It's no surprise: How we feel about the economy effects what we eat--at least at restaurants.
Researchers in the Health Promotion Department of Coastal Carolina University took a look at entrée ordering habits during the economic downturn. They found orders of expensive cuts of steak fell 7 percent from 2008 to 2010.
Also not surprising: We're ordering less expensive cuts of meat like chicken and lean steak, more often. But there are cheaper ways to have your protein and eat it, too.
Consider the humble chickpea. You may have first met chick peas on a salad bar presented in a little square metal container with all of the other topping options. But chick peas have been a staple of nutrition for hundreds of years. They are used in cooking literally all over the world from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, Spain to Mexico and are an important ingredient in African and Indian cuisines.
Noted food expert and author Sharon Tyler Herbst defines the chick pea in her book The Food Lover's Companion, as "A round, irregular-shaped, buff colored legume slightly larger than the average pea with a firm texture and mild nut like flavor."
Chickpeas can be eaten cold in salads, cooked into stews and soups and even ground into flour and used in baking or as a batter in frying. Chickpeas are ground and shaped into balls to create the Mediterranean specialty falafel, which have a satisfying meaty consistency and are often featured on vegetarian menus.
If you like dipping carrots and celery or crackers into hummus then you're eating mashed chick peas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.
With about 100 calories per half cup and a good source of fiber, chickpeas are on the go-to list of foods that help lower risk of heart disease and cancer and help control blood sugar levels. And because they're packed with protein and are filling without being high in calories, they're welcome on weight-control diets.
In fact, a quarter cup of chickpeas can be a substitute for an ounce of meat, poultry or fish according to the USDA's My Plate food guide.
And here's the best part: Chickpeas are cheap, which means they're good for your bottom -- and your bottom line.