We know protein ranks pretty high on the list of nutrition essentials. So when it comes to your meals, vegetables are generally cast in the supporting role while protein-laden meats take front and center stage.
As nutritionist Mari-Chris Savage, MS, RD, LD, ACE-CPT, explains, protein is critical for life. “Protein contains the small building blocks, amino acids, that make up all of the tissues as well as enzymes in your body. Protein is vital for your blood cells as well as immune cells. And your metabolism, which is the rate in which the body uses energy from food, is largely regulated by elemental protein.”
But you can think outside the box when it comes to ensuring you get enough of this life-giving nutrient. There are a handful of veggies that pack a more powerful protein punch than you might think.
Just one cup of peas has around eight grams of protein; try this savory and easy dish of our Light & Easy Pasta Primavera to incorporate this protein powerhouse into your menu.
One serving of broccoli boasts a little over four grams of protein. Up your intake of this crunchy green with this creamy Skinny Broccoli Salad using yogurt-based dressing to keep your calories in check.
With over four grams of protein in a medium sized baked potato, these hearty and starchy veggies are the perfect go-to for mealtime. For a healthy twist on the classic stuffed potato, make this Skinny Chili Cheese Potato.
One cup of Brussels will impart about three grams of protein, so stock up on these little green gems and make this Balsamic Orange Brussels Sprouts recipe for a satisfying and protein-filled meal.
A one-cup serving of cooked spinach contains 5.35 grams of protein. Cooked spinach has more protein than raw spinach because of the increased density per serving, so make this simple Savory Spinach and Ricotta Crepes to get your fill.
Cutting corn straight off the cob will give you around 4.2 grams of protein per cup. Make use of this summertime staple with this refreshing Creamy Corn Chowder.
Despite these more substantial veggie options, Savage wants us all to remember that vegetarian proteins alone don’t necessarily contain all of the essential amino acids necessary for adequate usage in the body. “It is important to understand the term ‘complementary sources,’” Savage says. “When paired together, one food item will supply the specific amino acid that the other is missing. For an example, beans and rice. Rice has several limiting amino acids levels, specifically lysine. Beans contain plenty of lysine but are deficient in methionine. Together, it is a match made in heaven.”