Power Food Number 4: Beans

The Body Back meal plan is all about clean eating, with an emphasis on lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Processed foods and added sugar are discouraged. This week I am unveiling my go-to “power foods,” or the staples of my diet. Today I discuss another non-meat protein source: Beans.

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Legumes are a big part of my diet. If you read Tueday’s blog, you already know how crazy I am about almond butter. Today, I take on beans (and lentils).

Beans get a bad rap, for obvious reasons. But the thing is, I can’t get enough of them.

As a kid, I was all about refried beans. My favorite thing to eat for years were my mom’s tacos. I’m pretty sure her secret to getting me to eat them was to mix refried beans into the taco meat. As a teen, I made myself a lot of microwave-style quesadillas, which I smothered with refried beans and cheddar cheese.

These days, I don’t eat a lot of refried beans, but only because I prefer biting into a whole bean. I eat black beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans or kidney beans on a daily basis. While they aren’t packed with as much protein as say, a chicken breast or salmon filet, they satisfy this vegetarian – particularly when they are eaten in combination with whole grains and vegetables.

Don’t even get me started on how much, after eating it for three years, I still love the Body Back chili in the first food journal. It calls for ground turkey, but I substitute organic veggie protein crumbles or add extra beans. And I always add extra veggies.

I also work beans into breakfast dishes. I’ll sauté some veggies (whatever I have on hand, but red and yellow peppers are favorites), then add in an egg or two, making a scramble. I top a whole-grain tortilla with the scramble, a ½ cup or so of beans (usually pinto, but again, whatever is in the pantry), maybe a little cheese, then fold the top of the tortilla over its contents and place in the oven so the beans warm and the cheese melts. Add salsa if you like. This also makes a great lunch.

Another sustaining legume is the lentil. On a crisp fall or chilly winter day, few things make me happier than a bowl of homemade lentil soup (even better if I am enjoying it by myself and get to read a book, too). The Bread Peddler makes an amazing vegan lentil soup. I’ve also made this delicious soup for years (I sub olive oil for butter and vegetable broth for chicken broth) and never tire of it:

LENTIL SOUP RECIPE

(Hint: You can find the French green lentils at Bayview or Ralph’s here in Olympia. They really do make a big difference in how the soup tastes.)

In the summer, lentils are also great in cold or room temperature salads. This recipe is crazy-good:

MEDITERRANEAN COUSCOUS & LENTIL SALAD

Do you shun or embrace beans? How do you like to incorporate them into your meals?

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