Tag Archives: Kids

An image depicting a child learning to garden

Kids Learn to Like Beans When They Grow Them in a Garden

Fourth-grade students in Washington State gained a new appreciation for beans when they participated in a “Pulse on Health” curriculum. Part of the program involved planting, caring for, and harvesting beans in a school garden. Compared to kids who didn’t grow beans, the young gardeners knew more about bean nutrition at the end of the program according to a series of survey questions they answered. Not only were they more knowledgeable, but they also had a new appreciation for beans in meals. Nearly a third of them reported that they were eating more beans.

Any type of dry bean makes a fun and educational at-home garden project for school-aged children. Beans can be grown in a small patch in your yard, or in pots on a sunny balcony. Growing beans is a valuable summer project that can also help kids eat better.

Source: Exploring Pulses Through Math, Science, and Nutrition Activities. The Journal of Child Nutrition and Management. Spring, 2016.

The front page of a new newsletter

All About Beans

The first edition of a new weekly activity newsletter features beans as the hero ingredient for pantry-based, kitchen science, fun food facts, exercises, and step-by-step cooking skills to practice and master. Discover the newsletter here.

An image depicting girls playing with beans

Teaching Children About Beans

Helping children become familiar with beans can improve healthy food habits, according to an article published in the School Nutrition Magazine.

Social studies classes offer a fun way to introduce children to the culinary aspects of beans by encouraging them to research traditional global dishes and by having students share their own family traditions using beans. In high school art classes, students can explore beans through botanical drawings. Germinating beans in wet paper towels is an easy science project for young children.

For more on bringing beans into the classroom see the School Nutrition Magazine November 2019 issue.

An image for the bean quesadilla recipe

 “Cheese-y” Quesadillas Made with White Beans

White beans stand-in for cheese in these fiber- and nutrient-rich quesadillas – that also happen to be toddler-friendly. This recipe gets its cheese-like flavor from nutritional yeast and miso.

Look for nutritional yeast in the bulk section of supermarkets or substitute a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. You’ll find miso among the Asian condiments in the store, or you can use 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce instead.

Source:  https://www.delishknowledge.com/cheesy-vegan-quesadilla/

Red Bean Popsicles

Sweet, frosty popsicles made from beans may sound unusual, but they are a favorite treat in many Asian countries. They’re also easy to make at home. The popsicles start with a sweet red bean paste called Anko, commonly available in Asian grocery stores. It’s easy to make your own, though.

To make Anko:

  1. Place 1 ½ cups of cooked or canned small red beans (drained and rinsed) and one cup of sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Add just enough water to cover the beans by one inch.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until most of the water has evaporated.
  4. Spoon the bean mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until just slightly chunky.

To make the popsicles:

  1. Remove half of the blended beans to a bowl.
  2. Add 1 ¼ cup canned coconut milk to the remaining beans in the processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add the bean-coconut milk mixture to the remaining beans in the bowl and mix thoroughly by hand.
  4. Pour into popsicle molds or small paper cups and add popsicle sticks. Freeze overnight.

Beans and Babies

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists beans as an appropriate food at age six months. First foods for infants are most often pureed cereals, fruits and vegetables. But once your baby has learned to enjoy a few of these foods, it’s time to introduce higher-protein fare. Beans are a good choice for babies. They are rich in protein, iron, zinc and fiber, and they have a mild flavor.

Cook beans without salt or other seasonings until they are soft enough to mash easily with a fork. You can also puree the beans in a food processor if you prefer. Freeze the mashed or pureed beans in an ice cube tray for baby-size portions. They can be frozen for up to three months.

Tips for Introducing Beans to Children

Getting toddlers and preschoolers to try new foods like beans can be a challenge. Kids in this age group aren’t known for their adventurous eating habits, after all. While in some parts of the world, beans are usual and familiar fare at all ages, for American children, they can seem like a foreign food.

