Today’s Health Morsel: Beet Greens

As amazing as beets are, they got nothin’ on beet greens! Health-wise, that is. In terms of taste, it’s another story for me, though I know people who love them. If you’re more like me in that they aren’t your favorite thing, don’t worry because I came up with a recipe that has me excited to eat more, and reap the benefits of the “unusually comprehensive nourishment” (according to World’s Healthiest Foods) of beet greens! More about the amazing beet green after breakfast & lunch…


breakfast_text

  • 1/2 charentais melon (a huge one)

Checklist items: 2 other fruits (2 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

I made a huge batch of mixed beans a little while ago, which makes it super easy to mix together a nice big bean-veggie-green lunch salad with whatever came out of my garden. If I remember correctly, I included black, pinto, red kidney, coco, & white kidney beans.

  • 1 c mixed beans
  • 1/4 c hummus, homemade, of course
  • 1 c red leaf lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 c zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 c corn kernels
  • dressing made with lime juice, tamari, & sriracha

Checklist items: 3 beans, 2 other vegetables, 1 whole grains (6 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

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Beet greens! Just listen to me – I never thought I could be excited about beet greens. Their health benefits sound great, but I can’t get excited about eating something unless I know I’m also going to enjoy it. That’s why I can’t wait to share this recipe. It’s awesome, and so nutritious! Good thing I planted so many beets this year…

Beets are an excellent source of both calcium & magnesium. Magnesium is important for bone health, blood sugar regulation, glucose metabolism & energy production, mental health (deficiency in magnesium is associated with increased risk of depression), and control over inflammatory processes. Beet greens are also:

  • an excellent source of Vitamins K, A, C, B2, & E, copper, potassium, manganese, & fiber;
  • a very good source of Vitamins B1 & B6, iron, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, & protein;
  • a good source of zinc, folate & Vitamin B3.

Beets, along with chard, quinoa, epazote, & spinach, are chenopods. This sub-family of plants has unique characteristics, not found in other commonly-eaten plants. The red and yellow pigments – betalain pigments – are antioxidants comparable in potency to the anthocyanins in blueberries. They are heat-sensitive, though, so to get the most out of the betalain pigment, add some raw beet greens to salads, or keep cooking times to a minimum. The specific epoxyxanthophyll carotenoids found in this sub-family are effective anti-inflammatories, especially in the stomach, as well as being supportive of the health of our eyes, and, indeed, our entire nervous systems. Oh, and they’re associated with decreased cancer risk, too! People who need to avoid oxalates, though, shouldn’t eat a lot of beet greens.

All that for less than 40 calories per (boiled) cup. Okay, great, so how do you make them taste good? Make them into patties, of course! I got the idea from the patties I remember my dad making out of swiss chard. This recipe makes 2 servings, but I calculated the checklist items below for 1 serving/half of this recipe.

  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c breadcrumbs (made from whole grain bread)
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds
  • 4 packed cups beet greens, chopped
  • 4 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp ground coriander, plus 1/2 tsp grains if you have them
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 T flour
  • 2 flax eggs (2 T ground flaxseed + 6 T water)
  • 4 large potatoes (~ 2 1/2 lbs or 1.15 kg)
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  1. Cube and bake the potatoes for 1/2 hour at 230° C (450° F), turning them after 15 minutes. Pro-tip: agata potatoes taste amazing if you can get them; it’s a cultivar originating in the Netherlands, and I don’t know if they’re widely available outside of Europe.
  2. In the meantime,  mix the beet greens with the lemon juice and half the mustard, and let them sit until the potatoes are finished.
  3. Mash the potatoes, then mix everything together except for the broccoli.
  4. Form the mixture into small patties and bake in the oven, same temperature and time as the potatoes, flipping them over half-way through.
  5. While those are going, steam the broccoli, and serve with whatever flavoring you like. I used a mix of homemade bouillon, lemon juice, tamari, & black pepper.

Checklist items: cruciferous, 2 greens, flaxseed, nuts, spices, 2 whole grains (8 out of 18 servings)


dessert_text

Well, we have to round out our Daily Dozen with some fruit & berries. Today, that’s some fresh raspberries from the garden and a bowl of fruit salad that I put together yesterday, with mangoes, pineapple, peaches, kiwis, plums, & passion fruit. It’s to die for!

  • 1/2 c raspberries
  • 1 c fruit salad

Checklist items: berries, 1 other fruits (2 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18 servings in total.

We got the recommended servings of everything today.

Recipe Review: 10-minute toddler-friendly pasta

I have a tendency to cook spice-heavy dishes. I love cumin, paprika, coriander, fennel seeds, caraway, turmeric, & fenugreek, to name a few, but it’s not for everybody.

