixture, and top with 1/4 cup of canned corn and sprinkle of cheese.
4. Add slices of avocado or a scoop of guacamole. This is optional, as it likely will not stay fresh for longer than one day. Prep the day of for best results.

3. Simple Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce; 350 calories + 24g protein

spaghetti squash with meat sauce for low calorie high protein meal prep

Ingredients:
– 1 large spaghetti squash
– 1 jar of Rao’s marinara sauce
– 1 lb. lean ground beef
– 1 whole onion, chopped
– Garlic powder
– 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Makes 4 servings

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut spaghetti squash crosswise, scoop out the seeds, spray with cooking spray and season the inside with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a cooking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes. Take out of oven and let it rest on its side for at least 10 minutes.
2. While the squash is cooking, add ground beef and chopped onion to a pan and cook until no longer pink. Add Rao’s pasta sauce and combine with garlic powder, salt, pepper and any additional seasonings.
3. Using a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash starting from the outside towards the middle – and dump into the pan with sauce. Combine the sauce with the squash. 
4. Portion out 4 servings into storage containers and top with parmesan cheese.

Spaghetti squash is the perfect dupe for pasta, very low in calories and carbohydrates. It’s delicious when cooked correctly.
Also try:
Chicken Alfredo Spaghetti Squash
Butternut Squash Cottage Cheese Pasta

4. Tuna and Chickpea Salad Wrap; 400 calories, 28g protein

Ingredients:
– 3 oz. canned tuna, drained
– 1/3 cup chickpeas
– 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
– 2 tbsp. olive oil and lemon juice dressing
– 1 12″ low-carb tortilla
– 1/2 cup spinach or romaine

Makes 1 serving

Combine tuna, chickpeas, red onion, and dressing. Spread evenly on a (sturdy) tortilla with chopped spinach or romaine. Roll up into a wrap. Triple this recipe if you’re assembling multiple wraps for the week. 

5. Keep It Basic with Protein, Starch, and Vegetable; ~400 calories, 23g protein

Ingredients:
– Protein of your choice (4 oz. of chicken breast = 120 calories)
– Starch of your choice (1/2 cup of rice or pasta is around 200 calories)
– Veggies of your choice
– 2 Tbsp. of sauce of your choice

Servings dependent on how much you prepare.

Whenever you’re out of ideas to prep, keep is basic with portioned out protein, starch, veggies and a drizzle of your favorite sauce. Use the protein charts above to determine how much protein for each container. 

This can be as simple as roasting chicken breasts and veggies on a sheet pan and microwaving steamed rice pouches. Read food labels to determine tasty, low calorie sauces.

6. Grilled Chicken Salad; 260 calories + 29g protein

Ingredients:
– 1 lb. chicken breast
– 8 cups of mixed greens
– 2 cups of cherry tomatoes
– 1/2 cup balsamic dressing
– 1 cup cheese of your choice

Makes 4 servings

This recipe is as simple as it gets, but feel free to get creative and add any additional toppings you prefer. Batch cook the chicken breast in the oven or the air fryer and portion out 4 ounces per container on top of an assembled salad. Add the dressing prior to eating. 

7. Throw Everything In a Pot Chili; 400 calories + 24g protein

a bowl of chili for low calorie high protein meal prep

Ingredients:
– 1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
– 2 cans RO-TEL diced tomatoes with green chilies
– 1 can of corn, rinsed
– 1 can of black beans, rinsed
– 1 onion, diced
– Chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper
– Avocado, sliced (optional)
– 1 cup shredded cheese

Makes 5 servings

1. Add diced onion and ground beef to a pan and cook until beef is no longer pink.
2. Dump the diced tomatoes, corn, and black beans to the pan with the beef and onions.
3. Season with chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Let it cook for 10-20 minutes. 
4. Top with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, avocado slices, and a sprinkle of cheese. 

This chili is quick, easy and delicious. The leaner the meat, the less calories this recipe will be. Include or omit any of the toppings. 

