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How to eat more high protein meals on a budget

Find out how to eat high protein meals affordably with Isa Robinson, a registered nutritionist and certified eating counsellor. Learn and discover recipes that are good for you and your wallet.

How to eat more protein on a budget

We all need protein in our diets, whether that’s adding chicken to your lunchtime salad or lentils to your favourite pasta dish. But how do you get more protein on a budget?

Fear not! Isa, our expert, shares her top budget-friendly and healthy ways to increase your protein intake, whether you’re eating meat, fish are veggie or have a plant-based diet.

Isa's easy protein wins

Peas – both fresh and frozen count – are an affordable source. Plus 3 heaped tablespoons (88g) is 1 of your 5-a-day.

Greek yogurt is another great source of protein, as well as being high in calcium, which helps support healthy bones and teeth.

As well as being high in protein, eggs also contain vitamins and minerals which help bone maintenance.

Lamb kidneys are cheap to buy and high in protein, iron and B12, which supports nearly every system – from eyesight to the immune system.*

Lentils are high in protein and fibre and are often a cheaper alternative to meat and fish.

Tinned fish, like sardines, salmon and mackerel, is a great protein source and doesn't break the budget. It is also rich in essential omega 3 fatty oils and Iodine, important for thyroid hormones. This mackerel and red lentil fusilli has over 31 grams of protein per serving.

See our top tinned fish recipes here.

472x310 MackerelRedLentilFusili


What is protein good for?

Isa says, 'protein is one of the three main macro-nutrients alongside fats and carbohydrates.' Adequate intake is important for:

  • Cell growth
  • Repair of muscles and bones
  • Influencing hormones for mood, sleep and appetite regulation
  • Balancing blood sugars

How much protein should I eat a day?

Women need roughly 45g of protein, while men need 55g. If you’re a gym-goer or athlete, you’ll need more to help your muscles repair after an intense session.

Fun fact #1 An average sized chicken breast contains roughly 28g protein and would give you over half of your recommended daily amount.

Fun fact #2 We can only absorb up to 20-25g of protein in one sitting, so spread your intake steadily throughout the day with meals and snacks, especially after movement.

Fun fact #3 'Most of us in the UK are getting more than sufficient protein', says Isa, meaning people following plant-based diets can get enough protein.

How to get more protein?

Put down the shake – protein is easier to come by than you might think. It's in everyday favourites, like bread, rice and eggs.

Looking for high protein budget meal inspiration? Everyone’s favourite comfort food - half a tin of baked beans on two slices of wholemeal toast with 30g cheese, weighs in at roughly 26g of protein.

Another great way to increase the amount in your diet is by choosing your snacks carefully.

What are some affordable protein snacks?

Plant-based proteins, like pulses, like chickpeas and lentils, are packed full of the good stuff and are a great snack option. These maple and cinnamon roasted chickpeas are made with just 4 ingredients and taste delicious.

Transform frozen peas into a healthy, and affordable snack. This herby pea houmous is great for dipping.

Nuts and seeds are also fantastic for snacking. Try whipping up these brilliant no-bake flapjacks with cashew nuts and chia seeds.

472x310 flapjacks

Meal inspiration

Looking for high protein recipes on a budget? Check out our delicious recipe ideas below.

Chicken livers are a great source of protein* and are often cheaper than other cuts of meat. Try cooking them up in a cassoulet with root veg and cannellini beans for a warming winter bowlful.

Soya beans are classed as complete proteins, meaning they contain all the 9 essential amino acids which the body needs to produce itself. This Savoy cabbage and soya bean rice bowl takes just 15 minutes to make and will leave you feeling great.

Our satay chicken with spring onion roasties is coated in a moreish peanut butter sauce. You won't be able to get enough of this one.

This Turkish eggs recipe is accompanied with Greek yogurt to double up your protein source!

Our smashed Indian sweet potatoes, topped with a perfectly fried egg and creamy cottage cheese, is delicious.

Transform your favourite pasta dish into a vegan meal packed with all the good stuff with this lentil ragu with spaghetti.

472x310 LentilRagu

Take a look at more of our brilliant budget recipes here.

Find out more about Isa on Instagram (@isarobinson_nutrition)

*The NHS recommends that pregnant women avoid offal, liver products and all types of paté, as they contain high levels of vitamin A, which can be harmful to your baby.

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