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.

Share

Foodie Friday: Lentils

Lentil health and nutrition infographic

Lentils, health, and nutrition

As the cold weather moves in, it’s so satisfying to warm up with a bowl of something hot. Chilies, soups, and stews are a staple for many families and can be a great source of nutrition if done right. By pairing the veggies of your choice with a source of protein and fibre, you can have a complete meal ready and on the table in no time at all!

In a past blog post, I spoke about my love for the Oh She Glows food blog. I recently made their Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup and was not disappointed!

This soup is a great example of a hearty, delicious, complete meal that contains no meat; in fact, it contains no animal products at all! Going “meatless” for one or two meals a week is a great way to challenge yourself and your family to explore new flavours and try new recipes. Reducing consumption of meat, red meat in particular, may also lower your risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers.

Lentils are one of my favourite meatless sources of protein. One serving (100g) of lentils contains the same amount of protein as one serving of steak (26g), but with only 1.5g of fat (the steak has 18g), 18g of fibre, and half of your daily recommendation of folate and iron! If you’re hooked on lentils after trying this Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup, head on over to lentils.ca for more recipes and lentil-related nutrition tips.

Red lentils

Lentils are a great meatless source of protein!

Glowing Spiced Lentil Soup

From: Oh She Glows

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups (280 g) diced onion (1 medium/large)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 (15 oz/398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup (140 g) uncooked red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 cups (875 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, to taste (for a kick of heat!)
  • 1 (5 oz/140 g) package baby spinach
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice, or more to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.
  2. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom until combined. Continue cooking for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes (with juices), entire can of coconut milk, red lentils, broth, salt, and plenty of pepper. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne, if desired, to taste. Stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring to a low boil.
  4. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer, uncovered, for about 18 to 22 minutes, until the lentils are fluffy and tender.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Add the lime juice to taste. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted bread and lime wedges.
Sarah Anstey

About Sarah Anstey

Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sarah moved to Prince George in 2013 to pursue her career as a Registered Dietitian. Since then, she has enjoyed developing her skills as a Clinical Dietitian with Northern Health, doing her part to help the people of northern B.C. live healthy and happy lives. Sarah looks at her move to Prince George as an opportunity to travel and explore a part of Canada that is new to her, taking in all that B.C. has to offer.

Share

Foodie Friday: Show your love this Valentine’s Day … with a pulse!

Brownies on a plate with pear and milk.

Add a little pulse to your diet this year! Toss chickpeas into a salad, add lentils to your soup, or try pureeing black beans into your new favourite brownie recipe!

The United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of the Pulse!

What is a pulse you ask?

A pulse is the edible seed of a plant in the legume family. The most common pulses are dried peas, beans, lentils and chick peas. Why should you eat them this Valentine’s Day (and on a regular basis)? Because they’re good for you! Now you are probably thinking that dietitians say that all the time, right?

Well, it’s true! They are good for you and you should also eat them because they taste great, they’re inexpensive, easy to use and they are jam-packed with fibre, protein and iron, among other lesser-known nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and phosphorous.

The big deal about fibre these days (in this world of ultra-processed foods) is that most Canadians aren’t eating enough of it! Pulses have two types of fibre – the one that promotes healthy digestion and regularity and the other type that helps to lower cholesterol levels and keep blood sugars in check. All of this in a measly, little old bean!

Here are a few ideas that might help you to put a little pulse into your diet:

  • Toss chickpeas into a salad of greens and grains for a quick standalone meal.
  • Add lentils to your soup or casserole to amp up the protein.
  • Mash up some navy beans to use a dip for veggies for a fun snack.
  • Puree black beans or kidney beans into your favorite cake or brownie for a low fat, high fibre alternative.

For more recipes and ideas visit Pulse Canada.

Looking for an idea for your loved ones this Valentine’s Day? Try my recipe for Beany Brownies that will be sure to capture their hearts with its gentle sweetness and rich chocolate taste and, of course, the added pulse!

Beany Brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • 2/3 cup flour (I use a combination of whole wheat, whole grain and white flours)
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • ½ cup of your favorite fat (canola oil or melted butter, margarine, or coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ square baking pan.
  2. Puree the black beans with 2 tbsp of water.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar.
  5. Mix the vanilla and black beans into the egg mixture.
  6. Add your fat.
  7. Mix in the dry ingredients until blended.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared pan, sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Beth Evans

About Beth Evans

As a registered dietitian, Beth is dedicated to helping individuals, families and communities make the healthiest choices available to them, and enjoy eating well based on their unique realities and nutrition needs. Juggling work and a very busy family life, Beth is grateful for the time she spends with her family enjoying family meals, long walks and bike rides. She also loves the quiet times exploring in her garden, experimenting in the kitchen, and practicing yoga and meditation.

Share