In lentils we should trust

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Canada’s new food guide has been both praised and criticized for its simplicity. Some love the freedom it offers – a step forward from the old, rather rigid, portion sizes and recommended numbers of servings.Another plus is the move to a more plant-based diet: a recommendation that makes sense for both our own personal health and for the health of the planet. Yet another important and welcome aspect of the new guide are the recommendations to cook and eat at home, and where possible to eat with others – emphasizing the incredibly important social aspects of eating, something we’ve long overlooked and undervalued.

On the downside, some have called the new food guide patronizing and deeply lacking in inclusivity and sensitivity to various cultural diets, beginning with the diets of our Indigenous Peoples, who seem to have been largely overlooked in the new guide.

Still others wonder why dairy products have been reduced to such a minor and unimportant role. If the motivation for this is to reduce our dependence on animals as a food source, then why include pictures of eggs, beef, chicken and fish? The infographic that represents the new food guide does not show a single piece of cheese. Canada has a long and important history of cheesemaking. Cheese and other dairy products have been an important part of our diet since the first settlers arrived on the nation’s eastern shores. We are not alone in our relationship with dairy products — the French, who are the biggest per capita consumers of cheese globally and who eat four times more butter and 60 per cent more cheese than almost all of their western counterparts, have lower rates of obesity and significantly lower rates of coronary heart disease. And while cheese may or may not be the reason, the bottom line is that eating dairy products does not appear to have adversely impacted the French.


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All that aside, if you want to start making changes to reflect the new Canadian food guide, one easily made, and coincidentally highly patriotic, change, is to add more lentils to your diet. Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of lentils. Buying and eating Canadian lentils is good for our domestic economy, our own pocketbooks, and our health. Lentils are inexpensive, easy to prepare, low in fat and calories, and high in fibre and protein. They are also an excellent source of folate, manganese and potassium, all vital in supporting heart health. Lentils are a practically perfect food source.

There are so many ways to add lentils to your diet – lentil soup, lentil burgers, lentil shepherd’s pie, lentils tossed in salad, dhal, cassoulet, pasta with lentil Bolognese sauce, and even adding lentil puree to your brownies. For recipes and more information on Canadian lentils, visit the website, funded by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers.

Crispy Lentil Fritters

(recipe and photograph courtesy


½-19 oz (270 mL) can green lentils, drained and rinsed

½-19 oz (270 mL) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ small red onion, chopped

2-4 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ – ½ cup (60-125 mL) cilantro, chopped

1 tsp (5 mL) cumin or curry powder

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

¼ cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour

½ tsp (2 mL) baking powder

canola oil, for frying

tzatziki, for serving

pita or naan bread (optional)



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  • Combine the lentils, chickpeas, onion, garlic, cilantro, cumin, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse, scraping down the side of the bowl until blended but not smooth.
  • Add the flour and baking powder and pulse until you have a soft mixture that you can roll into balls without it sticking to your hands. Add another spoonful or so of flour if the mixture is too wet or sticky.
  • Roll the dough into meatball sized balls, then flatten slightly to make small patties. This will help the falafels cook through more quickly and get crispier on the edges.
  • Heat ¼ to ½ an inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet – it should be hot but not smoking. Without crowding the pan, cook the falafel patties for a few minutes on each side until deep golden and crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  • Serve warm, with tzatziki for dipping; or wrap fitters and tzatziki in soft pitas or naan bread.

Lentil Brownies

(recipe and photograph courtesy

These easy, moist fudgy brownies are absolutely delicious!


½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup lentil puree*

¾ cup cocoa

2 cups sugar

¾ tsp salt

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts (optional)


  • Melt butter; mix in lentil puree, cocoa, sugar and salt. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla, flour, chocolate chips (and walnuts).
  • Bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan at 350° F (175° C) for 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

*-To make the Lentil Puree: Place cooked or rinsed and drained canned lentils into a food processor. For every 1 cup lentils, add ¼ cup water. Blend to make a smooth puree with a consistency like canned pumpkin. If needed, add additional water 1 tbsp at a time.

Lindy Mechefske is the award-winning author of Out of Old Ontario Kitchens, Sir John’s Table, and A Taste of Wintergreen. Contact her at