Considering going plant-based? From lentils to broad beans to sweet corn, dietitian Melissa Meier shares 10 vegetables to include in your new diet – that pack a protein punch.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know the hold the words ‘plant-based’ had on the health and wellness industry in 2020. And surprise, surprise – the trend doesn’t look like it’s going to fade any time soon.
For the most part, I’m all for it. Anything that encourages people to eat more plants (read: fruit, veg, legumes, nuts and seeds) is a good thing in my books.
The problem with plant power, however, is that there’s the temptation to gravitate towards heavily processed convenience items over humble wholefoods – especially when it comes to protein (think: vego sausages and facon). These alternatives aren’t exactly my definition of healthy fodder because they’re often high in saturated fat and sodium, which is bad for heart health.
Truth is, you can get plenty of protein from real food, without needing to turn to super processed meat replacements. Case in point: these ten everyday veggies that pack a stack of protein, naturally.
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1. Brown lentils
15g protein per cup cooked (150g)
Small in size but big on nutrition, lentils (like all legumes) not only offer plant-based protein but gut-loving fibre and low-GI carbs, too. Try them in a salad or in place of beef mince in dishes like shepherd’s pie or spaghetti bolognese.
2. Black beans
12.3g protein per cup cooked (150g)
Another type of legume, black beans also offer the winning trio of muscle-building protein, gut-loving fibre and low-GI carbs. I love to use them in homemade burrito bowls and Mexican-style rice dishes.
3. Red kidney beans
11.9g protein per cup cooked (150g)
A staple in my kitchen, red kidney beans are part and parcel of my go-to chilli con carne. Apart from their outstanding macronutrient profile, they also provide a hit of energising iron and zinc for wound healing.
4. Red lentils
11.6g protein per cup cooked (150g)
Offering all the goodies of brown lentils, red lentils are the perfect legume for thickening soups and stews in colder months. They’re also a popular choice for a traditional Indian dhal. Delish.
5. Broad beans
11.1g protein per cup cooked (150g)
Keep a bag of frozen broad beans in your freezer and use them as you would green peas – simply boiled is lovely, or you could get a little more fancy and add them to a salad or smash them on toast.
9.5g protein per cup cooked (150g)
A can of chickpeas is a must-have healthy pantry item. You can use them with baked veggies, in homemade hummus, falafels, salads or roasted for snacks. They’re incredibly versatile and oh-so good for you.
7. Green peas
7.8g protein per cup cooked (150g)
The last legume on this list, this traditional freezer staple is not only a wonderful source of plant-based protein, but also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that supports healthy eyes.
7.1g protein per cup cooked (150g)
A veggie from the brassica family, broccoli is chock-full of disease-fighting antioxidants. It offers many important micronutrients, too, including folate for mums to be and Vitamin C to support your immunity.
9. Sweet corn
6.5g protein per cup cooked (150g)
A juicy corn on the cob can add a decent dose of protein to plant-based main meals. Add them as a side to BBQs or a topping for taco Tuesdays.
10. Brussels sprouts
6g protein per cup cooked (150g)
Yes, humble little sprouts can boost your protein intake, too. My top tip is to sauté or bake them in lots of extra virgin olive oil – trust me, when cooked like this, they’re nothing like the awful boiled sprouts your mum forced you to eat as a littley.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.