Healthy Eating: Veggies That Pack in the Protein

You need protein to build muscle, deliver oxygen to tissues, and maintain a healthy immune system.

Why Do You Need Protein?

Your body uses it to build your muscles and organs, deliver oxygen to cells all over your body, and keep your immune system working. Most people should get at least 10% of their daily calories from protein. That's about 56 grams for a man (based on 2,000 calories a day) and 46 grams for a woman (1,800 calories a day).

Meat is a good source of protein, but some kinds, like red meat are high in fat.

Where Do You Get It?

Meat is a good source, but you shouldn't overdo it, especially the fatty kind. It can make you gain weight and lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other health problems. You can get protein from other foods, too, like yogurt, eggs, beans, and even vegetables. In fact, veggies can give you all you need as long as you eat different kinds and plenty of them.

Soybeans are a good vegetarian source of protein.


Steam them with nothing but a sprinkling of salt for a protein-packed snack: up to 22 grams per cup. That's about what you'd get from a 6-ounce serving of chicken breast.

Tempeh is fermented soy and it makes a great substitute for meat.


It's made when bacteria feed on soybeans -- a process called fermentation, just like milk ferments to make cheese. It's often sold in blocks, and you can use it in place of meat in some recipes. It has about 17 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving (far more than its cousin tofu, made from soybean milk). Try a tempeh "hamburger" to scratch that fast-food itch and get a punch of protein in the process.

Lentils with carmelized onions and mushrooms can taste like meat.


A half-cup of cooked lentils has 9 grams of protein. Cook them with caramelized onions and wild mushrooms for a meat-like texture (without the meat).

Sugar snap peas are a good source of vegetable protein.

Sugar Snap Peas

They have about 5 grams of protein per cup. Stir-fry them with some tempeh, onions, and hot peppers for a spicy vegetarian feast that's protein-packed.

Baked potatoes topped with chili and low-fat ground turkey or tofu crumbles are packed with protein.


A large baked potato has about 8 grams of protein. But watch the butter and sour cream -- they can pile on the fat and calories. Try it with some chili made with low-fat ground turkey or tofu crumbles instead. And add lots of beans to that chili for an even bigger protein hit.

A side of broccoli rabe serves up 3 grams of protein per serving.

Broccoli Rabe

It has more than 3 grams of protein per serving. Sautee it with some garlic and onions for a great side dish that goes with just about anything.

A cup of cooked white mushrooms has 3.5 grams of protein.

White Mushrooms

A cup of cooked white mushrooms has about 3.5 grams of protein. Sautee them with garlic and chili flakes, and mix with pasta for a traditional Italian treat.

A large ear of corn has about 4 grams of protein.


A dab of butter and a sprinkle of salt and you have a yummy summer side. One large ear has almost 4 grams of protein.

Boiled artichokes with butter or olive oil and salt are a great source of protein.


The easiest way to have this is to boil one whole and sprinkle it with salt. You can drizzle a little butter or olive oil as well if you like. It's simple and delicious and has about 3.5 grams of protein.

Brussels sprouts with onions, garlic, and olive oil are a tasty source of protein.

Brussels Sprouts

These tiny cabbages pack 2 grams of protein into each half cup. Roast them with onions and garlic and a little olive oil. You can even add a bit of bacon for flavor and more protein.



  1. Thinkstock Photos
  2. Getty Images
  3. Thinkstock Photos
  4. Thinkstock Photos
  5. Thinkstock Photos
  6. Thinkstock Photos
  7. Thinkstock Photos
  8. Thinkstock Photos
  9. Thinkstock Photos
  10. Thinkstock Photos
  11. Thinkstock Photos
  12. Thinkstock Photos


  • Harvard Medical School: "How much protein do you need every day?"
  • Nemours Foundation: "Learning About Proteins."
  • United States Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database.
  • Bon Appetit: "The Faster Way to Soak Beans for Cooking."
WebMD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information