The United Nations has declared 2016 the International year of Pulses, using the slogan “nutritious seeds for a sustainable future“. Pulses (which include beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils) are getting much more attention in the media now as versatile, healthy vegetarian protein source, and am I ever glad. Pulses used to be thought of as the “poor man’s meat”, with the richer families being able to afford actual meat to put on their dinner table instead. But pulses are a food staple that I embrace precisely because they are such an affordable protein source! A quick calculation of the cost of kidney beans from my grocery bill showed it is about $0.60 per cup of canned beans, and $0.25 per cup of (cooked) dried beans. As a mom looking to cut corners on family food spending whenever possible, I will welcome pulses all day everyday!

Pulses’ protein value is pretty great, with the highest quality being found in types such as yellow beans, green lentils, and split peas (1). Lentils are awesome because they contain the highest iron content of all pulses and are recommended to be among the first foods to introduce to babies starting solids. They are soft and easy to puree, and can be mixed into just about any food for fortification. All pulses are also a great source of fibre, which is so important to include in each of your meals to help balance blood sugars and keep you feeling full for longer (1). To all my pregnant women out there… heads up because you’ll also be getting an excellent dose of folate when eating pulses, so embrace ladies, embrace!

Overall, incorporating some vegetarian dishes and decreasing meat consumption is probably a good idea for most people, both nutritionally and for the environment as well. A diet high in vegetable and plant sources may reduce our risk for many preventable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (1). In addition, the strain that meat production has on water consumption, green house gases and fossil fuels is much too great to ignore, so I think we can all stand for a little less meat in our lives!

So try this…ease into the habit of consuming one completely vegetarian dish per week (Meatless Monday anyone?). Cut down on your grocery bill and experiment in the kitchen with some pulses instead!

Try out my simple recipe for an awesome chickpea and rice dinner to introduce chickpeas into your weekly routine!

Winner Winner Chickpea Dinner

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 19 oz can chickpeas, drained
salt and pepper to taste

4 portions cooked rice

Directions:

1. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add onion, garlice and celery. Cook over low heat for 5 min.
2. Add the green pepper, tomatoes, basil and thyme and cook over medium heat for 10 more minutes.
3. Add in the chickpeas and parsley. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve over rice and enjoy!

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Happy eating!

References:
1. Pulse Canada (2016). Retrieved from: http://www.pulsecanada.com/food-health

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