Beans are little powerhouses that packed with protein and other nutrients that are key to weight loss and an overall healthy diet.
Low-calorie bean recipes don’t have to be boring. Get creative and turn your canned white beans into burger patties.
Most beans are going to give you 7 to 8 grams of protein per half-cup serving, the same as you would get in 1 ounce of lean ground beef, according to the USDA.
That’s not the final word on the nutrition in beans, though.
Check this out:
- Fiber: A serving of beans provides 7 to 9 grams of fiber. That’s a hefty amount, especially if you’re working toward getting the recommended daily amount of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Psst: Fiber is super important for weight loss and maintenance.)
- Iron: Iron is a nutrient some people have a hard time fitting into their diet. Beans are an overall good source, although content varies: Chickpeas and kidney beans have about 2 milligrams of iron per serving, for example, while white beans have 4 milligrams. The recommended daily allowance for iron is 8 milligrams for adult men and 18 for pre-menopausal adult women, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Other nutrients: Beans have B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc. According to October 2015 research published in Clinical Diabetes, beans are also cholesterol-free (because they’re a plant food) and naturally low in fat.
Have we convinced you of beans’ MVP status yet?
Fortunately, their versatility lends them to all sorts of dishes, from soups to casseroles, so you can plan a protein-packed, plant-based meal for just about every day of the week. Here are 10 low-calorie bean recipes with 10 or more grams of protein.
1. Spicy Bean Chili.
This chili provides more than 50 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber for women.
- Calories: 270
- Protein: 17 grams
Vegetarian chili is hearty, filling and packed with nutrition. One of the best things about vegetarian chili is the ability to change it up to how you like it.
This recipe calls for all kidney beans, but you could easily switch those out to any bean you like, such as pinto beans, black beans or a combo of all. You can also vary the spice level of this if you’re cooking for the kiddos.
This chili can be made with pantry staples and long-lasting vegetables like onions, garlic and peppers.
The fiber in this recipe is astounding at 17 grams. Only 5 percent of Americans are getting the daily recommended amount of fiber, according to a January 2017 article in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. You will be well on your way to getting your daily amount with this chili.
2. Avocado & Black Bean Burri
These burritos only take 5 minutes to prepare.
- Calories: 291
- Protein: 13 grams
When your meal only takes five minutes to make, there are no barriers to healthy eating. Canned beans makes this a snap to prep, and the avocado adds creaminess and healthy monounsaturated fats.
Choose low-sodium black beans and rinse to remove any excess sodium. The American Heart Association recommends that you should keep your daily sodium to under 2,300 milligrams, and less than that if you already have high blood pressure.
If you really want to jazz up your burrito, add other ingredients you might have in your pantry, fridge or freezer, such as jarred salsa, thawed frozen corn, hot sauce, sour cream or cheddar cheese.
3. White Bean and Walnut Vegetable Soup
Adding walnuts to this soup provides a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Calories: 436
- Protein: 19 grams
This soup recipe is for one, so if you’re cooking for a crowd, you need to put those math skills to work. Don’t worry, though — soup is very forgiving, so you can’t really mess this one up.
Not only will you probably use up all the root vegetables you have in the fridge, but you’ll also save time by using canned beans.
One thing’s for sure: You aren’t missing any protein in this soup by keeping it plant-based. Adding walnuts adds protein along with omega-3 fatty acids. The type of omega-3 fatty acid in walnuts is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). You will get more ALA in one ounce of English walnuts than you will in one tablespoon of flaxseeds, according to the National Institutes of Health.
4. California White Bean Burger
These plant-based burgers have almost as much protein as a beef burger.
- Calories: 427
- Protein: 17 grams
You don’t need meat to have a good burger packed with protein. In fact, this plant-based burger is just shy of the 22 grams of protein you would get in a beef burger — not too shabby.
White beans mash well and are perfect for plant-based burgers, but if you don’t have white beans in the pantry, black beans work well too.
This recipe lends itself to variations and substitutions you already have on hand. Fresh cilantro can be substituted for dried in a ratio of three to one, so for the 3 tablespoons of fresh cilantro, you would use 1 tablespoon of dried.
You could also sub out the mushrooms for corn, or add a quarter cup of cooked quinoa for more protein.
