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If you’ve tried to feed your kids beans, lentils and other legumes, chances are it’s just as challenging as it is to get them to eat vegetables.
Beans can seem boring and bland and for some kids, the texture is enough to turn them off for good.
You might think there’s no reason for your kids to eat beans especially if they eat meat, but beans are tiny nutritional powerhouses of nutrition that should be a part of any kid’s diet, not only for vegetarians and vegans. And depending on how you serve them up, your kids can grow to love them—just like my kids do.
Read on for 5 benefits of beans, some risks and how to incorporate them in your kid’s meals.
Beans: Health Benefits For Kids
1. Less Meltdowns
Foods with white, refined flour like pasta, crackers and processed snacks, lack the fiber kids need to feel satiated and they also spike blood sugar which can make your kid crash and get cranky.
An excellent source of soluble fiber, beans balance blood sugar and will help keep your kids on an even keel.
2. Prevents Childhood Obesity
Studies show plant-based diets high in fiber and protein and low in saturated fat can prevent weight gain and obesity. Beans are digested slowly which will help your kid feel fuller longer and give him plenty of steady energy to get through the day.
When kids feel satiated, they’re also less likely to crave sugary and salty snacks and they eat less overall—a good thing for your child’s weight and health.
3. Packed With Nutrition
Beans are an excellent source of folate, zinc, iron and magnesium. They’re also high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that fights inflammation.
4. Boosts Gut Health
Studies show eating beans can strengthen the gut microbiome and gut health which is linked to improved immunity. A healthy gut can also prevent gut-related conditions and mood problems like depression.
5. Combats Constipation
If your kid struggles with constipation, try adding beans into his diet. The fiber they provide can prevent constipation and get things moving again.
6. Prevents Disease
Studies show people who eat beans have better control of their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol and have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and cancer.
Although these may not be a concern for your kids when they’re young, the way they eat now will set the stage for their diet later on in life so it makes sense to start early.
Risks of Eating Beans
Before introducing beans into your child’s diet, check with his pediatrician. Some people are allergic to certain types of beans and legumes as well as soybeans.
If you’re using dried beans, always rinse, soak and cook them for at least 10 minutes to destroy the lectins, a type of protein, which can cause food poisoning. Canned beans are pre-cooked so it’s your personal preference to heat them up or not.
It’s no surprise that beans can also cause gas and discomfort so don’t go overboard and introduce them slowly.
How to Get More Beans in Your Child’s Diet
Whether you serve them plain or mixed in with other dishes, beans are a delicious addition to any meal. Here are some ideas
Swap Meat for Beans
Beans can substitute for meat in most dishes. Try making a vegetarian chili, add beans to soups, stews, pasta or rice dishes or even use them as a replacement for oil and eggs in baking recipes.
Serve Beans As An Appetizer
When your kids are vying for something to eat while you’re rushing to get dinner on the table, serve beans as an appetizer. It’s a good strategy to take advantage of their hunger, small enough that it’s not too intimidating and it won’t ruin their appetite for dinner.
Make a Bean Dip
Kids love dips and serving a bean dip or hummus is a delicious, non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat beans and vegetables. If your kid doesn’t take to the idea at first, serve them with whole grain crackers instead until he comes around.
Make a batch of black bean burgers that you can freeze and serve for a quick and easy dinner or school lunch.
Beans For Breakfast
Add beans and salsa to scrambled eggs, make a bean fajita for breakfast or make a breakfast casserole.