But helping young children enjoy new foods is one way to improve their nutrition and establish lifelong healthful eating habits. Try these approaches to introducing beans into your child’s meals:

Keep it Low-Keyed. Offer tiny servings of beans alongside familiar, well-liked foods. For example, place just a tablespoon of beans on the plate with popular foods like macaroni-and-cheese or mashed potatoes.

Be Patient. Don’t force your child to try new foods, but be gently persistent. Research shows that it can take as many as 10 exposures to get a young child to take that first bite. If your child turns up his or her nose at baked beans, offer them again a week later. Keep offering them so that eventually, they won’t look quite so new and unfamiliar.

Be a Role Model. Let children see you enjoying beans, but without making too big a deal about it.

Keep it Easy. Try mashed beans that can be scooped up with crackers. Larger-size beans like Great Northern Beans can be served as finger food.

Make it Fun. Stir grated carrots into pureed beans to make sandwich fillings and then cut the sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters. Or spread the filling on flatbread, roll it up, and slice into pinwheels.

Get Children Involved. Kids are likely to be more enthusiastic about foods they’ve helped prepare. Let them help mash beans for spreads or stir chopped tomatoes into black beans. If your family has a garden, growing beans from seed is a fun and educational activity for young children.


Want learn more? Read 7 Strategies to Raise Children Who Eat Beans.


Bean Snacks Are Trending

March 16, 2016, Nutritional Outlook, by Michael Crane

Photo courtesy of Food Should Taste Good

If you ask a group of elementary-school kids to name the magical fruit, it shouldn’t be long before they start shouting “beans!” at you. And while the famed legumes may not be fruits, or, strictly speaking, magical, many snack formulators are also getting excited about beans these days.

Vegetable snack alternatives to potato chips have been around for some time now, including kale, sweet potato, and beetroot chips. But new ingredients like beans are now taking center stage in a slew of new snack launches, according to Innova Market Insights.
“What we have noted more recently is a wider range of vegetables being applied (e.g. beans) for chips, and more development on the flavor/seasoning side,” says Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights.

Take General Mills, which was inspired to add bean chips to its Food Should Taste Good line last June because “beans are one of those unique ingredients that seem to resonate with consumers,” says Stephen Crump, associate marketing manager, Food Should Taste Good. Food Should Taste Good’s bean chips are currently available in pinto and black bean multigrain flavors.

Of course, nutritional value is a key selling point for bean chips, as “beans are one of the few ingredients that can deliver protein and fiber in a snack,” says Vincent James, senior vice president and general manager of snack division, Saffron Road. Saffron Road’s BeanStalks, a crunchy snack product that launched last year, combines pinto beans, cannellini beans, and green peas.

But if tapping into consumer demand for plant protein, fiber, and low-fat alternatives to potato chips isn’t enough for you, bean chip brands are also experimenting with an increasingly diverse range of flavors and designs. BeanStalks, for instance, are now available in sea salt, barbeque, and cheddar flavors.

Another bean chip brand, Beanfields Snacks, announced in late February it would be adding three new flavors to its line of bean and rice chips: jalapeño nacho, white bean with sea salt, and black bean with sea salt. Fashioned more like tortilla chips than potato chips, Beanfields’ new black bean chips were designed to stand out with a darker color, similar to the way blue corn tortilla chips are set apart from yellow corn tortilla chips.

Distribution Challenges

Beanfields’ bean and rice chips are now available in vending machines and gas stations in some cities.

It’s hard to argue with the novelty and nutritional appeal of bean snacks compared to potato or tortilla chips, but the more established snack types still have widespread consumer acceptance in their favor.


One of the biggest challenges facing an alternative vegetable chip brand is “finding shelf space in outlets where the traditional potato chip has ruled for so long,” suggests Innova’s Williams.

Nonetheless, bean snack brands are beginning to make inroads in mainstream distribution channels. Beyond health food stores and natural snack sections of conventional grocery stores, Beanfields’ bean chips are now available in airports, vending machines, convenience stores, and gas stations, especially in New York City and Los Angeles.

