Healthy Living in the North

Love your lentils!

Between the busyness of internship and a limited student budget, I’m always on the hunt for simple and affordable recipes. I often find that I turn to lentils since they can be used in so many recipes – both in addition to meat or as a meat substitute.

Why lentils?

Lentils come in a wide variety of colours including green, red, orange, yellow, brown, and black. They are mild in flavour, ranging from sweet to earthy. This variety allows them to be used in many dishes. Dry lentils store well in a cupboard or pantry, so you can buy them in bulk.

Lentils are great because they are a hearty and cheap source of protein, fibre, folate, and iron.

Speaking of iron, it is important to have good sources of iron in our diets every day. In our bodies, iron carries oxygen through the blood. Not getting enough can leave you feeling tired and cranky.

How your body uses iron

  • Iron from meat, fish, and poultry is easily absorbed.
  • Iron from other sources (eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and tofu) is not as easily absorbed, but pairing these foods with foods rich in vitamin C helps the body absorb more of the iron.
  • If you don’t eat much (or any) meat, it is important to regularly eat a variety of plant-based sources of iron, such as lentils.

Basic lentil cooking

I find it helps to have a simple recipe for cooking lentils. That way, I can cook a big batch and add them to different meals. Cooked lentils can be refrigerated for 3-5 days. They also freeze well.

Cooking time for lentils ranges from 20-45 minutes, depending on the type. Check the lentil package for specific instructions, but the general process is:

  • Add lentils and water (use a 2:1 ratio; so for 1 cup of lentils, add 2 cups of water). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until soft.
  • Remove from heat and strain

How to use lentils

Lentil soup in a bowl

Lentils are great because they are versatile, hearty, and a cheap source of protein, fibre, folate, and iron! Try them in Laurel’s simple lentil soup!

Laurel’s simple lentil soup

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, with juices
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into small strips
  • ¾ cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Dash of chili flakes
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, and thyme. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Add salt, pepper, soy sauce, and chili flakes to taste.
  3. Spoon into bowls. If desired, top with the Parmesan cheese.

(Northern Health Dietitians love lentil soup. For more recipes, see here and here and here)

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel is a dietetic intern with Northern Health. She wanted her internship to be a rich learning experience, but also an adventure, so she decided to move to beautiful northern B.C. to learn and explore. Laurel is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. When she’s not working, you can find her cooking, swimming, hiking, or camping.

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