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Put some plant protein on your plate

Three bean salad
Three bean salad - Contributed

By Jennifer Ferguson

TRURO, N.S. —

Eating more plant protein can help keep your heart healthy, control blood sugars and manage weight. Plant proteins include beans, split peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy foods, nuts and seeds. These foods are highlighted in the Mediterranean diet and the revised Canada’s Food Guide. These meal time superstars are lower in saturated fat and higher in fibre than animal protein. They are also easy on your wallet.
Adding plant protein to meals doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Start by replacing some of the meat in your meals with a plant protein. Try these simple food solutions:
•    Replace half of the ground meat in a pasta sauce with red lentils.
•    Add white kidney beans to a chicken stir-fry or pasta.
•    Top your salad with nuts and lower fat cheese.
•    Make a hearty vegetable soup with canned black beans.
Convenience in the kitchen
•    Stock your cupboard with a variety of dried and canned beans and lentils.
•    Canned beans and lentils are ready to use. Simply drain, rinse and add to your meals.
•    Dried lentils cook faster than dried beans. There is no need to soak lentils before cooking.
•    Keep a variety of nuts and seeds on hand to snack on or add to recipes.
•    Spreads like peanut, almond and soy butter are a quick protein to use in sandwiches or as a dip with fruit.
Got Gas?
The key to reducing the gas associated with beans is to eat a little more, a little more often. Gradually add more beans and lentils to your meals. The more you eat beans and lentils, the less gas is produced. Try lentils instead of beans to reduce gas.
What about soy foods?
There is a lot of confusion around soy. The latest research shows that eating soy foods may help lower your cholesterol. Soy foods include soybeans, edamame, soy beverage, tofu, textured vegetable protein (TVP) and soy butter. Tofu and TVP both have a very mild taste. They will take on the flavour of other ingredients in the recipe.
Try these ideas to include more soy foods in your diet:
•    Cut firm tofu into cubes. Add to stir-fries or soups.
•    Purée silken tofu into dips, puddings or smoothies.
•    Rehydrate TVP in a lower sodium broth. Use to replace some or all of the ground meat in recipes like pasta sauce and chili.
•    Enjoy fortified soy beverage on cereal or in smoothies.
•    Steam frozen edamame beans in the shell, flavour with your favourite dried herb or spice.
Plant-powered meals and snacks
Think about your meals to see where you can easily slip some plant proteins onto you plate. It’s easier than you might think.
•    Top your oatmeal with walnuts or pecans.
•    Pack a peanut butter sandwich for lunch or a snack for after the gym.
•    Use hummus as a sandwich spread. There are many different flavours to explore.
•    Make a wrap with mashed lentils, peppers, salsa and cheese.
•    Top a noodle dish with chopped peanuts or cashews.
•    Add cooked chickpeas or black beans to your salad.
•    Make minestrone soup with red and white kidney beans.
•    Try Mexican pizza with salsa, black beans, peppers and cheese.
•    Snack on a handful of nuts, seeds or homemade trail mix.
•    Add black beans to salsa for a more filling dip.
•    Top salad with roasted chickpeas or soybeans for crunch.
What’s old is new again
Dig out your grandmother’s recipe for bean salad. It’s a familiar way to use more plant proteins, and by using canned beans, it’s a whole lot easier and faster than it was when grandma made it. 

Three Bean Salad 
Serves 12

Ingredients:
2 cups (500 ml)    White kidney beans, rinsed and drained 
2 cups    (500 ml)    Red kidney beans, rinsed and drained 
2 cups    (500 ml)    Chickpeas, rinsed and drained 
2 stalks        Celery, finely chopped
½ cup    (125 ml)    Red onion, finely chopped
1 cup    (250 ml)    Parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp    (15 ml)        Rosemary, finely chopped 
¼ cup    (60 ml)        Apple cider vinegar
¼ cup    (60 ml)        Sugar
3 tbsp    (45 ml)        Olive oil
¼ tsp    (1 ml)        Pepper
Directions:
1.    Mix the kidney beans, chickpeas, celery, onion, parsley and rosemary in a large bowl.
2.    Make the dressing by whisking the vinegar, sugar, olive oil and pepper in a small bowl. Add the dressing to the bean mixture and toss to coat. 
3.    Put the salad in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. Stir just before serving.

Nutrition Information per Serving:                 
Calories 191, Fat 5 grams, Carbohydrate 31 grams, Fibre 7 grams, Protein 8 grams, 
Sodium 252 milligrams 

Tip: Jazz up this bean salad by adding chopped apple, diced cucumber or shredded carrot. You can use any beans you like. If the recipe is too large, cut it in half. Freeze the leftover canned beans to use later in a soup or sauce. 

Hungry for more? Like @SobeysDietitian on Facebook and Twitter for more tasty tips & recipes or receive our schedule of events and Healthy Bits & Bites Newsletter directly to your inbox! Register at www.sobeyspharmacy.com/newsletter. 
Nutrition Events
Taste and Learn: Bean burgers. Join Sobeys Dietitian Jennifer Ferguson for a class sponsored by Graves Beans to explore unique ways to add beans to your meals. Thursday, June 6, noon to 1 p.m. Register for this free session at 902-895-7382.

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Jennifer Ferguson is a registered dietitian with Sobeys in Truro.

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