Saffron Road’s James also acknowledges that alternative snack brands face distribution challenges. But he says Saffron Road plans to expand distribution of its BeanStalks into convenience stores and corner markets in the next 12–18 months.

Beans may be one of the latest vegetable ingredients to arrive in snacks, but it likely won’t be the last. Innova’s Williams suggests that while many alternative snack ingredients have started out in niche products, the success of kale chips may “have opened doors for other vegetable varieties,” allowing products like bean chips to become popular.

For more information, visit Nutritional Outlook.

7 Strategies to Raise Children Who Eat Beans

Beans are a simply delicious, naturally nutritious food that provides important nutrients for a growing child, including protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Unfortunately, some parents struggle to get their children to eat this highly nutritious food and they often wonder what they can do to encourage children to eat beans.

Researchers and child feeding experts have identified key ways parents can support and develop a positive eating pattern for kids. We’ve taken this great information and simplified it into 7 bean-focused strategies.

Here are 7 Strategies to Raise Children Who Eat Beans

 Strategy #1: Enjoy Regular Family Meals

Make eating together as a family a priority. Research has found many benefits of regular family meals including the development of healthful eating patterns, increased nutrient intake, and decreased the likelihood of being overweight. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends all people ages 2 and older eat between 1 to 3 cups of beans per week. Serving beans regularly at family meals and having young children eat along with the family is a great way to encourage healthful eating for your child, as well as the entire family. The main thing to remember with family meals is to make them frequent, fun and family-centered. For more information about why family meals are important, check out our article about the 10 Big Benefits of Family Meals.

 Strategy #2: Bring Kids in the Kitchen

Involving kids in the process of preparing their food helps them to become familiar with foods, and therefore more likely to accept and enjoy them. Beans are an excellent food to engage with kids in the kitchen. If you choose to use canned beans, a can opener is a great tool to teach kids to use. Rinsing canned beans is another simple task to teach kids. Beans also make a conversation piece in the kitchen. After a can of beans is opened and rinsed, taste a bean with your child. Ask them what they think it tastes like. After adding other ingredients, taste again and ask if the bean tastes the same or different. Ask why. These are not only great ways to get kids familiar with beans but also to better understand the process of cooking and how foods are transformed through different processes and ingredient combinations.

Strategy #3: Serve Family Style Meals + Beans

A key strategy to developing healthy eating habits is to offer a variety of healthy foods on the family dinner table and allow kids to pick what they’d like. Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding (a recognized authority in child feeding strategies) tells us that parents are responsible for the what, where and when, and children are responsible for the whether and how much. If a family meal includes baked chicken, potatoes, baked beans and salad, allow the child to choose however much of any of these foods they would like. If one meal they only eat chicken and salad, and the next it’s only potatoes and baked beans, that’s ok! Continue to serve beans regularly, don’t pressure, and eventually, your child may try them on their own.

Strategy #4: Be the Bean Eater You Want Your Kids to Be!

It’s  hard to tell your child to eat something they never see you eat. At family meals, make sure you are enjoying beans. If you have an aversion to a certain food, especially healthy foods, don’t push that aversion onto your child. Serve healthful food and model what it looks like to enjoy a wide variety of delicious, healthy foods, including beans, to your child.

Strategy #5: Talk About Food Before Nutrition

Experiencing food is much more exciting for children than learning the amount of nutrients in certain food. If you are shopping at the grocery store, have children help pick out certain foods. If you’re shopping for beans, have your child count how many different types of beans they can find in the grocery store. If you have a garden, get them in the garden. Have them help put away groceries. Involve them in the kitchen and teach them to cook. All of these experiences are learning opportunities and have the potential to build self-efficacy and preference for healthy foods.

Strategy #6: Always Serve Beans with a Positive Attitude

After you’ve served a food countless times and your child continually refuses it, you may go into an eating experience with an attitude of frustration and assumption that they will not eat a food. However, research has shown that for some foods, it can take 15-20 exposures before a child learns to accept and like it. Begin each feeding experience with an expectant attitude without exerting force. If eating beans is part of the family meal custom and everyone does it without making a fuss, your child may eventually follow suit.