In the region of France where I live, the craziest that people tend to get is a few dashes of nutmeg – people’s palates here are generally accustomed to much more salt, fat, & sugar (much like the standard American diet), and not to a lot of herbs and spices. I rarely have to tone it down for my partner, luckily, but if I’m cooking for his family, I have to be a little more conservative when it comes to the spice cupboard. I’ve found that the dishes my friends & family in the U.S. might consider to be “toddler-friendly” tend to go over better.

This particular recipe is an intersection – it’s friendly to the more subtle palate, and I happen to love it, too! It’s the second I’ve tried that uses a mix of hummus & tomato sauce very successfully. It was, for me, an unexpected match made in heaven. What is particularly nice about this recipe is that you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand as add-ins. They’re puréed and the flavor is masked by the stronger flavors of hummus and marinara, so little veggie-avoiders are none the wiser. If you’re making it for adults, well, most adults, you can leave the extra veggies whole. I like to add peas to the cooking pasta 2 minutes before it’s finished. It takes almost zero extra effort, and it’s both beautiful and tasty.

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I found the original recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my go-to sites for amazing vegan food. Many of the recipes I find there, I adapt by eliminating oils or reducing salt, but this one required no mucking about. The only thing I changed from the original was to exclude the hemp hearts – that’s not something I can get around here, and it’s not worth ordering online, for me. Visit the link above for lovely pictures and the original recipe. This is how I made it:

Ingredients
  • 6 c (715 g) cooked whole wheat pasta, which is 3 c (340 g) dry
  • 2 c (475 ml) marinara
  • 1/2 c (125 ml) hummus (store-bought tends to have a lot of oil, so follow the link for my oil-free hummus recipe)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 c (200+ g) chopped cauliflower or whatever other vegetable you want
Cooking Instructions

This one’s crazy fast & easy.

  1. Boil cauliflower for about 10 minutes, until softened, and drain. Remember, to get the most benefit from cauliflower, you can cut it 45 minutes before cooking it, or just mix a little bit of mustard powder into the finished dish.
  2. Combine marinara, hummus, cauliflower (or other vegetable), and garlic powder in a blender until thoroughly mixed.
  3. In a large pot, combine cooked pasta & sauce, and cook until heated through. You can skip this step if your pasta is hot off the stove, especially for younger kids – the hot pasta will warm up the sauce without making it too hot to eat right away.
Nutrition Information

This recipe is meant to feed 4 adults, so I used the appropriate amounts of pasta and cauliflower to fit in with the daily dozen. The information below is for 1 serving, or 1/4 of the above recipe, including the pasta.

10 minute pasta nutrition info
generated using cronometer.com

The high sodium content here is due in large part to the fact that I used a commercially produced marinara sauce to generate the nutrition facts. For a lower sodium content, make your own marinara or buy one that is low in sodium. My favorite thing about making my own marinara is that I can add as much tarragon as my heart desires. For me, that really makes the sauce. It’s the sole purpose for which I grow tarragon in my garden.

Hey, where is all that protein coming from? It’s not from that small amount of hummus. It’s actually mostly from the pasta! There’s a fair amount in the marinara sauce, too.

So, that got me thinking – I’ve heard people say loads of times that animal products provide us with so-called “complete” proteins, while vegan foods do not. I should look at the in-depth protein profile of whole wheat pasta versus a beefsteak! Here it is – can you tell which is which based on presence vs absence of any particular amino acids?

Incomplete protein
Generated to compare protein composition, assuming the same total amounts of protein, not the same amounts of food.  Made using cronometer.com

I’ll give you a hint – even though both contain higher amounts of glutamic acid than any other amino acid listed, it’s the highest in pasta. And that’s good news for vegans! Glutamic acid is essential for making glutamine, one of the most important amino acids. Glutamine is necessary in coping with stress and for recovery from illness and strenuous exercise. It even helps to reduce fat storage. Read more here about why scientists have referred to it as an “internal fountain of youth”.

Are any of the essential amino acids (the ones we must consume because we cannot synthesize them ourselves: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine) missing from the pasta? No! They are not. So, let’s put all of this monkey-business about incomplete protein in vegan diets to rest, shall we?

Back to the recipe. So far, everyone who I’ve forced to eat this has liked it. And so do I! Plus it’s so cheap to make, and so fast & easy to put together, that I think it could easily become a staple for a lot of people who try it.

