There is now definitive proof that beans and pulses are crucial to human health. One recent Canadian study showed that just ½ cup per day reduces cholesterol and peripheral artery disease in adults. Children of this generation are likely to develop both health issues if they are on the typical North American diet. As we speak, children as young as 10 years old are being prescribed medication to deal with these early indicators of heart disease cause by diet. Developing a taste for beans in your children is probably the kindest gift you can give them.
Every school kid knows how to grow a bean in a plastic cup by keeping the paper towel wet. Try going one step further and actually planting beans or pulses into your garden. It is important to note that the beans you are looking for are the ones with inedible husks whose inside bean seeds are intended to be dried. Green Beans, snap or sugar peas are delicious don’t fit this bill. Look for kidney beans, cranberry beans, lupini beans and the like.
For a child, watching beans grow can be an exciting rite of summer. Picking some off the vine to be peeled and simmered into summer soup is a true joy. Fall harvest is wonderful and fresh beans can be frozen or dried for the winter.
If that’s all too much for you, there are easy ways to work in beans and pulses into meals that they will hardly notice.
- Serve hummus (made from chick peas) or other bean dip for an afternoon snack-vary the flavours to provide some variety. It is also great as a sandwich spread.
- Add canned, drained and rinsed white kidney beans to any pasta dish, even a few tossed in at an early age encourages a texture acceptance that can be hard to implement later in life.
- Replace rice or potatoes with a lentil side dish 2-3 x per week
- Look for bean based veggie burgers to replace a beef burger on the bbq once in a while
- Make a lentil soup and store single servings in the freezer. Feel free to spice it up with hot peppers at the table for the parents.
Laying the foundation for a palate that enjoys a wide variety of flavours and textures is the best step toward health for your child. Setting the example of enjoying beans yourself is a priceless path to keep you around and healthy too!
Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup
Preparation time: 25 minutes
You can feed a family of eight on this soup of high-protein lentils, nutrition-packed sweet potatoes and onions. Cheese is optional. Store any remaining portions in single servings in the freezer
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cups red lentils
- 2 small sweet potatoes, cubed
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 8 tbsp grated cheddar cheese (optional) calcium for bones
Warm a large pot over medium-high heat and melt butter. Add onions and sweet potatoes; stir. Add broth and water; add lentils. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cover. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in basil, pepper and molasses. Grate cheese if using and serve at the table along with dried chilli peppers for spicier portions.