You don’t have to be a vegetarian to load up your plate with great vegie protein. Protein plays a very important part in the energy and muscle preservation needs of many athletes – it helps to repair, maintain and grow muscle tissue. So take your pick of the tasty varieties below…

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that although most athletes only need about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight in order to maintain muscle mass, they require 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram to actually build muscle mass. Runners require slightly less, but protein is still vital for endurance athletes.

 

By all means, eat your usual slab of beef, chicken or pork, but then ramp up your protein levels with these tasty vegies that all have more than 2g of protein per serving shown. Note that if you boil a vegie it strips a little of the protein content.

 

1. Amaranth leaves: Although the amaranth plant has grain-like seeds which are often milled into a flour, the leaves have a spicy, pungent flavour. Eat them steamed or sautéed. One cup aramanth leaves = 2.5g protein.

2. Artichoke: Eat the hearts in salads, as part of an antipasti platter, or tossed through a pasta. 100g artichoke = 3.3g protein.

protein-packed vegies3. Asparagus: Indulge in early spring. Roast it, steam it or grill it lightly, and use as a side or in salads, pastas and stir-fries.100g asparagus = 2.2g protein.

4. Beetroot: A great side at a barbecue or used in salads, they also add sweetness to soups. 140g of beetroot = 2.3g protein.

5. Bok choy: Traditionally used in Asian stir-fries, this leafy veg also makes a delicious side when steamed and lightly dressed in sesame oil or soy sauce.150g bok coy = 2.25g protein.

6. Broad beans: This protein powerhouse is terrific podded and used in stews and salads. 100g broad beans = 8g protein.

7. Broccoli: Steamed broccoli has a mild flavour. Best used in stir-fries, soups and as a side. 100g broccoli = 2.8g protein.

8. Brussels sprouts: This cool-season vegetable is great steamed and tossed in a little butter, or roast them with speck for a more-ish nutty, smoky flavour. 100g brussels sprouts = 3.4g protein.

9. Butter beans: These legumes are an awesome match with tomatoes. Sauté a chopped onion and add canned or fresh tomatoes, fresh garden herbs (such as oregano and parsley) and butter beans. Season to taste and serve with your favourite cut of meat or sausages. 100g lima beans = 8g protein.

10. Cauliflower: This white member of the Brassica family can be used steamed or baked as a side or added to soups, stews, and even salads. I cup chopped cauliflower = 2.1 grams protein.

protein-packed vegies11. Corn: Corn can be used in a whole stack of dishes. Add to tacos and enchiladas, steam or barbecue cobs for a side, or blend into soups. Corn is also a good source of potassium and phosphorus. 100g yellow corn = 16g protein.

12. Eggplant: Exotic eggplant is salted at least half an hour before cooking to rid the plant of excess moisture, causing it to soak up cooking liquids, which makes it less bitter and more tender. Chargrill it on the barbecue for a tasty side, or place it in a vegie lasagne. 200g eggplant = 2g protein.

13. Kale: This super veg has a slightly bitter taste. It is ideal steamed or used in soups, pastas and green smoothies. I cup steamed kale = 2.5g protein.

protein-packed vegies14. Mushrooms: These meaty veg make a great addition to a stack of dishes. Steamed, baked, made into a sauce or used in pasta and rice dishes, there is no end to the versatile mushy. 1 cup chopped/sliced mushrooms = 2.2g protein.

15. Peas: Another legume, steam them or eat them fresh in salads or as a healthy snack. 100g steamed green peas = 5g protein.

16. Potato: The potato gets a bad rap as being a high-kilojoule, low-nutrient vegetable, but it contains fewer kilojoules than pasta or rice. If you’re watching your carbs, pick up some low-carb Carisma or Spud-Lite potatoes. 1 small potato = 3.4g protein.

17. Soybeans: Well-known as the go-to non-meat source of protein, these legumes are great either roasted or steamed. Why not make a dahl for a healthy protein-packed snack for dipping vegie sticks into? 100g soybeans = 35g protein.

18. Sweet potato: Baked or boiled and mashed, sweet potatoes are a fab alternative to regular potatoes. 150g orange sweet potato = 2.4g protein.

 

How do you like to cook and use these vegies? Share your tips in the comments below.

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