The cake and cookies are finished and the decorations tucked away for another year.

Healthy eating, hand-in-hand with being more physically active, are high on everyone’s “to do” list after Jan. 1. So, it’s back to business as we tighten our financial belts as well as try to re-tighten the one stretches around our waists.

What’s economical, packs a healthy punch in the nutrient ring and is convenient? Canned beans, peas and lentils.

Beans, peas and lentils are a high source of both soluble and insoluble fibre as well as a source of B vitamins, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. In addition, they’re low in fat, cholesterol free and the richest source of vegetable protein. With the exception of soybeans, beans alone do not contain all the essential amino acids to be classified as a complete protein. But when complemented with a grain (rice, bread or pasta), a seed, nut or a dairy or egg protein, they become complete.

Keep a variety of canned beans in your pantry for frugal, fast and healthy meals. This vegetarian recipe will satisfy your hunger at the end of a busy day as well as deliciously fulfil your protein needs.

Mediterranean Tomato, Lentil and Spinach Soup

Serve this hearty vegetarian soup with crusty whole wheat bread for a complete meal. I like the sharp and slightly salty addition of freshly grated good Parmesan cheese, but omit if serving to vegans. Makes 8 cups (2 L), 4 servings.

• 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
• 2 stalks celery, chopped
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, mined
• 1 tsp (5 ml) dried basil leaves
• 1/2 tsp (2 ml) each dried oregano and thyme leaves
• Pinch each dried rosemary leaves, crumbled and pepper
• 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock
• 28 oz (796 ml) can diced tomatoes, including juice
• 19 oz (540 ml) can lentils, drained and rinsed
• Juice of 1/2 lemon
• 3 cups (750 ml) fresh baby spinach leaves
• Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional


Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in seasonings, tomatoes, lentils and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in spinach leaves until wilted, about 30 seconds. Serve with Parmesan, if desired.

• Canned beans, peas and lentils can be a bit salty, but a drain and a rinse quickly removes most of the sodium. And, once that’s done, they’re good to go. Toss in salads, soups, casseroles or puree into a dip or spread.

• If you have whole tomatoes rather than diced, an easy way to cut up tomatoes is using kitchen sears. Pour tomato liquid into soup (to avoid a messy overflow in can) and cut tomatoes in the can.

– Barb Holland is a professional home economist and food writer who believes in shopping locally and in season.

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