In the fast-paced whirlwind of school days, finding the right snacks to fuel our bodies can be a challenge. Whether you’re a student burning the midnight oil or an athlete looking to optimize performance, one thing remains constant: the need for quality nutrition. And at the heart of any nutritious diet lies the powerhouse macronutrient — protein.

Protein isn’t just for bodybuilders and gym buffs; according to Kris Gunnars from the popular health information source Healthline Media, protein is an essential component for everyone, aiding in muscle repair, boosting metabolism and keeping hunger at bay. But with the plethora of snack options available, how do you ensure you’re getting enough protein without sacrificing taste or convenience?

Doctors recommend that the average person leading a sedentary lifestyle should consume around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, and this amount increases to 1-1.2 grams for those who exercise regularly. This would mean an active individual weighing 150 pounds, or 68 kilograms, would need to consume 68-82 grams of protein per day. If this is averaged over the course of three meals and three snacks, each intake would have to contain an average of 11-14 grams of protein. This may not seem like a huge number, but looking at common snack foods like fruits, cookies, chips and various drinks, one will find that it can be quite challenging to find options that will satisfy the recommended protein amount.

I have searched for and personally tried a variety of protein-rich snacks ranging from savory to sweet, crunchy to creamy, and I can say there’s a high-protein snack to suit every palate and preference. Personally, I usually fall into the sweet snacks camp, but there are a couple of savory snack options that I still consistently enjoy and will be sure to include them in this review.

One of these is actually my most common choice: the Pacific Gold beef jerky. The greatest aspect of this snack is that it’s sold at Costco in individual packs that are easy to take anywhere, require absolutely no preparation and contain 15 grams of protein. I’ve also been recently introduced to the turkey jerky made by Costco’s original brand, Kirkland Signature, and was not disappointed. Their recipe is a bit on the sweeter side but has a subtle flavor. I found that this jerky could even be incorporated into meals such as rice dishes, on top of salad and in omelets. This option contains a bit less protein but still quite fulfilling at 10 grams per ounce.

Another easy to-go savory option is hard boiled eggs. Many of us have heard of the “egg ick,” but I think that this issue can commonly be fixed with the correct preparation of the eggs. First, consider what texture you want your eggs to be. I prefer mine to be similar to the ones you often find on top of ramen. With a solid egg white and a soft, somewhat runny yolk, these small bites can even be called beautiful. I like to top mine with salt and Trader Joe’s Pizza Sprinkle Seasoning Blend for a flavorful combination. Another option is to marinade your eggs, as is commonly done in Asian cuisine, with a dish called mayak gyeran. The eggs are marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions, garlic, gochugaru and other additional ingredients to make an irresistible addition to your meals or on their own. A serving of two eggs will provide you with 12 grams of complete protein, as well as healthy fats. 

Of course the savory snack list would be incomplete without cheese. Mozzarella, asiago, parmesan, cheddar and many more varieties can now be found at most grocery stores in small, individually packaged portions. And you don’t necessarily have to feel like you’re in kindergarten by getting cheese sticks — you can opt for the more sophisticated “snacking cheeses” by BelGioioso. I like to combine them with nuts and grapes to recreate the (often overpriced but so enticing) “protein boxes” you find near checkout displays in cafes and grocery stores. Grabbing two of these snacking cheeses can provide up to 15 grams of protein.

Switching over to the sweeter snacks, I’ll start with the snack that most commonly pops into people’s heads when they hear “high protein:” protein bars. I have searched far and wide to find a protein bar that doesn’t get stuck in my throat, make my stomach ache or just taste like cardboard, and I am proud to say that I have been successful. In fact, I have found bars that are not just tolerable, but ones that I am inclined to treat as dessert and am just a bit obsessed with. The first is Barebells, which come in a variety of flavors such as cookies and cream, chocolate dough, creamy crisp, salted peanut caramel and many more. These bars have a soft texture that cannot be beaten by any brand (that I know of so far), and most people compare them to candy bars. They typically consist of a protein layer, topped with caramel or chocolate fudge and coated in a chocolate shell with pieces of nuts or crispy puffs and contain 20 grams of protein. They also have both whey and plant protein-based options. They can be a bit pricey compared to other bars on the market, but I would highly recommend at least giving them a try if you’re looking for your new favorite protein bar. 

My next favorite is the Perfect Bar. These bars are fully vegan, contain anywhere from 9-17 grams of protein and also have the additional nutritional value of healthy fats. These bars use nut butters as their base and add over 20 superfoods, packing in an extremely dense nutrient profile into such a small volume. They come in flavors such as dark chocolate chip peanut butter, salted caramel, dark chocolate almond, chocolate hazelnut crisp and more. Once again, these bars can be a bit pricey, but I have often been able to find them at Costco, which turns out to be much more wallet friendly.

If you prefer the convenience of snacks that do not require chewing — you know, for those Zoom meetings with a microphone picking up every noise — I would recommend Fairlife. This brand offers lots of options of ultra-filtered, lactose-free milk, which is a great complete protein source. You can buy their milk as you normally would at the grocery store. You can also try their Core Power line, which makes vanilla, chocolate and strawberry banana flavored protein drinks containing 26 grams of protein in the original version or 42 grams of protein in the Elite version. And, of course, I have to shout out Costco once again for carrying their chocolate Fairlife Nutrition Plan drinks, which contain 30 grams of protein per serving.

The final high-protein snack I would like to suggest will always have my heart, at any time of day and in nearly any form: yogurt. Most people have heard of the benefits of Greek yogurt, but I encourage you to look a little deeper in the dairy aisle to find Icelandic-style yogurt, also called Skyr, which can contain up to 20 grams of protein in less than a cup. I personally enjoy the brands siggi’s and Icelandic Provisions. This creamy and tart snack can be mixed with a multitude of different toppings, ranging from berries to peanut butter to chocolate to nuts and many, many more. While trying out millions of combinations, I’ve started to think that if it can be an ice cream flavor, it can probably be mixed into yogurt. Yogurt is extremely versatile and comes in different flavors, textures and levels of tartness, making it quite likely that any dairy lover will be able to find one that they enjoy. 

With these options, I hope to bring to you a world in which hitting your protein goals doesn’t involve choking down dry protein bars or downing powder-based protein shakes. And even if you’re not actively thinking about how much protein you consume, I would still recommend giving these snacks a try just because they’re delicious, and you might just get a little extra benefit from them as well.