8. Veggie and Tofu Stir-Fry; 275 calories + 19g protein

a stir fry for slow calorie high protein meals

Ingredients:
– 16 oz. firm tofu, cubed
– 4 cups of mixed stir-fry vegetables
– 2 cups shelled edamame
– 2 cups of brown rice, cooked
– 4 Tbsp. stir-fry sauce

Makes 4 servings

1. Begin by pressing the tofu to remove excess water. Place the tofu block between two kitchen towels or paper towels and place a heavy object on top. Let it press for 15-20 minutes.
2. Cut the tofu into cubes. Marinate with 2 Tbsp. of stir-fry sauce. 
3. Add mixed vegetables to hot skillet with cooking spray or oil. Stir-fry for 5 minutes and remove. 
4. In the same pan, cook the tofu for 3 minutes on each side until slightly crispy.
5. Add the vegetables back in and stir everything together for 3 more minutes- adding the additional sauce. Serve over rice.

Use cauliflower rice as a low-carb alternative.

9. Cottage Cheese and Fruit Parfait; 250 calories + 24g protein

Ingredients:
– 2 cups of cottage cheese
– 1 cup of fresh berries
– 2 kiwis, sliced
– 2 Tbsp. of chopped nuts

Makes 2 servings

Layer low-fat cottage cheese with fresh berries, sliced kiwi, and a drizzle of honey. Add a sprinkle of chopped nuts or seeds for extra crunch and protein. 

10. Greek Yogurt and Hummus Dip Platter; 220 calories + 20g protein

Ingredients:
– 1 cup Greek yogurt with garlic, dill, lemon juice
– 1/2 cup of hummus
– 1 cucumber, diced
– 1 bell pepper, diced
– 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes

Makes 1 serving

Create a snack platter with Greek yogurt-based tzatziki, hummus, and an assortment of veggies like cucumber, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Add grilled chicken for increased satiation. Great for a light lunch. 

11. Sushi Bowl; 400 calories + 28g protein

Ingredients:
– 1 cup of rice, cooked
– 8 oz. salmon, raw or cooked
– 1 avocado, sliced
– 1 cucumber, sliced
– 4 Tbsp. spicy mayo (mayo and chili sauce) 
– Seaweed strips for garnish

Makes 2 servings

Make a deconstructed sushi bowl with cooked brown rice, marinated salmon, avocado, cucumber, and seaweed strips. Drizzle with soy sauce or a spicy mayo. 

Also try:
Crispy Salmon Bites with Bang Bang Sauce
Tofu Rice Bowl with Greek Yogurt Bang Bang Sauce

12. Cauliflower Fried Rice with Shrimp; 260 calories, 28g protein

Ingredients:
– 2 cups of cauliflower rice, cooked
– 16 oz. shrimp, cooked
– 2 cups of mixed vegetables, sautéed
– 4 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
– Garlic and ginger (for seasoning)

Makes 4 servings

1. Pulse cauliflower in a food processor to create “rice” or buy a fresh or frozen package of cauliflower rice.
2. Add “rice”, diced vegetables, and shrimp to a hot pan.
3. Season with low-sodium soy sauce, ginger, and garlic for flavor. Portion out 4 oz. shrimp, 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup of mixed vegetables for each container. Top with chopped nuts for additional calories and protein. 

For More Ideas:

The following posts offer MORE ideas which fit with this post for easy, low calorie and high protein meal planning!

Useful Products for Meal Prep

These products can make meal prep and planning more simple. With added convenience, it will be harder to make excuses in your life.

Vegetable Chopper

Like I mentioned earlier, this vegetable chopper makes all that slicing and dicing so much easier when you’re prepping a large amount of food. It really is a game-changer for batch cooking.

Food Storage Containers

Having the right storage containers can make all the difference. They should be compact enough to store in the fridge or your lunch box, microwave-safe, easy to clean, and durable. Stackable containers allow for more storage in the fridge.
These best-selling food storage containers from Amazon have all of that, as well as two separate compartments.

Air Fryer, Instant Pot, or Crockpot

Air fryers and instant pots are known to have speedy cooking times and can be time-saving options for busy individuals. Often, the use of one leads to less dishes as well. I have yet to try an instant pot, but I know I couldn’t live without my air fryer!

With a crockpot, you could batch cook a protein (like chicken) with a tasty sauce and put it over veggies and a starch, as well as make healthy soups and stews.

This post does include affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I will receive a small compensation with purchase. 

Consistency is Key!

It’s not about perfection. The key to long-term success and weight management is consistency. 

Use this post as a guide for prepping more low calorie, high protein meals. Over time, this routine could become a habit – making it easier to stick to your goals in the long run. 

All macronutrient breakdowns are an estimation, and may differ depending on ingredients used. You could buy a food scale to portion out ingredients, however, just preparing fresh meals and being mindful of what you’re eating can be beneficial enough.

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