Fuel Your Fitness: Nutritious Dining at Duke

May 7, 2023
Science Magazine

Whether you're a fitness enthusiast or not, one thing is clear: protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a vital role in the body's overall health and function. In particular, when it comes to gaining muscle mass, protein takes the spotlight among other macronutrients as the primary building block for muscle tissue. When we consume protein-rich foods, such as chicken, fish, tofu, and beans, our body breaks down the proteins into amino acids, which are used to repair and build new muscle tissue. In addition, protein also helps to regulate metabolism, support immune function, and maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails. So if you're looking to bulk up or simply maintain a healthy diet, be sure to incorporate plenty of protein-rich foods into your meals.

People who exercise often prioritize both maintaining a healthy lifestyle and building muscle mass. These pursuits can be challenging for Duke students, who can encounter issues finding balanced, cost-effective meals that can also provide essential protein nutrition. Luckily, Vertices has compiled a list sourced from NetNutrition of cost-effective, high-protein options to help you reach your fitness goals without compromising your overall health.

Above: The Brodhead Center (WU), the central dining hub on campus, featuring 13 unique restaurants. Image courtesy of Eileen Chen.

J.B.'s Roasts and Chops

At J.B.'s, you can expect a menu filled with delicious wood-fired classics. Notably, select signature dishes are offered with generous 10 oz. portions of proteins. With its wide selection of options, J.B.'s is the ideal destination for health-conscious students seeking a satisfying and balanced meal.

  • Grilled Chicken Breast: $7.10, 54g protein, 280 Calories
  • Grilled Salmon: $13.15, 42g protein, 320 Calories
  • Flank Steak: $12.60, 26g protein, 270 Calories
  • Braised Beef Brisket: $12.60, 54g protein, 350 Calories

* Nutrition and price information based on 5 oz. portion.

The Farmstead

Farmstead is known for offering locally-sourced foods, including classic dinner options like mac and cheese and potatoes. Their roasted turkey is an especially flavorful dish. To enhance your meal, you can complement it with sides from Sprout next door.

  • Herb Roasted Turkey: $7.75, 40g protein, 270 Calories

Panda Express

If you’re on a tighter budget, Panda Express is a top choice for its affordability and value. One of their most popular dishes, the Grilled Teriyaki Chicken, not only satisfies your taste buds but also provides a substantial amount of protein. It's a win-win if you’re seeking both taste and nutrition.

  • Grilled Teriyaki Chicken: $4.90, 36g protein, 300 Calories

Panera Bread

When it comes to protein-packed meals, Panera is a standout. They offer an array of options that boast over 40g of protein, making the eatery a great choice if you’re seeking a protein-rich diet. Some of their impressive high-protein choices include:

  • Chef’s Signature or Spicy Take Chicken Sandwich: $13.19, 40g protein, 580 Calories
  • Green Goddess Cobb w/ Chicken Salad: $13.29, 40g protein, 500 Calories
  • Turkey and Avocado BLT on Sourdough: $13.19, 43g protein, 850 Calories
  • Mediterranean Bowl w/ Chicken: $12.89, 31g protein, 670 Calories

*Nutrition and price information for all based on whole-sized portions.


Craving Indian food? With a diverse menu featuring a variety of authentic Indian dishes, Tandoor is sure to satisfy your cravings. From aromatic curries to succulent tandoori dishes, there are plenty of options to choose from.

  • Chicken 65: $10.95, 23g protein, 180 Calories

Plus, a vegetarian option:

  • Panir Saag: $9.95, 14g protein, 260 Calories

*Price information based on Small Combo order.

The Devil’s Krafthouse

If you're planning to visit Krafthouse, you'll be pleased to know that their protein-packed salads, featuring options like salmon, chicken, steak, and more, provide a substantial punch of at least 30g of protein. Among their many options, the Arugula Grilled Chicken and Goat Cheese Salad is a fan favorite.

  • Arugula Grilled Chicken and Goat Cheese Salad: $14.60, 58g protein, 460 Calories
  • Flame Grilled Chicken Sandwich: $12.50, 53g protein, 330 Calories
  • Grilled Mahi Mahi Wrap: $14.60, 35g protein, 600 Calories

Plus, a few vegan options:

  • Vegan Crispy Garden Tenders: $10.99, 28g protein, 340 Calories
  • Impossible Burger: $17.99, 17g protein, 280 Calories


If you’re looking for vegan protein options, make sure not to overlook Sprout, a beloved and reliable destination for delicious plant-based meals. Among their most popular choices are their high-protein offerings, including:

  • Meatless (Soy) Chicken Nuggets: $8.00, 17g protein, 200 Calories
  • Black Bean Burger Sandwich: $9.25, 17g protein, 430 Calories
  • Falafel Wrap: $9.25, 24g protein, 690 Calories

Above: Protein-rich foods to fuel your health. Image courtesy of Nuts.com.

Whether you're a meat-eater, vegan, or vegetarian, Duke has a variety of cost-effective, nutritious protein-rich options available to support your health and fitness journey — you just have to know where to look!

Related Articles