Plant proteins are budget-friendly, nutritious, and easily available ingredients to jazz up your dinner planning routine!
I don’t even need to ask if you are feeling the budget squeeze when shopping for groceries! Now more than ever is a terrific time to incorporate more plant proteins into our dinner planning. Plant proteins are some of the most nutritious and budget-friendly ingredients available, especially when looking at to today’s meat and seafood prices.
Plant proteins are excellent sources of many essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Those nutrients support heart health, brain function, healthy weight goals, reduce the risk of cancer, and help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Where to Start
From a cooking standpoint, plant proteins are tasty, satisfying, and easy to incorporate into many traditionally meat-based recipes. Think about swapping some of these top-listed, highly nutritious, and readily available options into any of your well-loved recipes and keep some dollars in your pocket.
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Cranberry beans
- Navy beans
- White beans
- Lentils – red, yellow, pink, green, brown
How to Select
When shopping for plant proteins, I recommend looking for products that are low in sodium. They generally do not have added sugar or other additives unless they are seasoned or accompanied by a sauce, but it’s good practice to check the labels to be sure. You’ll find plant proteins in dried form (beans and lentils), canned, refrigerated, and frozen.
- Dried beans and lentils are the most basic and budget-friendly. Prep time is longer because they are uncooked, yet it’s easy to make a double batch and freeze the extras for later use.
- Canned beans and lentils follow closely behind dried as far as being budget-friendly. They are already cooked and ready to use saving time and effort. Low sodium options are oftentimes available, and rinsing thoroughly also helps lower some of the sodium content.
- Cooked beans and lentils are also becoming more available in the freezer section. Choose those that are plain and without a sauce or flavoring for the most versatility.
- Tofu is found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Check the date stamped on the package, choosing the one that is furthest out. How the tofu will be used will determine which type to purchase.
— Silken – smoothies, egg substitute, sauces, salad dressings
— Soft – soups
— Medium – stews, curries or other sauced dishes
— Firm and Extra-Firm – stir-fries, curries, stews, soups, grilling, pan-frying
DINNER PLANNING IDEAS
This month’s delicious and nutritious dinner entrees come in at $5 per serving or less! Each one features a plant protein, other pantry-friendly ingredients, and fresh or frozen vegetables.
Greek Orzo Salad with Chickpeas
Pasta salad is a very welcome budget-friendly spring and summer entrée. This version features chickpeas which are a “complete protein” and serve as a veggie, as well. Paired with the other health-boosting veggies, savory feta, and nicely balanced red wine vinaigrette, you’ve got a real winner.
Serve with fresh seasonal fruit, and a whole grain bread or roll
- Health- and brain-boosting ingredients used in this meal – whole grains, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, artichokes, onion, fresh basil leaves, homemade vinaigrette, seasonal fruit
Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu
Let your creative juices flow with this recipe! Choose any budget-friendly fresh or frozen veggies, and firm or extra-firm tofu. The stir-fry process makes quick work of getting a delicious and nutritious dinner on the table.
Serve with kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) or a tossed salad, and fresh seasonal fruit
- Health- and brain-boosting ingredients used in this meal – whole grain, tofu, vegetables, egg, fermented kimchi (optional), fresh fruit
Red Lentils with Greens + Sweet Potatoes
Red lentils are quick-cooking and require no pre-soaking, making them a delicious and nutritious option any day of the week. This budget-friendly, very satisfying recipe is similar to Indian dal. It can easily be prepared ahead, cooled completely, and then refrigerated or frozen for a wonderful lunch or quick dinner option. Sweet potatoes are not considered a spring seasonal item, yet they generally are available year-round in most markets.
Serve with whole-grain Naan, another bread, or corn muffins, and Cucumber-Tomato Salad
- Health- and brain-boosting ingredients used in this meal – lentils, fresh greens, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric and other warm spices, nuts, fresh herbs, whole grains, cucumber, tomatoes
What meals do you enjoy that use plant proteins? Share your ideas with us in the comments section.
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