Spinach Dal

We’ve talked about lentils before and how they are an excellent plant-based protein full of fiber and iron. Dark leafy greens, spinach in particular, are also a great source of iron. Iron is important in your body because it is a major component of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through your bloodstream.

There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal sources, and non-heme iron comes from plant sources, like spinach. Non-heme iron is not as easily absorbed as heme iron because our body must go through steps to convert it to heme iron after we eat it.  To help maximize your absorption of iron from dark leafy greens, add an acid to your dish, like a fresh squeeze of lemon juice or a vinegar-based dressing.  

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Mini Cheese Pancakes

This is the perfect breakfast treat to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This version of the classic pancake is fluffy and filling, thanks to the extra protein from the cottage cheese. To build a balanced meal, we should include all the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. This way meals and snacks are more filling and satisfying. Make this dish even better by being playful; who doesn’t love a heart-shaped pancake, even if it’s just for you!

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Lovely Lentil Loaf

February is Heart Health Month, and this is just the recipe to kick it off! This savory loaf is made from lentils and is packed with plant-based protein, fiber and many other vitamins and minerals.

Typically, a loaf would be made from ground beef and can be high in saturated fat, which has been shown to increase our total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol. Cholesterol has an important role in our bodies, but too much can build up in our arteries causing plaques to form. The buildup plaque causes our arteries to stiffen and narrow, restricting blood flow.

Even small adjustments like switching from an 80/20 ground beef to the leaner 90/10 or 95/5 is beneficial. However, with plant-based recipes, not only is there the benefit of little to no saturated fat, but there is also a ton of fiber. Fiber binds to excess cholesterol and removes from our bodies, helping us maintain a healthy balance.  Lentils are also very high in iron, an important nutrient we often get from red meats. Iron is found in many plant-based foods, particularly lentils, beans, legumes and dark leafy greens.

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Poyha – A Native “Meatloaf” Recipe

Poyha is a traditional Native American dish, commonly attributed as Cherokee in origin, though the recipe has been made by tribes spanning from the Great Plains to the East Coast. The recipe calls for ground venison, but ground turkey will make a great substitute while keeping with traditional foods. Poyha is packed with protein, complex carbs and flavor. Some recipes will mix in additional dried fruits such as sour cherries or blueberries, boosting this dish with antioxidants. Give this seasonal comfort recipe a try, and use local ingredients if possible. This recipe would be paired nicely with a luscious salad or sauteed greens and mushrooms.

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Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats

Oh yes, it’s that time again. Time to bathe ourselves in the delectable sensation of warm sweet spices in every way we can. Pumpkin spice candles, pumpkin spice soaps and lotions, and, of course, pumpkin spice foods. This recipe for overnight oats will be just the thing start spooky season right. It’s easy, perfect for making a head of time, and full of protein, fiber, anti-inflammatory spices and omega-3 healthy fats. You can eat this cold or reheat it in the microwave. Add whatever toppings you like; try toasty almonds, cranberries or coconut flakes.

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Elotes (Street Corn) with Avocado & Yogurt Sauce

Elotes are a classic Mexican street food. Roasty sweet corn with a limey cream sauce, topped with cheese—and some chili spice if you’re up for it. ¡Es como un sueño!

You can also make a salad version of this by cutting the corn off the cob and mixing it with the sauce in a bowl, it’s such a tasty way to dress a salad.

What is unique about this version of the recipe is the use of plain 2% Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is high in protein, full of probiotics and tastes just like sour cream, making it a more nutritious alternative that you can use for anything from topping off tacos or chili to paprikash or ranch dip. Try making the swap in your favorite recipes.

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Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Okra

Grilling season is ending; celebrate the final warm days with this tasty recipe, full of lean protein from shrimp and chicken sausage and high-in-fiber okra.

“But isn’t shrimp a high cholesterol food?” you may ask. Yes, it is; however, current research shows that dietary intake of cholesterol is not an indication of high cholesterol in our blood. The foods that are concerning to our cholesterol levels are those that are high in saturated and trans fats. These are the fats that are solid at room temperatures, such as butter, lard, cheeses, and the fats in dairy and meat.

Saturated fats are also added to many processed and packaged foods, so don’t forget to look at nutrition labels when shopping! This recipe also swaps the traditional pork-based andouille sausage, high in saturated fat, for a chicken-based alternative. A diet high in fiber also helps improve our cholesterol levels, so although the recipe only calls for okra, add as many veggies as you want to these skewers!

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