When you’re looking to add more grams of protein to your diet, you’re likely to grab protein powders, animal protein, like meat, chicken breast, or fish, and some plant protein alternatives, like tofu or lentils. Yet, some green veggies can actually be a great addition to your diet in terms of meeting your RDA requirements for the day. For instance, you can bulk up on high protein vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and leafy greens.
“Vegetables can contribute several grams of protein per serving, adding a boost of filling fiber and protein to meals and snacks,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. Many vegetables contain 3 grams (or more) of protein per full cup raw or half cup cooked, so a little can surely add up.
And it’s even more important to eat high protein vegetables if you don’t eat meat. “It’s especially helpful for those following a vegan eating pattern with high physical activity levels to be mindful of where they can add protein boosters throughout the day, and vegetables can be considered,” she says.
Here are the best veggies to go for if you’re looking to increase protein in the diet and load up on those greens.
These veggies taste great raw and shredded in a salad with a bit of vinaigrette, slivered almonds, or pistachios and some cheese, like manchego or pecorino. Or you can roast them and make them super crispy with a delicious oil or glaze. You can even make chips from the leaves.
And beyond just being tasty, brussels sprouts are high in the amount of protein, says Jones, with 3 grams so protein per cup. So, enjoy them year round when you’re looking to add more high protein vegetables to your plate. Try making a stir-fry in the winter with soy sauce or peanut sauce.
“Asparagus contains 3 grams of protein per cup and is also high in folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K,” says Jones, so they can fill you up for longer and help you get those amino acids in. “Enjoy grilled asparagus as a side dish with your favorite fish and grilled potatoes or chop it finely to add into an omelet with fresh herbs,” she says. As for potatoes, they have a good amount of protein too, with a 3.5 ounce potato containing 3 grams.
Grilling asparagus is a great idea for the summer too, when you want fresh salads and more green sides, as they taste great charred and work well with other summertime produce.
Green peas are underrated in terms of veggies, but they do have good protein per serving. Half a cup of cooked peas offers four grams of protein, and you can easily add peas to a variety of foods, like salads, burritos, pasta dishes, eggs, and more. The same goes for other beans and legumes too, like chickpeas, for example.
“They’re a great addition to vegetable soups too to improve protein and fiber content, enhancing satiety, or you can blend them with avocado to increase the protein in your guacamole,” says Jones. Or whip up a lentil based soup (which is high in protein as a good legume option) and add peas and some chicken. It will have fiber, protein, and iron to keep hunger at bay.
Spinach is excellent for an easy side dish with meat, tofu, or fish, or you can even make it the base for dips, soups, salads, and more. “A half cup of greens like spinach offers a good amount of protein, with 3 grams of protein per serving. Add to a tofu scramble, in a veggie sandwich, or include in a warm grain bowl,” says Jones. You can also make a salad with toasted chickpeas or lentils, as well as artichokes.
Much like spinach, kale is another great vegetable that offers essential amino acids while being low carb and versatile. As for protein content, it has 3 grams of protein in 1 cup raw. It’s a great leafy green you can mix with green peas in a soup or use for salads or in eggs. Plus, there’s vitamin C, with 89 percent DV in 1 cup of chopped raw kale.
“Broccoli and broccoli rabe offer 3 grams per serving, too. While broccoli is more commonly consumed in a variety of ways, broccoli rabe has more bitter tones, so pairs well with sweet and acidic flavors,” says Jones. Roast it with lemon and olive oil to have with some white fish, or increase the nutrient density of your pizza by using it as a topping. Or add it to pasta, using chickpeas as the type of pasta alternative to make it more low carb friendly and protein-packed.
“If enjoyed on a sandwich with high protein sprouted bread, the four grams of protein provided by one cup of portobello mushroom can contribute to a moderate protein meal,” says Jones. Mix mushrooms with green peas as a topping for a baked potato, or make a stir-fry with mushrooms and other high protein vegetables, as well as a meat or plant protein source. “Plus, when UV treated, mushrooms also offer vitamin D, so they’re a win for vegans,” she adds.