7 High-Protein Pantry Staples to Help You Gain and Retain Muscle


When you think about “pantry staples” you likely think about jarred sauce, boxes of pasta, and all those probably expired cans of fruits and vegetables gathering dust.

And when you think about pantry staples that are high in protein, well, you likely don’t come up with much. Canned tuna? A tin of anchovies? Maybe some Spam?

Look, tough times call for strength. You can eat all the canned spinach you want, but you’re not going to build muscles from the stuff. And although Spam does contain a fair amount of protein, as a registered dietitian I can assure you that eating Spam as your primary protein source isn’t a great idea for your overall health.

If you’re looking for shelf-stable protein that tastes great and is also great for you, then I got you. I’ve collected a list of seven solid options for pantry foods that are high in protein.

On a good week, you’ll find all of these in my pantry, ready to refuel after a workout without lifting a can opener.

Buckwheat Groats

buckwheat seeds on wooden spoon in closeup

Elenathewise

I know what you’re thinking: Whaaat?

Hear me out. Buckwheat is a mainstay in Eastern European cuisine and groats (they’re grain-like seeds) are a great alternative to rice or even as a hot cereal. And with six grams of protein for a ½ cup cooked, groats are the perfect base for a protein bowl, in soups, or even ground up and used as a replacement for white flour.

My pick: Arrowhead Mills Organic Buckwheat Groats

Peanut Butter Powder

It’s peanuts, powder-ized. And it’s a quick and flavorful option for a shelf-stable protein boost. Two tablespoons have seven grams of protein and at 1/3 of the calories of traditional peanut butter.

“Look for a brand without added sugar and add to shakes, oatmeal, and energy bites” says cookbook author, Dana White, M.S.

My pick: Naked PB

Lentils

lentils

Westend61

Technically classified as what’s called a pulse, lentils have a high amount of protein with 10 to 12 grams (depending on the type of lentils) of quality protein per ½ cup cooked. I love them as a soup, but lentils also work as a meat substitute, atop a salad, or in a pot of chili.

My pick: Bob’s Red Mill, Green or Brown Lentils

Sardines

Don’t roll your eyes. Sardines are not only rich sources of protein, but they’re also loaded with immunity-supporting vitamin D and heart-helping omega 3 fatty acids.

“Sardines are a really versatile protein option” says Willow Jarosh, R.D. “They can be added to a sandwich straight out of the can or fancied up as part of a more elaborate recipe. Plus, if they’re canned with the bones you get a calcium boost when you eat them.”

My pick: Wild Planet Wild Sardines

Pistachios

a heap of pistachios on a plate on rusty background

Claudia Totir

The nuts are stuffed with protein and fiber. One ounce (about 49 nuts) provides a six grams of plant-based protein and three grams of fiber. In-shell pistachios are a great, hands-on healthy snack. And no-shell pistachios make for a super quick shake-on to soups and salads.

My pick: Wonderful Pistachios No Shells Chili Roasted

Pumpkin Seeds

One ounce of these seeds contains seven grams of protein. They also deliver a healthy dose of good fats, along with several other vitamins and minerals. I like adding them to homemade trail mix, and they’re also good in cottage cheese, yogurt, in a smoothie, or as a topper for your oats. 



My pick: NOW Foods, Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Edamame

You likely know edamame best as an appetizer at sushi restaurants. But now food companies are turning edamame into snack form. A 1/3 cup amount offers 14 grams of protein, six grams of fiber, and more potassium than a banana.



My pick: Seapoint Farms Sea Salt Dry Roasted Edamame

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