We get it: You’re busy, and you don’t have a lot of time to make whole meals from scratch. Between family, work, and finding time to hit the gym every day, you’re forced to replace muscle-building meals with snacks. But by keeping muscle-building foods on hand, you’ll have healthy, tasty, and filling snacks whenever you want them.
Furthermore, many unhealthy foods sneak into your diet when you don’t have anything healthier on hand. (How many times have you stumbled into the kitchen at 1 a.m. and devoured an entire pint of ice cream because there wasn’t anything better in the fridge?) Same goes for the office, where leftover cupcakes can crowd out the foods you need.
This seed (yes, technically it’s a seed) is similar to a whole grain, but quinoa uniquely contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 220 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. It’s also brimming with numerous energy-producing B-vitamins, including zinc, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and iron.
Creative Uses: Of course you can enjoy quinoa as a simple warm or cold side dish. You can also top it over a salad, blend into flour, or add it to a smoothie for some texture.
2. Peanut Butter
Whether crunchy or smooth, this delicious pantry essential has about 100 calories, 4 grams of protein, and 8 grams of mainly unsaturated healthy fat per tablespoon. It also provides energy-boosting niacin, and antioxidants vitamin E and resveratrol (also found in red wine). Just be sure to buy peanut butter that isn’t loaded up with a ton of stabilizers, palm oil, sugar, or salt.
3. Canned Black Beans
Stock up in low-sodium black beans, so you can always have this plant-based protein on hand. One-half cup of canned black beans provides about 100 calories and 7.5 grams of protein. This legume is an excellent source of fiber, and a good source of calcium and zinc—both important for bone health.
Creative Uses: Combine with quinoa as a simple side, add it on top of a salad, add to broth-base soups, whip into a bean dip, chili, burgers, or use in baking.
One ounce of almonds (about 23 nuts) has 162 calories, 14 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein (the highest amount of protein in any tree nut). Almonds are also an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin E, providing 40% of the recommended daily amount.
Creative Uses: Add almonds to salads or hot cereal, or chop them up and add to Greek yogurt. Sprinkle on cooked vegetables or over a fruit salad. Make a homemade trail mix or add to cookie, muffin, or pancake batter.
One cup of this whole grain has about 150 calories, 3 grams of healthy unsaturated fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 6 grams of protein. It also provides numerous energy-boosting B-vitamins and iron—both important for transporting oxygen by way of the red blood cells.
Creative Uses: Make overnight oats, use oats in smoothies, or blend them into flour and use them in balls, bites and baked goods. Sprinkle over Greek yogurt or use as a substitute for bread crumbs.