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A good choice for busy families

Busy parents are all too familiar with that hectic stretch between the end of the workday and suppertime when hunger and exhaustion can cause tempers to flare. But Patty Morrison, co-owner of JDFT Inc., a gym in Red Deer, Alta., and mother to three young boys, has found a better way.

“There are a number of food crutches, as I call them, and pulses would be one,” says Morrison, who lives in Red Deer with her sons, aged 11, six, and three, and her husband.

Morrison takes care of the day-to-day tasks that come with parenting. Add that to her part-time work as a personal trainer and her responsibilities as co-owner of a growing gym, and time becomes tight.

“To fit it all in, it feels like go, go, go, because there’s not a lot of downtime,” Morrison says. “In order for everything to work out, we actually eat at 4:30 every day for supper. And it’s something I’ve started to prepare throughout the day or the night before. We use our Crock-Pot a lot.”

Preparation has been the key to Morrison’s success in feeding her family healthy, well-balanced meals. “On Sundays, a day where I’m not working and I’m home all day with the kids, we prep for the week. That means getting beans and chickpeas ready to soak in the fridge. Those are things we have soaked and ready to go for the week so that we can just sprinkle them on everything that we eat.”

Soaking dried beans and chickpeas is one way to cut down on time spent in the kitchen; using canned pulses — which include beans, chickpeas, peas and lentils — is another. And not all dried pulses require soaking prior to cooking, according to Wendy Benson, food and nutrition consultant with Alberta Pulse Growers.

“Split red lentils don’t need to be soaked, and they cook in less than 20 minutes,” says Benson, a registered dietitian based in Calgary. “Canned pulses are almost ready to eat straight from the can, but they should be drained and rinsed before eating to reduce the sodium content.”

Their quick preparation time is part of the reason Morrison calls pulses — both dried and canned — a food crutch.

“If you do the prep work before your week starts, they’re so easy to get in the fridge, and they work in anything,” Morrison says. “We have beans ready so they can be tossed into salads or soups. Even if you’re not always cooking from scratch and you have to eat soup out of a can — you’re going to have those days — you can dress those meals up with pulses.”

On top of being easy to prepare and versatile, pulses have another benefit that Morrison appreciates. “With kids, especially little grazers like I have, pulses help fill them up. The dietary fibre they get from them is amazing, and they’re not rummaging through my pantry 24/7.”

And because pulses can be so filling, they aren’t just good for children who are always on the go; they’re also good for people who are looking to lose weight.

“At the gym, we believe that losing weight is a side-effect of healthy living, so changing your diet and exercising are the things that we try to focus on,” Morrison says. “We want people to eat foods that make them full, because when you’re hungry, that’s when bad choices are going to come in. So eating high-protein, high-fibre foods like pulses helps you feel full.”

High in fibre and protein, low in fat, and rich in vitamins and minerals, pulses help control blood cholesterol and blood sugars and may help control hunger. These nutritional characteristics make pulses an important part of everyone’s healthy diet, according to Benson. That they are also affordable and easy to prepare is an added bonus. “Crock-Pot meals with pulses, such as chickpeas, lentils or beans, shave the half-hour or so Canadians use to prepare their main meals.”

And Morrison agrees. “Crock-Pots are a busy mom’s best friend.” †

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