When it comes to protein, some foods steal the spotlight. Nuts, beans, and eggs are the obvious choices (not to forget protein powder). But what about vegetables? They might not be a major source, but they can still contribute to protein intake. And, considering how they’re full of nutrients, it would be a shame to overlook them.
Why Are Vegetables That Important?
Studies show that vegetables lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent strokes, lower the risk of eye and digestive problems, prevent certain types of cancer, and lower the risk of eye disease. They also have a positive impact on blood sugar, hence keeping your appetite in check.1 Besides, protein is important for growth and development. With vegetables, you get both your macros and micros easily.
But, if you’re someone who has to be forced to “eat their veggies,” you might not be too thrilled with the idea of super healthy, high-protein vegetables in your diet. So, how do you go about making them fun to eat?
First things first, look beyond a salad. Veggies don’t always need to be enjoyed in this way! Get creative and use vegetables in sauces, dips, and soups. This will help you ditch the processed stuff, as well. Getting creative with vegetables will make you a hit with children as well. Here are a few high-protein vegetables, each with a fun recipe to try.
Fun Recipes With High-Protein Vegetables
Often found in stir-fried rice and eaten as an appetizer in a pan-Asian restaurant, “edamame” is a fancier term for soybean. This green vegetable is a powerhouse of protein, with 18.46 grams of the macro in just a 1-cup serving.2 Here’s how you can make delicious edamame soup
- 340 grams frozen shelled edamame
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon (reduced sodium) soy sauce
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1/4 cup green onions (for topping)
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- In a saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.
- Add the vegetable broth, soy sauce, and edamame and bring to a boil.
- Cover the saucepan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the edamame is tender. This takes about 15–20 minutes.
- Add the spinach and cook until they’re soft.
- In batches, puree this mixture in a blender and return it to the saucepan to keep it warm.
- Top this with black pepper and spring onions.
Artichokes look intimidating, what with their armor-like exterior. And, just the thought of having to “meal prep” with them causes people to put it back on the supermarket aisles instead of in their baskets. But one large artichoke has 5 grams of protein.3 It is also rich in fiber, calcium, and magnesium. Here’s how you can make a fun artichoke dip to have with whole wheat crisps.
- 396.89 grams of rinsed artichoke hearts
- 2 cups of Parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for garnishing
- 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
- Cayenne pepper, ground pepper, and salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Pulse the artichoke hearts in a food processor.
- Add the Parmesan, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
- Puree all the ingredients until smooth.
- Add the mix to a baking dish and sprinkle Parmesan on top.
- Bake until golden on top or for about 15 minutes.
Give hummus a twist with peas. One cup has a staggering 13 grams of protein, making it a smart choice.4 Here’s how you can make pea hummus.
- 1 cup thawed frozen peas
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove (grated)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
- Blend all the ingredients in a food processor.
- Serve with crackers or toast.
From pasta to sandwiches, pesto can seriously transform a meal. So, why not add broccoli to this mix? It’ll blend right in. It adds 4.26 grams of protein in one stalk, along with calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.5 Here’s how you can make a broccoli pesto.
- 1 broccoli head
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup basil leaves
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Chop and steam the broccoli head.
- In a food processor, combine broccoli, olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, and basil leaves.
- Puree these ingredients until combined.
- Serve with pasta, crackers, or toast.
We’ve finally got some leafy greens on this list. And, kale is a powerhouse of protein with 4.28 grams in 100 grams. It is also rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium.6 A fun way to snack on kale is to eat them like chips instead of a bag of potato chips. Here’s how you can make them.
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- With a knife, carefully remove the leaves from the stems and tear into bite-size pieces.
- Wash and thoroughly dry the kale.
- Drizzle olive oil over the kale (you could also use an oil spray) and sprinkle salt over it.
- Bake until the edges are brown but not burnt.
6. Mung Bean Sprouts
Always associated with super healthy salads, the potential of mung bean sprouts is just being tapped into. They pack 3.4 grams of protein in just 100 grams. Give them a little twist with a mung bean sprouts spread.7
- 3 3/4 cups of water (divided)
- 1 cup sprouted mung beans
- 1/3 cup ground chia seeds
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup powdered peanuts
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Add mung beans and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
- Drain the mung beans and let them cool for 8 minutes.
- Add the mung beans with the remaining cup of water, ground peanuts, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt to food processor. Blend until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Add additional water, if necessary.
- Chill for 30 minutes before serving.
Popular additions to ramen, pizzas, and pasta, this one’s perhaps the easiest vegetable to cook with (and love) on this list. Mushrooms pack 3.1 grams of protein in just 1 cup and have all the essential amino acids. We’ve got a fun mushroom sauce that you can make to eat with potato mash or a steak.8
- ½ tablespoon butter
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 100 grams thinly sliced button mushrooms
- 100 ml milk
- ½ tablespoon corn flour (or any thickening agent)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil and butter in a pot over medium heat.
- Add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the sliced mushrooms and fry until they have reduced in size.
- Add the milk and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat and simmer for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve the cornflour in the remaining milk and drizzle it into the sauce. Let it simmer for another 2 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
- Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately over the cooked steaks. If not, cover and heat up when needed.
Sauces, dips, and dressings can really amp up a meal. By using fresh vegetables in place of processed ingredients, you can cut back on excess sodium and sugar. Who says healthy has to be boring?
|↑1||Vegetables and Fruits. Harvard TH Chan.|
|↑2||Basic Report: 11212, Edamame, frozen, prepared. United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑3||Basic Report: 11007, Artichokes, (globe or french), raw. United States Department Of Agriculture.|
|↑4||Basic Report: 11313, Peas, green, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑5||Basic Report: 11090, Broccoli, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑6||Basic Report: 11233, Kale, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑7||Basic Report: 11043, Mung beans, mature seeds, sprouted, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑8||Button Mushroom. National Horticulture Board.|