Checklist items: .5 beans, cruciferous, 1 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (6.5 out of 18 servings)

For easy reference, here’s what you’ll need to round out the day:

  • 2.5 beans
  • berries
  • 3 other fruits
  • 2 greens
  • 1 other vegetables
  • flaxseeds
  • nuts

 

Today’s Health Morsel: Tempeh

 

 

breakfast_text

I like my fruity breakfasts, especially as the weather starts to get warmer. For me, a nice light breakfast is the best way to start the day.

  • 1/2 c strawberries
  • 1 banana
  • 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 charentais melon

I sprinkle the flaxseed on top of the banana because, for me, the texture isn’t right with the melon or strawberries, but works well with the banana.

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruits, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

Dinner will be satisfying but somewhat heavy, so I want to have a lighter lunch and get in plenty of greens!

  • 1/4 c broccoli
  • 1/4 c cauliflower
  • 2 c chopped lettuce
  • 1/4 c red bell pepper
  • 1/8 c corn kernels
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds
  • 1 c cooked black beans

I had my salad today with My Basic Dressing.

Checklist items: 2 beans, cruciferous, 2 greens, .5 other vegetables, 1 nuts, .25 whole grains (6.75 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

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Normally, if you have the option of buying a processed, packaged food or its unprocessed original form (e.g., strawberries vs strawberry jam), the healthier option is the unprocessed whole food. Not the case with tempeh! Edamame/soybeans are actually somewhat less nutritious than tempeh.

Why? Well, if you look at tempeh, you can actually see the soybeans in it – it is a whole food, but a fermented one. The fermentation process adds nutritional value to the beans by making their proteins, vitamins, minerals, & phytonutrients more digestible, soluble, and bioavailable, as well as creating smaller proteins called peptides, some of which are unique to soy itself and carry their own health benefits.

Another quality fermentation adds to soy is antimutagenicity, meaning it helps to prevent gene mutation. This is important in fighting off damage to our DNA, and it’s not small potatoes since there are approximately 800 incidents per hour of DNA damage in our bodies, on average. If that damage goes unchecked, it can lead to cancer.

Those little peptides mentioned above are important, too, as they are part of what makes tempeh an antioxidant powerhouse and anti-inflammatory, in addition to being classified as ACE-inhibitors. The peptides also aid in blood pressure and blood sugar level regulation, and boost immune function. There is also research suggesting that some of these same unique soy peptides (again, only present in fermented soy products) may help to manage & prevent obesity. They’ve been shown to decrease the formation of some fatty acids and even to inhibit the body from depositing the fatty acids into fat cells. It will be interesting to see how this research progresses.

For more information about the amazing soybean, check out this podcast.

Another benefit of tempeh is that it contains zero cholesterol, and even helps to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Today, I’m making tempeh meatballs. 113 grams (4 oz.) of 95% lean ground beef contains 24 g of protein and >70 mg cholesterol. The same amount of tempeh contains >20 g of protein without that nasty stuff. As a package deal, I’ll take the tempeh!

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I got lucky in that I stumbled on this tempeh meatball concoction after trying only 2 or 3 so-so meatball recipes. I love it so much that I don’t want to take the risk of trying others and then being sad that they aren’t as good. As usual, I’ve made some changes from the original. This makes enough for 3 meals/people.

  • 100 g tempeh
  • 1 c vegetable stock or water
  • 1 T miso paste (also a product of fermented soybeans)
  • 1 T tamari (a byproduct of miso, thus, also fermented soy)
  • 1 lg onion
  • 1 lg clove garlic
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 tsps Italian seasoning (I use a mix of oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil, rosemary, & sage)
  • 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley
  • 2/3 c whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 c cooked white beans
  • 380 ml (1 2/3 c) marinara sauce
  • 57 g (6 oz) dry pasta (or 3 c cooked)
  1. Break tempeh into chunks and cook in a small saucepan with veggie stock or water and tamari until liquid is absorbed, using a spoon occasionally to break into ever-smaller pieces.
  2. In the meantime, sauté onion & garlic.
  3. Mix miso & tomato paste together.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the beans, pasta & marinara and mix well.
  5. Form into balls (mine are a/b 50 g each)
  6. Either bake them for 30 minutes at 180° C (350° F) or heat them in a non-stick pan until browned. No liquid necessary.
  7. In the meantime, boil whole wheat pasta and warm up marinara sauce & white beans.

Or, you can substitute the pasta for whole grain bread and make meatball subs! Also extremely yummy! The checklist items are for 1 serving, not for the entire recipe.

Checklist items: 1 beans, 1.5 other vegetables, 2 spices, 2.75 whole grains (7.25 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

19 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus an extra serving of spices.

