This post was created in partnership with North American Pulses.
Earlier this year, I made a pretty bold (and semi-vague) resolution to be nicer to my body. I was kind of awful to it in 2015 (hellooo, junk food and torturous, long-distance runs) and – as a result – I was on a mission to make up for that in 2016. To be honest, I didn’t really have a game plan. But I knew that 1) I needed to be more mindful of the things I was putting into my body and 2) I needed to start working out with more frequency. The goal? Well, I didn’t know it at the time but, now that I’m on the right track, it’s clear: to get my body back up and running like a well-oiled machine.
There are a lot of factors that play into that. Like, consistent vitamin supplementation. Proper hydration. Getting a good night’s sleep. Yadda yadda yadda. In one short month, I had all of that on lock (though, admittedly, I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times since) but, at the end of the day, I was still feeling crummy. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago – after expressing my ardent disapproval for a dinner that wasn’t loaded with vegetables – that Thom’s reaction (a less dramatic version of this followed by a reminder that NOT EVERY MEAL HAS TO BE A PILE OF GODDAMN VEGETABLES) made me realize that something had to change. Furthermore, it made me realize that it’s not going to be the end of the world if dinner doesn’t come with a massaged kale salad or medley of sautéed vegetables. It’s not going to be the end of the world if I only eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables instead of 20. And it most certainly is not going to be the end of the world if my last meal of the day is a giant bowl of pasta smothered in extra virgin olive oil and more flaky salt than anyone should consume in one sitting (though, for the sake of my blood pressure, salt-heavy meals really should be limited).
So I took a look at my diet and realized it was (unintentionally) very low carb, very low fat, and even lower protein.. which translated to me having very low energy. I knew if I was going to keep good on my goal of treating my body better, I had to change the way I was eating. But even more? I had to change my perception of the things I wasn’t eating. Not surprisingly, it only took a few days of eating more carbs, more fat, and considerably more protein for me to realize this is it. This is what I’ve been missing. My energy levels sky rocketed. My 15-20 minute workouts turned into hour-long workouts. I could work harder, lift more, and I didn’t feel completely zonked at the end of it. Even better? I started feeling well-rested after only six hours of sleep (I used to require nine) and I stopped craving sugar (would you believe that chocolate doesn’t make me salivate the way it used to?). I was sold.
At the end of the day, it all came down to making better food choices (and realizing that better doesn’t always mean more vegetables). Eating more carbs and more fat was easy for me, but the protein part? I had to get creative with that. Since 2016 is the International Year of Pulses, I decided to challenge myself and up my weekly pulse pledge (have you taken it yet?) to a daily pledge – which, surprisingly, hasn’t been as difficult as I originally anticipated. Especially now that I’ve started incorporating pea protein (pea protein is the best plant-based protein to consume post-workout) into my diet by way of waffles, porridge, smoothies, and – now – bites. Not only has eating more protein never been easier, but I’ve also never felt better. And I’d venture to say my body is one step closer to functioning like a well-oiled machine.
As promised, I’ve rounded up 10 more pulse recipes to help you keep good on your commitment to eat pulses (beans and dry peas and lentils and chickpeas) at least once a week. Have other pulse recipes you love? Leave ’em in the comments, please!
How to cook black beans
How to cook split peas (and lentils) via Pulses
Spring celebration salad via Green Kitchen Stories
Spice-roasted vegetables with chickpeas + chermoula via Sprouted Kitchen
Quinoa and chickpea flour falafel with Romesco sauce via Food52
Chickpea tortilla nachos via My New Roots
Easy weeknight curried chickpeas and spinach via The Full Helping
Nourishing Buddha bowls via Nourish Atelier
Creamy french lentils with mushrooms and kale via The First Mess
Crispy carrot + sunflower falafel with hemp sauce via Wholehearted Eats
For more ways to incorporate protein-rich pulses into your diet, head this way.
Notes: I always like to throw in a handful of mix-ins for added crunch – cacao nibs and chopped peanuts are two of my favorites, but coffee beans or dried strawberries (or your favorite dried fruit) would be delicious, as well. If you don’t have pea protein powder, I recommend trying to get your hands on it as the consistency of plant-based protein powder varies greatly, and I can’t say with certainty that other powders will work as a replacement. These bites are just barely sweet, so if you’re looking for something that’s as sweet as a Larabar, replace the almondmilk with pure maple syrup. If you have a peanut allergy (or just straight up don’t like peanuts), you can replace the peanuts/peanut butter with almonds/almond butter, cashews/cashew butter, etc. Not a fan of coconut? Replace it with 3/4 cup of thick rolled oats. Oh, and if you’re worried about the flavor of the pea protein, rest assured it does not come through in the finished product (pea protein is super mild, but what little flavor it does have is masked by the peanuts and dates).
This post is sponsored by North American Pulses. All opinions are my own, and I think we all should be eating more pulses because they’re real good for ya (and – BONUS! – they’re good for the environment, too).
PEANUT BUTTER + COCONUT (PEA) PROTEIN BITES
1 cup (65g) unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup (84g) dry roasted peanuts
1/4 cup (28g) pea protein powder
Pinch of vanilla bean powder, optional
Pinch of fine sea salt
10-12 (174g) medjool dates, pitted and soaked for 15 minutes
1/4 cup (68g) natural peanut butter
1-2 tablespoons (14-28g) toasted coconut almondmilk
In a food processor fitted with the S blade, blend the coconut and peanuts for 20-25 seconds, or just until they turn into a semi-coarse meal. Add the protein powder, vanilla bean powder (if using), and sea salt, and pulse just until combined. Add the dates and pulse for 25-30 seconds, just until they’re evenly distributed, then add the coconut almondmilk and pulse until combined. If desired, transfer the mixture to a small mixing bowl and stir in any extras; cacao nibs, chopped peanuts, coffee beans, etc. Using a 1 teaspoon cookie scoop, drop the balls onto a flat surface lined with parchment paper. Transfer to an air tight container and freeze for 30 minutes before consuming. Bites will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to one month.
Yield: About 70-75 bites (about 4 servings)