Beef, chicken, pork, turkey – meat is usually cast as the lead in most meals, while plant foods are lucky to land a supporting role. But plant-based diets are on the rise. Slowly but surely, dinner plates across the U.S. are transforming as plant-based foods steal the spotlight.
You’re probably thinking: what about protein? Sure, lean meat is a great source of protein, but it’s easier than you think to get enough protein from plants. It’s time to spill the beans on legumes.
What are legumes?
The legume family is made of plants that produce a pod with a seed inside. Some common legumes are black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. But why make the occasional swap from meat to legumes?
FOR YOUR HEALTH
Research suggests that plant-based diets can help support long-term health and may even reduce your risk of certain chronic conditions. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are all important pieces of the plant-based puzzle, providing plenty of vitamins, minerals, and powerful antioxidants that help keep your cells healthy. Legumes are no exception. They’re full of fiber, which is commonly known for its contribution to gut health, but also helps you stay fuller for longer, support healthy blood sugars, and promote a healthy body weight.
They’re also an excellent source of protein, which helps build, maintain, and repair all the tissues in your body. And unlike animal protein, legumes have almost zero saturated fat (the kind that can take a toll on your heart if you eat too much of them).
FOR YOUR BUDGET
Food prices have reached an all-time high, and many families are revisiting their grocery budgets to figure out how to stretch their dollars. Choosing legumes can help.
Protein is generally the most expensive part of a meal, but legumes provide a real bang for your buck. You can usually find one pound of dried beans for less than two dollars at your local grocery store, and it’ll make about six cups of cooked beans. One cup supplies about 15 grams of protein and fiber each, both working together to keep you full and satisfied.
For a fairly similar amount of protein per three-ounce serving (and none of the fiber), ground beef comes in around $4.76 per pound, while chicken breast sits around $3.87 per pound – that’s more than double the price of legumes! And of course, pricier cuts of beef and pork will take up more of the grocery budget.
FOR THE PLANET
Plant-based proteins typically require less land, water, and energy than animal-based proteins, and they also emit fewer greenhouse gases. Friendly for your health, your budget, and the Earth, legumes are truly the total package. Keep in mind that you don’t have to give up meat to make a positive impact on the environment and preserve the beauty of nature around you – just choose more plants!
Usually, when it comes to hot nutrition topics, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Legumes are an exception. Benefit your health, your budget, and the planet by including more of these protein-packed, fiber-full nutrition gems. And remember, a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that you have to completely change your meals or eating habits or even stop eating meat. Hop on the “meatless Monday” train, try something simple like swapping chicken for black beans in your burrito, or “beef” up your fall and winter soups with a variety of beans or lentils.
Searching for the perfect weekday lunch? Look no further – these chickpea salad pitas come together in ten minutes or less. Meal prep this protein-packed, plant-based dish to keep you full and satisfied all week long.
Chickpea Salad Pitas
Yield: 4 pita halves
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
- 1 – 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium ripe avocado, seeded and peeled
- 1/4 cup light mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped (about 2 celery stalks)
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (about 8 tomatoes)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 whole wheat pitas, cut in half
- 4 large romaine lettuce leaves
- In a medium sized bowl, mash together chickpeas and avocado with a fork until mostly broken down with some larger pieces left.
- Stir in mayonnaise, celery, tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and mix until combined.
- Serve chickpea salad in pita bread halves with lettuce leaves.
Note: If you want to meal prep these wraps ahead of time, keep the chickpea salad and pitas separate until serving to prevent the pita from getting soggy. You can store the chickpea salad in the fridge for up to 4 days. There may be some browning that occurs from the avocado but this is normal and safe to eat.