Whether you’ve made a resolution to cut down on meat, or you’re just broke after the festive season, let me introduce you to your new best friend - lentils.

I know what you're thinking - but there is so much more to the humble lentil than the stereotypical vegan food of times gone by. These legumes pack a serious punch in terms of nutrition, value, and flavour.

We all know that protein is an essential part of our diet. Not only is it vital for tissue growth and repair, this macronutrient helps to stabilise blood sugars, regulate your mood, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Meat lovers will be surprised to hear that, gram for gram, uncooked lentils have more protein than beef. The herbivores amongst you will be aware that quinoa is a great source of protein, but you may not know that a cup of cooked lentils has more than double the protein of the same quantity of quinoa.

And the benefits don’t stop there. If you need further convincing that this protein packed pulse is worth adding to your diet, lentils are also high in folate, iron, potassium and a range of antioxidants.

If the health benefits aren't convincing you, then let's talk money. Many people seem under the false impression that being vegetarian, vegan, or just eating healthily, is expensive. So let me break this down for you. Lentils cost less than £0.20 per serving. If you swapped meat for lentils in one meal a week for a year, there’s a big saving to be had.

There are several different varieties of lentils, but the most common are green, red and brown.

Green lentils: often referred to by the french lentilles vertes, these have a peppery taste, stay firm when cooked and retain a bit of crunch, and are ideal in salads.

Red lentils: these are mild and slightly sweet and break down when cooked, so they are great for thickening soups and stews.

Brown lentils: these are the most common variety. They soften but hold their shape well and can be used to make chunkier soups and stews, or as a side dish.

If you’re too lazy to cook, you can easily buy lentils canned or in microwaveable pouches, but lentils really require minimal skill or effort. Here are 8 easy recipes to get you started.

1. Lentil Curry

India has the highest rate of vegetarianism in the word, and, unsurprisingly, lentils are a staple in Indian cooking and used to make a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet. Lentil curry is part of the everyday diet, eaten with rice and roti. This recipe uses indian flavours to make an easy, warming and filling weeknight meal.

2. One Pot Red Lentil Chilli

Most student kitchens don't come with a dishwasher, so one-pot meals are a godsend when it comes to washing up. Chilli con carne is a favourite when it comes to feeding a crowd. Use lentils to make an equally easy and delicious vegetarian version and serve with the usual accompaniments of rice, tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, and, of course, guac. No one will even miss the meat.

3. Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is a staple winter warmer in my family. Mum always cooks a big batch before my sister and I arrive home for the holidays to give us some much needed nutrition after a hard semester.  Anna Jones, author of A Modern Way To Cook, one of my favourite vegetarian cookbooks, adds lemon and crispy kale for her twist on this classic taste of home.

4. Lentil Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese is without a doubt a student staple. Swapping in lentils for minced beef means that veggies don't have to miss out on this simple supper. Once you've got this recipe down, don't limit yourself to spaghetti. Use the sauce to make lasagnes, other pasta bakes, and combine with cooked rice to make easy stuffed peppers.

5. Lentil Burger

Forget the dry, frozen veggie burgers (often more like ice hockey pucks than food) that you were fed as a vegetarian child. Whip up a batch of these lentil patties, add your favourite toppings, and sandwich between your bun of choice for the ultimate veggie barbecue.

6. Lentil Veggie Bowl

Veggie bowls (also known as Buddha Bowls) are my go to weeknight meal. All you need is some cooked grains, some protein, veggies, and a dressing (my favourite is this tahini dressing) to throw together an easy, nourishing, and very versatile bowl of goodness. 

7. Lentil Salad

Lentils are a great way to add an extra hit of protein to your salads. I have tried and tested this simple recipe several times and it always goes down a treat, packed with fresh herbs and tied together with a zesty dressing. The recipe serves 12 and, speaking from experience, is a great choice for a veggie pot-luck dish, but can also be scaled down easily to feed a smaller crowd (or just yourself).

8. Middle Eastern Lentils

If you haven't come across Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi yet, then get yourself a copy of Plenty ASAP. The book celebrates several different ingredients, with a chapter dedicated to - you guessed it - lentils. This easy and flavourful recipe is a great sharing dish. Why not go all out and prepare an Ottolenghi-style middle eastern spread next time you're feeding a crowd.

What are you waiting for? Add more lentils to your diet this year and say hello to a healthier, wealthier, you.