As a dancer I am always searching for meals that are healthy, satisfying and easy to prepare. I look for ways to include fresh produce to maximize my antioxidants and fiber, along with lean proteins and healthy fats. Entree salads are a favorite go-to (I try to eat one salad every day!) but the question always is how to dress them and which protein to include. One of my favorite vegetarian options for a healthy lunch is an arugula salad with lentils and avocado.
Lentils are from the Pulses family. Pulses also include chickpeas, dry peas and beans. They provide a great vegetarian source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Filled with heart healthy fiber, iron and magnesium, one serving of cooked lentils has 9 grams of protein – twice the protein of quinoa! So much nourishment in a small, humble legume! Because of all their nutritional benefits, nutritionists consider pulses both a protein and a vegetable. I also love how affordable and sustainable lentils are. They quite literally give back to the environment by enriching our soil. It’s all pretty perfect! These facts, among others, are the many reasons why the United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses.
There are so many different ways to prepare and enjoy pulses – vegetable and lentil soups, hummus with raw veggies and salads are all great ways to weave them into your daily diet. You can also get creative with pulses and experiment with new recipes like lentil veggie burgers, falafels or even a lentil-based shepherd pie! I also encourage you to take the Pulse Pledge with me, where you’ll commit to eating pulses once a week for 10 weeks (and receive free recipes and a chance to win prizes). While I’m not a vegetarian I enjoy veggie-based meals, so pulses make a great addition to my dishes. The salad below is a favorite that you can prep ahead and toss together day of. What are your favorite pulses?
Lentil Salad with Avocado & Arugula Recipe
One cup brown lentils
2 cloves of peeled garlic
One stick of celery, chopped
Fresh ground pepper
Three cups fresh organic arugula
One cup organic cherry tomatoes, chopped
Half of one ripe avocado
Organic goat cheese
Half of one lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Add one cup lentils, garlic cloves (peeled, not chopped) and celery to three cups of cold water. Bring to a light boil then cut back to medium heat. Cover and simmer for one hour or until lentils are chewy but not too soft.
Cool lentils and toss with fresh organic arugula, avocado, cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Top with sliced goat cheese. Plate and serve!