Protein doesn't have to mean meat, poultry and fish. If you always pick broccoli bites over buffalo wings, smart veggie choices can ensure you get enough of this critical nutrient, which acts as a building block for healthy muscles and organs.
First, you need to know how much protein you should actually be eating. The U.S. Dietary Administration recommends a daily allowance of 0.8 grams for every kg of body weight. As a 190-pound man, I converted my weight to about 86 kg, which means I need about 68.8 grams of daily protein. Alternatively, you should strive to get 10 to 35% of your daily calories from healthy protein sources. If you prefer to get your protein from produce, these are the best veggies to increase your intake.
While I battled with Brussels sprouts as a boy, today you'll find me loading my plate with these bite-sized bombs of beneficial vitamins and minerals. The secret to success? Bring out the sweet, mild flavor with a gentle saute, since Brussels sprouts can become unpleasantly bitter and mushy after just a minute too long on the heat. As a reward for giving this unpopular veggie another try, enjoy 4 grams of both protein and fiber in a single cup. Brussels sprouts are also packed with vitamin K and potassium.
If you always order these smooth, salty soybeans at your favorite sushi restaurant, it's time to start prepping edamame at home for a protein-packed snack. It's easy to steam or microwave as a side dish or light lunch, and it contains more than 18 grams of protein in a single cup.
Your days of eating lentil soup only once a year are over. This incredible superfood has 16 grams of protein per cup and cooks up quickly (try 15 minutes!), no overnight soaking requires. Substitute green, red or brown lentils for meat, grains or beans in just about every dish, from tacos to salads to hummus.
While green peas are often overlooked, you can mix these miniature veggies into most meals for more than 8 grams of fiber and 35% of your recommended daily allowance of fiber in a single cup. Stir these superstar spheres into stir-fries, spaghetti sauce, salads and soup.
Spuds certainly aren't couch potatoes when it comes to protein content. A single white baked potato contains 8 grams of protein, and you can add even more nutritional value by topping it with a bean-based chili instead of the calories and fat that come from butter, bacon bits and sour cream. Red potatoes are also a smart choice, with 7 grams of protein and generous B6 and dietary fiber in every serving. The latter nutrients help the body process protein.
The health benefits of spinach are certainly no secret. One cup of cooked leafy greens has 7 grams of protein along with fiber, vitamins, minerals, calcium and folic acid. You can put a handful of spinach in smoothies, salads and soups or cook it up as a side dish or light lunch with a bit of garlic and lemon.
Nothing's sweeter in the summer than a fresh ear of corn straight from the steamer. While it's not the most nutritious if you slather it with butter, sweet yellow corn has almost 5 grams of protein in a single serving. Switch up
Nutritionists recommend spreading out your protein intake about evenly across your daily meals. You should aim to get your RDA of this nutrient from a mix of veggies, grains, beans and legumes as well as fish and lean meats if you eat animal products.