American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


New Habits and Game Changing Beans

Hello and Happy New Year!

We are halfway through January and many of us have already left our New Year’s Resolutions behind.

I help people make positive, healthy changes that last.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that keeping resolutions is hard, but creating new habits can be easy. The trick is to replace a bad habit with a good one that sets you up for success.

Success brings feelings of joy and accomplishment, which motivate us to keep going. Before you know it, you’ve reached your goal and its easy to maintain your progress. You don’t even have to think about it anymore, it has become automatic.   woman coming home from the farmers market

I used to shop haphazardly throughout the week and often resorted to take-out when it got late and I had nothing to cook for dinner. The grocery store was crowded and I ended up just buying the minimum of what I needed so I could leave.

Replacing that habit with the new one of going to the Farmer’s Market every Saturday sets me up for successful eating all week long. I go with a friend, which makes it fun. Connecting with the people who grow my food is motivating, and the produce is so tasty and fresh. Positive (friend) + positive (fun) + positive (tasty) = eating better with ease.

I have a sweet tooth, and found myself rooting around the house for chocolate in the evenings. My new habit helps me stock up on tasty fresh fruit to satisfy my sweet cravings in a healthy way. Good specialty apples, great berries, peaches and plums – when the fruit is in season and really, really good I look forward to it and am not nearly as tempted by sweets.

Making a plan is easy, but sticking to it is hard for me. My Farmers Market habit encourages me to stock up on plenty of good vegetables. Vegetables that are really fresh and in season taste so good that I look forward to making and eating what I planned for dinner.

Take your biggest struggle, then brainstorm some new habits to make success easier.

Lunch is another struggle for many people. Few of us like taking the time to cook a lunch, so we turn to fast food or the same old sandwich again and again. Sometimes we just don’t eat lunch or grab one of those “protein bars” and are starving later.

By creating a habit of cooking extra servings at dinner, lunch for the next day is already done. If its hard for you to leave food, pack it in a container before sitting down at the dinner table. You’ll be surprised how much less stress you will have during the day by starting this simple habit.

Beans are an energizing protein source for lunch, and for a long time I struggled to find a way to cook the canned ones that was flavorful enough to get me excited to eat them. This technique was a revelation to me, and having these tasty beans in the fridge means there is always something good to eat.

rustic bean salad

Here’s the base recipe for Game Changing Beans:

Heat 2 Tbs. of olive oil in a saucepan.

Add two garlic cloves, whole and smashed for a mild flavor, sliced thinly for more flavor, and chopped for the most flavor.

Add a pinch (or more if you like things spicy) red pepper flakes.

If using any dried herbs, add then here.

Cook over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling and starting to turn golden.

Add one chopped onion and a big pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is soft and starting to brown.

Add the two cans of drained and rinsed beans, any kind you like, and a cup of stock, broth or even water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Simmer uncovered until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Add a squeeze of lemon. a little more olive oil, and some chopped parsley or chives if you have them. Salt and pepper to taste.

Simmering in the liquid is what gets the flavors into the beans and makes them so good.

When I make creamy white beans like cannellini, I add some thyme to the oil and garlic. When I use garbanzo beans I sometimes add a little cumin, or oregano to the oil. With black beans I sometimes add a small can of chopped green chilis to the onion, and/or cumin to the oil, and lime juice at the end if I have it. You get the idea.

Once you have the technique, you can use it to always have some flavorful beans on hand. While you are cooking your beans, you can make some farro or brown rice. With these in the fridge you have the making for a quick, energizing lunch. Add some greens, veggies, and a little dressing for a quick, filling salad. Stuff them into a tomato or put them into a pita pocket with some baby spinach and tomato. You can even scoop them up like a dip with some whole grain crackers.

The positive pay-off of these new habits is what makes them work. Real change only comes from a positive place, and the momentum generated by achieving your goals will make this a very healthy year for you.

You’ve got this!

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