One question that I see a lot is how do I get my vegan kids to eat beans? I think anyone would agree that a legume loving kid is the ultimate goal of vegan parenting. Unfortunately, some kids are super fussy and it remains an elusive goal for many of us…
Beans, legumes and lentils are a very important source of protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, fiber… In fact there are few nutrients that they aren’t high in (1). These are all especially important nutrients for growing kids, and it can be difficult to get the required levels of these if you leave beans out of a vegan diet.
So that’s all well and good, I hear you say, but my kid flat out refuse to eat beans. How am I supposed to get my kids to eat them?
Well I’m going to let you into a secret. My kids flat out refuse to eat them most of the time too.
So how do I get my kids to eat beans? I hide them in just about everything I make. Sometimes they’re more obvious, and just covered in sauce, and other times my kids have absolutely no idea that there’s an entire cup of beans in their chocolate smoothie. I call that one a parenting win!
The great thing about legumes is that on top of being super healthy, they’re actually amazing versatile too. You can serve them in so many ways, and for all meals (yes, including dessert!).
Which Beans do I use?
There are many types of beans – too many to list. I tend to stick to my favourites. I like to cook with chickpeas, cannellini beans, kidney beans, brown lentils and edamame beans, and keep these on hand all of the time.
How do I Cook my Beans?
So yes, there are many types of beans, but how do you cook them? I know one of the most intimidating things about beans is how hard they are to cook.
Well, you can go down the route of soaking and cooking your own beans, if you want. For me, I really don’t have time to do that right now, so I just buy tinned beans. They’re easy to store, and they’re already cooked so I can just rinse them and throw them into whatever I’m cooking.
If you prefer to cook your own, I strongly recommend getting a pressure cooker because it reduces the cooking time considerably. I do actually own a pressure cooker, and I fully intend to soak and cook my own beans, but I have to admit, the pressure cooker terrifies me. One day, I’m sure I’ll get over my fear and finally use it, and wonder why I didn’t start earlier. But not today…
Once you’ve cooked your beans, you can divide them up into single servings and freeze them until you need them. That way they’re just as easy and convenient as the tinned version!
Ok, so now that the beans are cooked, how do I use them?
Beans for Breakfast
An obvious way of adding beans to breakfast is with good old Baked Beans. You can serve them as part of a big breakfast, in a toastie, or just on their own with toast. Baked beans are also a good kid friendly option, because they are often quite sweet. I suggest looking for low sodium baked beans to keep salt levels low.
I also love making a big breakfast with bacon flavoured chickpeas. You could try my BLT recipe, or the bacon chickpeas taste great along side my Cheesey Tofu Scramble. This is my 3 year old’s favourite weekend breakfast.
Another easy way to get my kids to eat beans is by serving them in smoothies. Cannellini beans are so smooth, creamy and mild tasting that they’re easy to add to smoothies without your kids knowing. I can add up to 1 tin of beans to this Chocolate Smoothie, and my kids have no idea. A word of warning though, if your kids don’t eat many legumes, start with about 2 Tbs each and work up. I put a whole tin in for my 2 year old when he was still in nappies, and it wasn’t fun. Let’s just say the sudden increase in fibre can be hard on young tummies….
Beans for Lunch
Hummus is an easy way to add more beans to lunch. It is smooth and creamy, and works as either a dip or a sandwich spread. If your kids don’t like plain hummus, there are heaps of flavoured hummus options that you can buy. My kids love this Sweet Potato Hummus. The sweet potato gives the hummus a sweet flavour that masks the flavour of the beans. For a different twist, you could try using Edamame instead of chickpeas, as in my Edamame Spread.
Another option to try is chickpeas with some vegan mayonaise. You can mash them up a little, and they make a great chicken or tuna salad substitute. My Chickpea Wraps post gives you a couple of different flavour ideas to try.
Beans for Dinner
So, dinner can be easy, and hard, when it comes to beans. You can substitute beans for meat in most recipes, which is great. But beans tend to be a bit more obvious, so if your kids refuse them on site, that can make it really hard. To be honest, I focus more on getting my kids to eat beans at other meals so that I’m not that worried about them getting enough at dinner time. In our house, dinner is one of the hardest times to get the kids to eat foods that they aren’t keen on, because they’re tired and grumpy.
The best way I’ve found to add beans to dinner is to use Bean Pasta instead of normal pasta. I’ve found that the chickpea pasta tends to have the mildest flavour. These days, you can buy bean pasta at most supermarkets in the pasta section (I’ve found it in Coles, Woolies, Sprouts and Wholefoods so far).
If you have more adventurous eaters, or you’re trying to widen your kids’ legume repetoire, the most popular bean recipes in my house are Lentil Bolognaise, Chickpea Korma, and Bean Burgers. We also love having the Loaded Fries as a Friday night fun recipe.
Beans for Snacks
I bet you’re thinking that beans really don’t work in snacks, but that’s where you’re wrong. Snacks are the best way to add beans. Snacks are fun, and ALL kids love snacks, so what better way to get your kids to eat beans than in snacks?
The all out favourite snack in our house are these Choc Chip Chickpea Cookies. They’re even better because they’re nut free, so great for school lunches. My kids also love the Bean Bars and Banana Muffins.
If your kids are a bit wary of hummus, try the Chocolate Dessert Hummus recipe. This has all of the benefits of hummus, but is sweet and chocolate (need I say more?).
I hope you’ve found some ideas to help up the amount of beans that your kids are eating. It can be a slow process, but every little bit helps!
Share your tips below on how you get your kids to eat their beans!
Polak, R., Phillips, E. M., & Campbell, A. (2015). Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clinical diabetes : a publication of the American Diabetes Association, 33(4), 198–205. doi:10.2337/diaclin.33.4.198