Today’s Health Morsel: Lentils

Not a fan of lentils? That’s okay! Today’s lentil recipe is even a hit with non-lentil-lovers. The humble lentil is so inexpensive, yet filling and highly nutritious. I’ll get into that later, but first …

breakfast_text

I made a big fruit salad yesterday, containing 1 pineapple, 2 passion fruit, 3 plums, 1 particularly large mango, & 2 kiwi. I’ll have some of that for breakfast!

  • 2 c. fruit salad sprinkled with 1 T ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 c. dates
  • 1/2 c. blueberries

Checklist items: berries, 3 other fruit, flaxseed (5 out of 18 servings)


lunch_text

I’ll be getting all my bean & grain servings at dinner, but not much in the way of veg, so I’m having a very vegetable-heavy lunch (a.k.a., a salad).

  • 2 c. lettuce and arugula, chopped
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c. red onion
  • 1/4 c. cucumber
  • 1/4 c. corn kernels
  • 1/4 c. walnuts

I had my salad with My Basic Dressing.

Checklist items: 2 greens, 2 other vegetables, nuts (5 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

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Ah. The lowly lentil. A quick read into the history of lentils leaves one with the impression that mankind may not have evolved like we did if not for the lentil. This was one of the first plants ever to be cultivated, and lentils have been eaten by our kind since prehistoric times. Archaeologists have found 8000 year-old lentil seeds at dig sites in the Middle East, and evidence suggests we may have been eating them as much as 13,000 years ago. And that just goes to show that, even though our species can be pretty stupid at times, we do have some brains. Lentils are among the best foods that you could possibly put into your body. And here’s why…

Among legumes, only black beans top lentils in terms of antioxidant power. For protein, iron, zinc, & folate, red lentils come in first, followed closely by puy & green lentils. This data, however, does not include information on beluga lentils which, like black beans, have a black skin jam-packed with anthocyanin. I would be interested to see whether they might even beat out black beans for antioxidant power. The reason I think they might is based on simple geometry: all else being roughly equal, the smaller object should have a larger surface-area-to-volume ratio. Thus, the lentil should have more skin as a percentage of its total than the black bean. Since the antioxidants are in the skin, the beluga lentil may actually have higher antioxidant power. I’m sure we’ll find out someday. (UPDATE: In a Live Q&A on July 28, 2017, Dr. Greger postulates similarly – that Beluga lentils are likely the healthiest of the lentils because of their small size, though I think it’s likely not only a function of surface-to-volume ratio but also because smaller often means higher concentration of nutrients. I’m guessing – his words were “smaller is better”.)

Lentils have a higher fiber content than almost anything else. For a fiber chart and all the information you (n)ever wanted to know about fiber, visit this page. Here’s a couple of highlights: first, all that soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol by trapping cholesterol-containing bile & “ushering” it out of your system. Second, fiber also helps to regulate & stabilize blood sugar levels.

Another good reason to eat lentils is their iron content. Richer in iron than anything but soybeans, lentils can help maintain healthy metabolism, produce energy, & maintain hemoglobin. Foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., broccoli, bell peppers, & brussels sprouts) help to increase plant-based iron absorption if eaten at the same meal (learn more about different types of iron here). But avoid coffee & tea, as they impair iron absorption. According to the Iron Disorders Institute, this is due, at least in part, to polyphenols & tannins rather than caffeine. For more info about iron & a list of foods highest in iron, visit this page.

If you have high homocysteine levels in your blood from a history of consuming animal products, the folate in lentils (along with vitamin B6, of which lentils are also a good source, and vitamin B12) will help to lower those levels, reducing both damage to your arteries, and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, a daily dose of lentils (or peas or beans) is important for prostate health.

All that research has made me hungry: now, for dinner!

This will serve 2 – 3 people, depending on appetite. For the checklist items at the end, I assume you bring your appetite. What am I making? Misr Wat. It’s an Ethiopian dish of lentils with Berbere spice blend, to which I add kale. It is traditionally served with injera – similar to a crêpe – but I’m serving it over black rice. If you can get your hands on some  real injera made with teff, a whole grain, that would also be a good option. This dish is great for rainy or cold days, as it is hearty and satisfying. 

  • 3 c. cooked black rice (a/b 1 c. dry)
  • 1 c. red lentils
  • 1 c. finely chopped kale
  • 3 c. (900 ml) vegetable bouillon or water
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 1 1/2 T Berbere spice mix
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  1. Sauté the onions, garlic, & ginger in water or bouillon, like this.
  2. Stir in tomato paste & Berbere spice mix, and continue cooking for about 1 minute as you combine everything.
  3. Slowly add bouillon, whisking until the mixture is smooth, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add lentils & kale, and simmer, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  5. Turn off the burner, and stir in lime juice.
  6. Serve over black rice and sprinkle with cilantro.

