high protein snacks almonds

7 High Protein Snacks That Are Actually Bad for You

Have you ever searched for “high protein snacks” and received a gross of ideas, but still haven’t been getting the desired results on the scale?

Well, I have news for you, look no further than this article on the hard truth about those high protein snack ideas.

In this article, we will:

  • highlight some of the most common household high protein snacks
  • breakdown why they may not best fit into your diet
  • give you a formula for picking the best high protein meals/snacks
  • provide some of the actual “best high protein” options out there

What are some of the best high protein snacks out there?high protein snacks

  • protein bars
  • eggs
  • milk
  • yogurt
  • almonds
  • pistachios
  • protein snack supplements (brownies, cookies)

Does this list look familiar?

It should.  These are only a few of the common snacks that always seem to appear on the best protein snacks list.  But they all have one thing in common.

These snacks either have too many calories or have variations that have too many calories per serving.

Why should I care about calories when I am getting all of the protein that I need?

Obviously, everyone’s diet is going to vary based on their needs, training routines, and individual goals.  The problem is that most people will eat something because it is on a list or meets certain macronutrient requirements, while ignoring others.

Here is a breakdown of some of the protein content in each of the “worst” case options from the list above:

Itemg Protein/serving
Protein Bars (CLIF Builders Bar)20
egg (boiled)6
milk (whole)8
yogurt (lowfat)9
Lenny & Larry’s Muscle Brownie20

Not bad right?

Let’s take another look at the calorie counts of those very same servings…

Protein Bars (CLIF Builders Bar)270
egg (boiled)78
milk (whole)156
yogurt (lowfat)218
Lenny & Larry’s Muscle Brownie250

See anything wrong?

You are eating too many calories for the benefits gained from the protein.

weight gain snacks

If you want a real protein boost without having to break the calorie bank, then you should try to aim for foods that are less calorie dense, while still packing in the protein.

I use a ratio that I will call the Protein Calorie Index or PCI for short.

Protein Calorie Index

The protein calorie index is simply the grams of protein per serving divided by the calorie content per serving, multiplied by 10.  Here are the PCI values for each of those “high protein” snacks above:

Protein Bars (CLIF Builders Bar)0.74
egg (boiled)0.77
milk (whole)0.51
yogurt (lowfat)0.41
Lenny & Larry’s Muscle Brownie0.80

Now 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories, so the maximum PCI that any one food can have is (1)/(4)*10= 2.5.  You cannot expect to always eat foods that have a PCI of 2.5 .  In fact, your body needs plenty of carbohydrates and dietary fats to function.

Though when it comes to snacking, especially when you are just trying to get some extra protein to add to your diet to tide you over, you shouldn’t waste too many extra calories that you could eat in a hearty meal later.

I personally try to aim to have all of my snacks at a PCI > 1.0.

So back to our high protein snack list above…

Notice how all of these values are below 1.0.  There are too many calories in these beloved snacks.

Better Protein Snack Ideas

I am not at all suggesting that these snack ideas are not healthy options, but it is noteworthy to show that there are healthier alternatives.  In fact, let’s tweak just a few of these very ideas.

Let’s make the following substitutions:pb2 snacks

  • Premier Protein Protein Bar for a CLIF Builders Bar
  • Egg White for a Boiled Egg
  • Skim Milk for Whole Milk
  • Nonfat Greek Yogurt for Lowfat yogurt
  • PB2 Powder for Almonds and Pistachios
  • Quest Protein chips for Lenny & Larry’s Muscle Brownie
  • Rolled up Deli Ham w/mustard (just for kicks, one of my personal favorites)

Check out how these alternatives stack up:

Itemg Protein/servingCaloriesPCI
Premier Protein Bar302801.07
Egg White5252.00
Skim Milk8801.00
Nonfat Greek Yogurt151201.25
PB2 Powder5451.11
Quest Protein Chips211201.75
Deli Ham w/ mustard5301.67

Look at that!  Every value is over 1.0! This paints a much better picture right?

Now you can get that same protein boost without having to eat the extra calories.

Why calories are important

The key to keeping your body composition in check (aside from hitting the weights) is having the right diet.  Calories in, calories out.

All too often people eat based on a recommendation without evaluating or even understanding the caloric impact.  In most cases, the calories consumed get too high, then weight gain (not muscle gain) begins and they ask themselves, “what happened?”.

We’ll release an article soon going more in depth into the role that calories play in body composition, but check out this article now for a taste of why calorie counting is important.

Here is another great article talking about the role of protein powder and calories in muscle gain/preservation.

Other Notes

This reason right here is why protein powder supplementation is such a key factor in your diet striving after the perfect body.  Most protein powders (especially whey protein isolates), usually contain between 100-150 calories per serving, while delivering around 20-25 grams of protein, which would be a PCI of 1.33-2.50.

Using protein powder in supplementation is an almost guaranteed way to make sure that you get the protein that you need while avoiding the calories that you don’t.

Obviously, this article is not trying deter you away from some of you favorite snacking items, but it is food for thought!

Here are some of our best protein recommendations to fit your needs:

Protein powders without artificial sweeteners

Gluten free protein powders

Plant based protein powders

Low calorie protein powders

Whey isolate protein powders


Maybe, a traditional protein powder isn’t your thing? Check out these recipe ideas for making your own protein bars at home!