(Photo: Dried beans.)

On the Pulse: Pulses are part of the legume family, but the “pulse” refers only to the dried seed.

  1. The most common pulses are dry peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas.
  2. Pulses are high in plant-based protein and fiber which are beneficial if you are trying to eat well and perhaps lose a few pounds. Both can help you feel full for a longer time, so you may be less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
  3. Important to the diet of so many people, 2016 was named the International Year of Pulses.
  4. The first evidence of these tasty and economical goodies comes from the Middle East and dates back 11,000 years!
  5. Pulses can be found in many forms and in many products. Buy dry in bulk or bags. Find them in the canned food section, check out the flours and pastas made from pulses and look for frozen products that contain them.

(Photo: Hard-boiled eggs sliced in half.)

Eggs are back in the good graces of the medical community and you can’t find a much less expensive source of high-quality protein.

  1. Only about 2% of children under the age of five are allergic to eggs. Most children will outgrow their egg allergy by later in their childhood.
  2. Eggs are a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. For the 70 calories found in a large egg, you will also receive 6 grams of high-quality protein along with a dozen other important nutrients.
  3. Shell color of eggs is determined by the type of chicken and there is no difference in nutritional value. Yolk color is determined by diet.
  4. While eggs do contain a great quality protein and other nutrients, they do not contain any carbohydrate, which means no sugar and no gluten.
  5. A hen lays 300 to 325 eggs per year; that isn’t much time off for good behavior.

(Photo: Popcorn in a bowl.)

  1. Hard as it is to believe, popcorn was once considered a breakfast food. One of the proponents of it as a healthy breakfast was none other than Ella Kellogg (of THAT Kellogg family).
  2. Americans consume about 14 billion quarts of popcorn each year; that comes out to 172 cups per person of this healthy whole grain snack.
  3. Popcorn adds fiber to your diet, and is naturally low in fat and calories. It is gluten free, non-GMO and plain popcorn contains only 31 calories per cup.
  4. Sales of popcorn during the Depression increased as movie theatres began to sell it as an inexpensive snack. It continued in popularity during World War II as rationing of other food items became a fact of life. Once TV was introduced into American homes, sales declined and then along came microwave popcorn in the early 1980’s and BOOM! up went sales again.
  5. Popcorn kernels can pop up to 3 feet in the air.

(Photo: Dierbergs Natural Peanut Butter.)

The long time staple of lunch boxes everywhere, peanut butter is an excellent and inexpensive source of plant protein.

  1. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 8 grams of high quality protein (an egg contains 6 grams).
  2. Peanut butter must contain at least 90% nuts and contain no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives (but may contain sugar and salt).
  3. Americans consume 700 million pounds of peanut butter each year!
  4. Only between 0.6 to 1.0% of the population is actually allergic to peanuts and peanut butter with about 20% of peanut allergies being outgrown.
  5. Because peanut butter it is so nutritious, peanut pastes, sometimes called “miracle peanut butter,” were developed to treat and prevent malnutrition in Haiti and Africa. The original of these products was developed by St. Louis pediatrician, Dr. Patricia Wolff.

(Photo: Hand slicing mushrooms on a cutting board.)

Eating more meals at home and packing your lunch are surefire ways to save a few $$ and usually to eat a little (or a lot) healthier Try these 5 ideas:

  1. Cut up lots of veggies at the beginning of the week. These can go in your lunchbox and will minimize prep time when you are preparing dinners throughout the week.
  2. Freeze chopped bell pepper, carrots, celery, onion or peppers to use in cooked dishes or to drop into sauces, soups and casseroles to bump up flavor and nutrition.
  3. When cooking dinner, make extras to use for leftovers at lunch.
  4. Freeze small amounts of leftover vegetables and rice. Once the container is full, turn it into a quick and healthy soup. You won’t even have to thaw the vegetables before dropping them into the broth.
  5. Bulk prep some recipes to freeze, such as stews, rice, and beans.

(Photo: Parfait in a mason jar and topped with fresh strawberries and blueberries.)

The following are vitamins and minerals your body may need more of. Fortunately, it is easy to get them by eating more of these foods

  1. A deficiency in vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) can cause anemia, fatigue, constipation, weight loss, weakness and a loss of appetite and becomes more common with aging. Add: fish, beef, eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt. If you follow a vegan diet talk to your doctor about adding an over the counter supplement.
  2. Calcium is important for bone health, but also for blood pressure control. Include: milk, yogurt and hard cheeses for dairy sources. Plant source include almonds, bok choy, broccoli, kale, tofu and white beans.
  3. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can aid in controlling weight, as well as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. It also fights inflammation in your body and reduces constipation. Aim for 20 to 30 grams daily (most people only get about 15 grams,) by including: legumes/beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and of course lots of produce.
  4. A lack of magnesium may cause fatigue, weakness, nauseas and vomiting. Severe cases can have even more serious side effects. Add: legumes, nuts, whole grains and dark leafy greens to what you eat to reduce your risk for deficiency.
  5. The recommendation for potassium is 4700 mg per day but 98% of us aren’t getting that amount. This amazing mineral helps prevent abnormal heart rhythms and weak muscles. A deficiency can cause a rise in blood pressure. Eat more: bananas, milk, potatoes, leafy greens, legumes and salmon. Watch for potassium to become a required part of the new nutrition facts panel on product labels. (It replaces vitamin C on the label.)