For the past several months we have been focusing on Meal Prep and how helpful it is in ensuring you get good healthy meals instead of “unhealthy” takeout. Preparing ahead saves you time, money but prepping your veggies ahead of time can be a challenge since they don’t tend to last long in the fridge. The following seven vegetables are worth adding to your grocery list and you can have them prepped quite easily. They are full of protein, minerals and essential vitamins.
Lentils – they are great for taking the place of meat and are filling. “A single cup of cooked lentils contains roughly 18 grams of protein, plus huge doses of fiber and other minerals. They’re also one of the cheapest veggies money can buy.”
Prep made easy: Lentils are a perfect base for stews and curries. Buy them dried, and throw the entire bag in the slow cooker with veggie broth, tomatoes, and your favorite herbs and spices. If you buy them precooked and canned be cautious as they can be high in sodium.
Beans – beans are hearty and jam-packed with protein and fiber, says Caroline Susie, R.D., a Dallas-based dietitian. They’re also rich in iron, which is good news for anyone cutting down on iron-rich meat. Great bean options include black beans, cannellini beans, and chickpeas.
Prep made easy: You have two main options here: 1) Buy them dried, and cook according to package directions or by your preferred method. To soften dried beans, soak them in water or veggie broth overnight before cooking. 2) Buy them canned, and rinse them in water, which will help remove much of the excess sodium and keep them heart-healthy, Susie says. From there, stick them straight into the fridge. Toss them into salads, soups, or even pastas whenever the mood strikes, she says. Another great option is toasting chickpeas in the oven for a great anytime snack. Cover them with olive oil, your favorite herbs and spices, and pop in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for around 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
Soybeans – soybeans (aka edamame) are technically beans, but they are worth mentioning because they contain all nine essential amino acids that your body can only get from food. That’s rare to find in a single vegetable. Plus, one cup of cooked soybeans delivers 28 grams of protein.
Prep made easy: Buy them frozen to use whenever you’re in need of a quick, complete-protein snack, Susie says. They are a tasty addition to stir-fries, salads and you can combine them with black beans, corn, mango, chopped basil, olive oil, and salt for a tasty salad that will keep you feeling full for hours.
Brussels Sprouts – a single cup of Brussels sprouts still contains 3 grams of muscle-building protein.
Prep made easy: Brussels sprouts don’t have to be stinky. Throw them into a food processor raw, and hit blend to make next-level coleslaws you’ll want to eat with every meal, Susie says. No stink involved.
Broccoli – this veggie packs 2.6 grams of protein into a mere 31 calories. It’s perfect for anyone trying to boost their protein intake while cutting calories. They’re also rich in fiber, which will help keep you satisfied between meals, Susie says.
Prep made easy: “Buy broccoli fresh, and serve it steamed. According to 2009 research, steaming broccoli is the most nutritious way to cook the little green florets, helping to retain as many of the vitamins and minerals as possible.”
Asparagus – Forty-three percent of every stalk’s calories come from protein. Asparagus is also a great source of iron, which can be lacking in some vegetarian diets.
Prep made easy: Asparagus just might be the world’s easiest veggie to cook. Simply wrap the spears in paper towels, and microwave on high for about three minutes. You can adjust the time depending on how crunchy or soft you like your asparagus.
Quinoa – Technically, this one isn’t a vegetable—but quinoa is a seed that, left to its own devices, will grow into a vegetable. And like soybeans, quinoa is a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
Prep made easy: quinoa is easy to prepare, Susie says. Cook it on the stove—use 1¼ cups of water for every cup of quinoa—and then store it in the fridge to use all week. Quinoa can be mixed in salads, stuffed in peppers as well as added to soups and stews.
Resource: Aleisha Fetters; Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., author of Plant-Powered for Life; Caroline Susie, R.D.