Cold weather brings on cravings for warming comfort foods—which can often be calorie-laden. However, beans, a superstar in cold-weather favorites like chili and soup, can help you feed those cravings without ruining your diet. In addition to being a source of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, beans are full of fiber. That’s great news for your waistline, since research shows that upping your fiber intake can lead to bolstered weight loss. For example, one recent study found that people who focused solely on increasing their dietary fiber intake to 30 grams or more per day lost almost as much weight after one year as people who followed a more complicated set of guidelines that emphasized certain foods and limited others. So if you're ready to add some beans to your next meal, read on, Health.com has reported on ways to sneak this humble fruit into your diet:
- Mock meat. Beans are quicker to prepare and less expensive than meat. Use black, white, or pinto beans in taco salads or “meatloaf.” Or mash them up and use in anything from burgers to lasagna. If you don’t want to totally cut meat out, just replace half of it with beans to give your meal a fiber boost.
- Starch swap. Beans can be a terrific substitute for traditional starches like rice, corn, or potatoes. Add to soups instead of potatoes, or to salads instead of pasta. If you’re feeling adventurous, a stir-fry served over beans instead of rice can mix things up for a weeknight dinner.
- Moo-ve over dairy. Replace cream and milk in sauces and soups with pureed beans or bean flours. They make good bases and thickeners and also help reduce extra calories. Mashed beans can also stand in for cheese: for example, mashed white beans, seasoned with garlic and Italian herbs, are a tasty substitute for ricotta in lasagna.
- Quick bean bites. When it comes to snacks, bean dip and hummus are old favorites. But you can also roast beans on a baking sheet for a crunchy snack; black beans with chipotle seasoning or white beans with curry powder are just two yummy combinations. A salad made with beans and chopped veggies, marinated in balsamic vinaigrette, also makes a nutritious and quick bite.
- Sweet treats. It may be hard to believe, but pureed beans can be added to puddings, smoothies, and popsicles. They add a nice, thick texture and their flavor is undetectable. You can also replace other flours with bean flours to make your treats gluten-free and fiber-filled. Now that’s an indulgence you can take comfort in!