How to include lentils in healthy New Year’s meal plans

It’s New Year’s and also The Irish Times Health Month, so I’ll be sharing easy, delicious, and healthy recipes for the next few weeks. One of my main goals over the past few years has been to not omit any particular food groups, but rather to eat less of some things and more of what works for us. Restrictive diets are hard to stick to in the real world. We need a more sensitive and realistic approach in the long run.

Stocking your cold room and refrigerator with more healthy options is a great way to ensure success. Whole foods like rice, beans, lentils and a wide variety of spices are essential. Having a list of trusted recipes that you know the whole family will eat is another key to changing the way you eat.

Fried black beans are one of our favorite dinners that everyone in my family eats and loves. I keep a lot of canned black beans in the cupboard to make sure they can be made.

Lentils are also high on healthy food charts, they are a really great source of plant-based protein, low on the glycemic index, and rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are rich in prebiotic fibers that enhance digestive function and nourish the good bacteria in your gut.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate lentils into your daily food choices. They are great in soups and salads and can be pureed or mashed to make a great dip or side dish. Starchy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta or potatoes can often be replaced with lentils. Or opt for red lentil pasta for the best of both worlds.

Red and yellow lentils are more likely to degrade and are great for soups, while sturdy black lentils retain their compact shape and are great for burgers or salads. One of my favorite simple dinners is the dhal with lots of fresh cilantro. I add Puy lentils to ground beef when I make bolognese sauce, lasagna, or shepherd’s pies. It makes the meat go farther, so I can often freeze meat twice on a busy night.

This soup is a real warm meal in a bowl. It is gently spiced with cumin and chili, with sweet carrots and tomatoes as well, with fresh lemon juice. It is similar to the famous Armenian red lentil soup, a soup popular throughout the Middle East with lemon juice or sumac. They all contain similar ingredients using cumin, carrots, potatoes and lentils.

Serve this healthy soup with a little yogurt and brown bread, crunchy white bread, or flatbread.

Recipe: Red Lentil and Lemon Soup

Leave a Comment