Searching for the perfect food in your weight loss plan? Tired of the same old same old? If you've eaten your last lettuce salad, your willpower is crumbling and you're longing for a burger for lunch, look no further than the humble lentil.

A disc-shaped legume and a dietary chameleon, lentils provide taste, nutrition, and variety.

An ancient food, lentils originated in central Asia as one of the earliest cultivated foods. The Bible tells us that Esau traded his birthright away to his brother, Jacob, for a humble meal of lentils.

Lentils find their way on to tables the world over as a staple in Indian homes and a common meat substitute in Catholic countries during Lent.

While many varieties exist, the brown lentil commonly lines American grocery store shelves.

Let's add up the benefits of lentils.

  1. Low in calories, fat and cholesterol
  2. A dieter's dream, lentils contain 230 calories, 0.4 grams of fat, and 0 grams of cholesterol per one-cup serving.
  3. High in protein, iron and many other nutrients
  4. In a single one-cup serving, lentils contain 7.8 grams fiber, 9 grams protein, and 6.59 mg.
  5. Cook easily and quickly
  6. Unlike beans, lentils require no presoaking or overnight soaking. As a rule of thumb, use 1-1/2 cups of water to 1 cups of lentils. Approximately 20-30 minutes of cooking time will suffice. Simply boil on the stove top or in the microwave.
  7. Inexpensive
  8. Starving college students take note! A one-pound package of lentils almost always costs less than one dollar, and usually less than 70 cents. Scout the lower shelves where grocers "hide" low-cost products.
  9. Adapt to many types of recipes
  10. Lentils work well in soups, salads and side dishes. Tired of noodles and spaghetti? Lentils substitute well for pasta. Or a try a comforting bean and lentil chili. Lentils serve warm in soups or cold in salads. The mild, slightly nutty flavor tastes delicious on its own and doesn't overpower other foods.
  11. Readily available in regular grocery stores
  12. No need to go to an out-of-the-way health food store or ethnic store. Look in the dried bean section of any grocery store.
  13. Don't require a specific diet plan
  14. You don't need a complicated recipe or extensive menu. A simple soup with a ham bone, a bit of leftover roast beef, or a carrot and potato addition makes a great meal.
  15. Don't spoil easily
  16. Lentils last up to a year and need no refrigeration until cooked, so go ahead and stock up! The cooked lentils freeze well, too.
  17. Stretch meat
  18. Add a cup of cooked lentils to hamburgers, sloppy joes, or meatloaf to cut cost, lower calories, and stretch your food dollar.
  19. Great for diabetics
  20. Their high-fiber content works to prevent blood sugar from rising following a meal.

A quick search in any book store or on-line yields many recipes or adapt a favorite of your own. Switch out meat or just substitute half.

Add lentils to your weight loss plan and watch pounds disappear, your health improve, and your budget stay in the black.