Checklist items: 3 beans, cruciferous, .5 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (8.5 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18.5 servings in total

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today, plus half an extra serving of other vegetables.

Recipe Review: Root vegetable tagine

I found the original recipe for Root Vegetable Tagine on Epicurious. It’s by a woman named Molly Stevens and, looking at her profile, I can see that it’s definitely one of those accidentally-vegan recipes. I’ve made it a few times now, and have perfected it to my  own taste. The original recipe totally didn’t work for me, but I saw the potential and I did find that with just a few small changes, the recipe got not only seriously yummy, but also healthier, cheaper and quicker to make than the original! Wins all around! Here it is as I made it (and many thanks to Molly Stevens for the inspiration):

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The Recipe
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 large carrots (I chopped the carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes and celery rather small in order to cook them quickly)
  • 3 small turnips
  • 1 large celery stalk or a chunk of celeriac, roughly apple-sized (I used the latter)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, well-washed, skin-ON
  • 1 c. garbanzo beans
  • 1 c. bulgur (dry)
  • 4 c. vegetable broth (preferably homemade) or increase to 6 c. if you wish to cook the bulgur in broth rather than water
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 c. fresh mint, chopped

The original recipe called for 3 T olive oil, 3/4 c. olives, 1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes, 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper, only 1/4 tsp turmeric, and a whopping 4 1/2 tsps of salt, all of which I omitted. The salt was supposed to go into making preserved lemons, which I also left out simply to save some time. The lemon juice, which was meant for the preserved lemons, I repurposed by adding it to the tagine directly.

I did use 1/4 tsp of salt. I only left out the red pepper flakes because the last two dinners I’ve made have been seriously spicy, and I just wasn’t in the mood for a third.

The first time that I made the recipe, I included the olives and the sun-dried tomatoes. I absolutely hated the olives in this dish, though I’m an olive lover in general. For me, they just didn’t fit. The second time I made it, I decided that I didn’t really enjoy the sun-dried tomatoes, either, even though I’m generally a HUGE fan of them. Losing both of these items significantly reduces the cost of making this dish, while also reducing the salt  & oil contents, making it healthier.

I used vegetable broth in place of the water called for in the original to add another level of nutrients.

I also used far more herbs than the original recipe, which only called for 2 T cilantro and 1 tsp dried mint. In my opinion, if you’ve got more salt than mint in your recipe, something is off! I wanted to make my bulgur a little more bright and tabbouleh-ish to balance out the richness of the root veg.

I used regular old garbanzos rather than the spice-roasted ones called for, simply to reduce the amount of time it would take to pull this recipe together.

Last but not least, I used bulgur, a whole grain, rather than couscous, which is essentially a  type of pasta made with semolina flour.

Cooking Instructions

I did several things differently, so rather than refer you to the original recipe for instructions, I’ll tell you exactly what I did.

  1. Toast the spice seeds in a pan on medium heat until they become quite fragrant, just 2 or 3 minutes, then grind them and mix in the turmeric and salt.
  2. In a large pan, sauté the onions in a little of the broth until translucent, then add the garlic, and cook for another 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. Add the spices, tomato paste, and 4 c. broth; stir until the tomato paste is fully incorporated into the broth.
  4. Add the vegetables and the garbanzo beans.
  5. Cook, covered and on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes, depending on the size of the cut.
  6. In the meantime, prepare the bulgur as instructed on the box, using broth rather than water, if desired. Once it’s ready, stir and allow to cool a little.
  7. Add the fresh herbs to the bulgur and stir them in.
  8. Serve the vegetables on top of the bulgur.
Nutrition Information

This recipe will feed 3 people with a hearty appetite. The nutrition information below is for 1/3 of the recipe as made here, with one exception – I didn’t include the use of my homemade vegetable broth in place of water. Also, I assumed canned garbanzo beans. Using cooked-from-dry will lower sodium content.

Root veg tagine nutrition info
generated using cronometer.com

 

Checklist items: just under 1 beans, just under 1 cruciferous, .5 greens, 3 other vegetables, spices, 2 whole grains (about 8 out of 18 servings)

For easy reference, here’s what you’ll need to round out the day:

  • 2 beans
  • berries
  • 3 other fruits
  • 1.5 greens
  • flaxseeds
  • nuts
  •  1 whole grains

And now I’m really wishing I were having this for dinner tonight! I’ll definitely be making it again very soon.