Put Your Best Fork Forward with Beans! March is National Nutrition Month® and this year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” Choosing nutrient-rich foods is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and beans are a key part of a healthy diet. Beans are rich in plant-based protein, fiber and a variety of other nutrients that are essential for health. There are also hundreds of varieties providing unique, versatile flavors. Bonus – they are also a good food for the planet, fixing nitrogen into the soil to reduce greenhouse gases. What’s not to love! Make National Nutrition Month® as healthy as you can with beans. Here are 5 tips to put your best fork forward with beans every day! 1. Base Meals With Beans & Whole Grains – Building meals around beans and whole grains creates delicious meals that are easy and save you money. One of the best things about beans and grains is that you can make a large batch on a less busy day and it stores well for quick meals throughout the week. Beans and rice is the classic example, but get creative – ancient grains are popular right now and there are many options. Try pairing your favorite bean with quinoa, amaranth or farro. Toss in some roasted vegetables, a few nuts, and a heart-healthy vinaigrette, and you have a complete meal. 2. Beans On Salads – Salads are a great way to get enough vegetables in your diet and beans make a delicious addition. Add ½ cup beans to your favorite salad. Pinto or black beans go great on a taco salad, and white beans make a wonderful addition to Caesar salads. You can also try our “enlightened” Caesar Salad with Cannellini Bean Dressing. This recipe replaces the egg in Caesar dressing with cannellini or white beans. It decreases the calories and increases the potassium and fiber. It also provides a whole extra serving of vegetables! 3. Eat Plant Forward – Plant forward eating is not about giving up foods, but adding more delicious, flavorful plant foods into your everyday diet. Eating a diet filled with plants—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (the family beans belong to), nuts and seeds—is connected with living a longer, healthier life, and it’s a diet that’s good for the planet. Look for opportunities to add more plants to your diet. A simple idea – smoothies! They are a great way to get a wide variety of plant foods, and adding beans to your smoothie increases the protein, fiber and a variety of other key nutrients. Try our Berry Bean Smoothie. One serving provides 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. 4. Beans for Breakfast – A healthy breakfast is key to an overall healthy diet, and a breakfast that includes beans provides high-quality protein and fiber that keep you nourished and satisfied all morning. An easy way to begin a healthy day is to enjoy a Breakfast Bean Burrito. Fill a whole grain 10” flour tortilla with a scrambled egg, ¾ cup canned, drained and rinsed reduced-sodium black or pinto beans, and ¼ cup shredded cheese. Roll tightly to form a burrito, place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave for 45-60 seconds. Top with your favorite salsa and enjoy! 5. Cook At Home – Finally, a fun and easy way to put your best fork forward is to cook more meals at home. According to research from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, people who cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories than those who cook less. Cooking at home not only provides an opportunity to eat healthier, it’s also a way to put on your creative hat and experiment with new recipes, ingredients and flavors. Did you know beans are eaten all over the world? In collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America, we developed The World Bean Kitchen, your passport to discovering delicious bean cuisines from across the globe. Cheers to a happy and healthy National Nutrition Month®, and we hope you all will put your best fork forward with beans!