5. Vegan Cajun Red Beans
The vitamin C from the bell peppers and tomatoes in this dish to help your body absorb the iron from the beans.
- Calories: 361
- Protein: 14 grams
This dish comes straight out of your pantry and adds a few long-lasting veggies.
Quinoa is a complete protein and helps increase the amount of total protein when combined with the kidney beans. Your kidney beans are going to give you 2 milligrams of iron, and the vitamin C in the bell peppers and tomatoes are going to help your body absorb it better, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
If you find yourself without quinoa, you can swap it for brown rice. You can also use canned tomatoes in place of fresh. Don’t feel limited on making this delicious recipe by not having the exact ingredients on hand.
Pair this dish with either a green salad or seasonal fresh fruit for a delicious and healthy plant-based meal that will fill you up.
6. Vegan Couscous Verde Bowl with Black Beans
This entire meal comes together in less than 20 minutes.
- Calories: 311
- Protein: 13 grams
A pantry meal in less than 20 minutes? Believe it.
The recipe calls for fresh corn, but that’s hard to come by unless it’s in season, so canned corn works well here too. Add some canned black beans, jarred salsa verde and couscous, and you’ve just made yourself a Tex-Mex meal your family will love.
If you have the fresh vegetables, you can jazz this up with even more nutrition with chopped tomatoes, avocado, onions and radishes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that only one in 10 adults are getting enough fruits and vegetables every day. Canned, frozen and fresh vegetables all count toward getting enough in your diet.
7. Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili
This vegetarian chili has 17 grams of fiber and 16 grams of protein with just 172 calories.
- Calories: 172
- Protein: 16 grams
A slow-cooked chili may be just what you need right now. This vegetarian chili takes a little time to get the squash cooked, but it will be well worth the wait.
You probably have all of the ingredients on hand right now, and if you don’t have fresh butternut squash, you can slash the prep time and use frozen.
When you can get 16 grams of protein and 17 grams of fiber for only 172 calories, you get to have seconds.
Be mindful, though: If you’re not used to having that much fiber in one sitting, ease into it. Increase your fiber slowly to avoid gas, bloating and cramping, per Harvard Health Publishing. However, once you start eating the recommended amount every day, you’ll be good to go and won’t experience any side effects.
8. White Bean and Mushroom Pizza
Mushrooms are a natural plant-based source of vitamin D.
- Calories: 392
- Protein: 18 grams
You probably didn’t think pizza was in the cards when it comes to meals rich in protein and fiber that clock in under 500 calories, but this one is right on target.
Using pita rounds is a convenient and time-saving tip to get your pizzas done without having to make a crust. You can also sub out the fresh tomatoes for canned and use frozen spinach instead of fresh if that’s all you have.
A bonus here is the mushrooms, which are a great source of immune-supportive vitamin D. According to January 2015 research in the International Journal of Microbiology, mushrooms are the only natural plant-based source of vitamin D (other plant-based sources are fortified).
9. Tuna and White Bean Salad
This meal has 33 grams of protein and uses creamy canned cannelini beans.
- Calories: 284
- Protein: 33 grams
This one-bowl meal will lead you straight to the Mediterranean.
Cannellini beans are one of the creamiest canned beans you can find and go perfectly with seafood. So if you have a tuna packet or can in your pantry, pairing it with cannellini beans is a smart choice.
There are 33 grams of protein in this dish and 9 grams of fiber from the beans and veggies.
If you are watching your salt intake, the sodium is a little high, so it’s probably okay to cut out the extra addition of salt and use the saltiness from the tuna, beans and capers.
10. Fiesta Mexican Bean and Organic Corn Casserole
Dark red kidney beans contain a polyphenol called quercetin.
- Calories: 379
- Protein: 19 grams
If casseroles seem a little too far out of your wheelhouse, give this one a try. It’s a make-ahead and freezer-ready meal that only needs reheating in the microwave.
On board? Using canned kidney beans with the eggs takes the protein factor up higher.
Dark red kidney beans hold up well to freezing and, according to a November 2017 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, dark red kidney beans contain quercetin. Quercetin is a polyphenol present in many plant foods and it may help reduce inflammation, according to March 2016 research published in Nutrients.
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