Despite any sub-par experience of this past year, you made it, and that in itself is a powerful motivator. No matter what emerges from the unknown of this next year, you can be your constant. And taking good care of yourself is crucial in being fit to tackle upcoming challenges. Unfortunately, self-care frequently takes a back seat, especially during the holidays, so use this time of renewal to start practicing some simple habits to strengthen and replenish your forces.
In that vein, my recipe for this week’s column is one that is both simple and powerfully good for you: ginger-spiced lentils.
It can’t be stated enough: simplicity is the key. Instead of planning a huge overhaul to your diet, choose one or two healthy practices to implement, and avoid thinking in terms of restriction and deprivation. Compare these two health goals: “I will not eat anything with sugar for six weeks” or “I will add one heart-healthy food to my diet each week for six weeks.” Not that there’s anything wrong with avoiding sugar, but that depriving mentality just doesn’t work long-term. Conversely, building meals around foods with more color, fiber, and antioxidants is a practice that’s much more likely to stick. You will begin feeling better, the best motivator of all, and you can avoid the self-shaming when you cave and eat a cookie at week five. Healthy additions will naturally weed out less healthy foods.
Below is a heart-healthy recipe to get you started. Lentils contain high levels of soluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol and keep arteries clear. They’re also very high in folate and magnesium, both contributors to lowering heart disease risk. High-fiber foods slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and stabilize blood sugars, helping you stay fuller longer and reduce over-eating to promote weight loss. And if that’s not enough, lentils are an inexpensive, plant-based protein rich in iron, making them a great choice to fuel and recover from exercise. Their mild, nutty taste and ability to absorb other flavors make them a highly versatile ingredient in just about anything.
This recipe combines the spicy bite of fresh ginger with cumin’s subtle sweetness and the fragrant aroma of coriander, all blended with creamy coconut. The potatoes make this a hearty meal all on its own, but it’s also a perfect base for adding chicken or any of your favorite vegetables.
-1 tbsp coconut oil
-1 onion, chopped
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp coriander
-1 can diced tomatoes
-1 1/2 cups red lentils
-3 small yukon gold potatoes, chopped
-1 cup light coconut milk
-2 cups vegetable broth, reserve ½ cup for cooking potatoes
-1/2 cup frozen green peas
-Heat coconut oil in large sauce pan over medium-high heat
-Add potatoes and ½ cup broth, cover and cook until potatoes can be pierced with fork, about 15 min, may need to add more liquid as you go to keep from sticking
-Add garlic, onion, and ginger, cook about 3 minutes
-Stir in cumin and coriander, cook another 2 minutes until fragrant
-Pour in can of tomatoes with juice, add lentils, broth and stir well to combine
-Heat until boiling, then cover, reduce heat and simmer on medium low for 15 minutes
-When finished, stir in coconut milk and frozen peas, heat through for another 2-3 minutes
Photo: Paul Gorbould, CC-BY
Ashley Sigmund is a Denver-based RDN with ten years in the medical field helping patients and clients improve their health and fitness.