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8 healthy protein choices

Protein is an essential nutrient in our diet and one of the building blocks of body cells. Here are the some of the healthiest – and most convenient – choices to add to your shopping basket.

One small thing: In the mood for a juicy steak? Opt for ostrich steaks – they’re far leaner and just as delicious!

It’s a fact – you need protein to keep your body functioning well. Protein forms an important component of every cell in your body and is needed to build and repair muscle, skin, nails and hair, and to produce hormones and enzymes. But it’s also important to eat this essential macronutrient in a form that doesn’t contain too much saturated fat, which can cause weight gain and clogged arteries.

So what foods contain protein?

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and tofu are made up of mostly protein. While legumes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed butters, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, soy beverages and yoghurt contain some protein. Foods like wholegrain breads, rice, pasta, quinoa and barley have very little protein.

Here are some of our top choices when it comes to protein:

1. Skinless chicken

Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are best, but you can still enjoy thighs and drumsticks if you remove the skin. Chicken contains around 30g of protein per 100g and it is lower in unhealthy saturated fats than red meat. Grill chicken breasts with fresh lemon, salt, pepper and herbs, shred, and enjoy in a salad, on wholewheat rolls, or with a side serving of your favourite veggies.

2. Tuna

Tuna is low in bad saturated fats and can boost your intake of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, as well as a variety of B-vitamins. Tuna is delicious in pastas, casseroles, salads or sandwiches, or prepare a seared tuna fillet with a side of veggies. Tuna has a similar protein content to chicken – 30g of protein per 100g.

3. Sirloin steak

If it’s steak you crave, a sirloin cut is your leanest option. Take care to remove the excess fat before cooking, and avoid adding a creamy sauce as this can push up the energy and fat content. Red meat contains around 27g of protein per 100g of meat.

4. Extra-lean beef mince

Mince is a delicious, versatile and protein-rich ingredient – think bolognaise sauce, pasta casseroles, or as a spicy taco or omelette filling.

5. Hake fillets

Hake is a wonderful source of lean protein – around 18g per 100g – and it’s also low in saturated fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. There are so many ways you can prepare hake – grill, pan-fry or bake, and serve with your favourite veggies or a fresh green salad.

6. Chickpeas

This humble legume packs a punch in the protein department. Weighing in at roughly 19g protein per 100g, chickpeas are a great meat alternative for vegetarians or vegans. Use them canned or dried, added to stir-fries or curries, or as the base ingredient in vegetarian burger patties – the list is endless.

7. Lentils

Lentils are not only affordable, but also a great substitute for meat in soups, pasta sauces and stews. Not only do they contain a respectable 9g of protein per 100g, but they are also rich in B-vitamins and fibre. Try lentils instead of mince in a cottage pie, soup or stew.

8. Eggs

Eggs are an easy way to add extra protein to your diet. They are also a great source of vitamin D and selenium. The amount of protein per egg ranges from 5g to 8.2g depending on its size, and roughly 10 to 16g of protein per 100g. They are such a versatile ingredient and you can make a nutritious meal in no time – scramble with mushrooms and tomatoes; whip up an omelette with a tasty filling of chicken or mince; or simply boil and add to a green salad.

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