Strategy #7: Make Delicious Bean Dishes

In our Bean Bulletin interview with Chef Garrett Berdan, he made the excellent point that we can’t expect kids to eat a food just because it’s healthy; it must taste good! If something doesn’t taste good, why should we expect kids to eat it? There are so many ways to make the simply delicious, naturally nutritious bean absolutely craveable! Check out our Bean Bulletin featured recipe: Cheesy Bean Broccoli Pasta and our Bean Institute recipes for hundreds of ideas to make delicious bean dishes the whole family will love.

Why Family Meals Matter: 10 Big BEANefits

A family meal is one of the most lasting and cherished traditions in family life and provides an abundance of benefits to the whole family. There’s a lot of research about the importance of regular family meals and all the wonderful things they provide to both children and parents. Here are 10 key reasons to make family meals a priority:

  1. LANGUAGE SKILLS: Conversations around the family table encourage young people to build their vocabulary and conversation skills. Family meals strengthen the development of a child’s language and literacy.
  2. NOTICE CHANGES: Family meals provide a regular opportunity to monitor changes in a child’s mood or behaviors. It’s also a time to discuss any new activities that might be problematic.
  3. DRUG AND ALCOHOL FREE: Regular family meals are associated with a decreased risk of substance use.
  4. GOOD GRADES: Enjoying family meals are connected with better academic performance.
  5. GOOD EATING HABITS: Families who regularly eat together tend to have better eating habits, including increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods, like beans!
  6. HEALTHY WEIGHT: Researchers suggest that regular family meals are associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity, a major problem in this country.
  7. FAMILY TRADITIONS: Family meals provide a space to maintain, as well as pass down, family traditions from generation to generation.
  8. QUALITY FAMILY TIME: Family meals give a meaningful opportunity for families to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company.
  9. SHARED EXPERIENCE: Enjoying a family meal multiple times a week is an opportunity to create shared experiences. It instills a sense of belonging for everyone in the family.
  10. SECURITY: Regular and consistent family meals provide structure and routine to a child’s day, increasing their sense of security.

For more information about family meals, check out The Big Benefits of Family Meals from the NDSU Extension Service.

Creating Healthy, Delicious Bean Dishes Kids Will Love

Q&A with Garrett Berdan, Chef/Registered Dietitian

“As a chef/RDN I firmly believe that nutritious food must be presented in a way that is appealing and flavorful, or we cannot expect people of any age to enjoy them.”

In this month’s Q&A, we chat with Garrett Berdan, a registered dietitian and chef who’s spent his career developing healthy food menus for kids, as well as a range of other culinary nutrition work. We asked Garrett to share a little about his work, strategies for developing delicious bean-based dishes, and tips for parents to help kids like and eat their beans.

BB (Bean Bulletin): Hi Garrett, thanks so much for chatting with us. First off, can you tell us a little about your background? Why did you become a chef/dietitian, and what do you currently do for work?

Garrett: I grew up in an agriculture family in Wenatchee, Washington, so raising and growing food was part of my everyday life.  My immediate and extended family grew apples, cherries, pears, wheat, and raised beef cattle.  As a kid I really liked baking (especially with our apples), which I realize now was an outlet for both my science and artistic interests.  In high school, I considered a career as a chef until a dietitian at church suggested I look into the opportunities afforded to registered dietitians.  I discovered that dietitians often work in foodservice, which seemed like a good fit for me.  After becoming a dietitian, though, I still couldn’t shake the desire to attend culinary school.  So, I attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, not to become a restaurant chef, but to become a better food professional.

For the past 7 years, I’ve worked as a consultant for school nutrition programs, commodity marketing commissions, and food companies.  I use my combined skill set as a chef/RDN to create delicious recipes and menu concepts that appeal to kids and adults alike.  I also provide hands-on culinary training to school cooks across the US.

BB: That is great and important work. Garrett, you’re not only a chef and dietitian but also a parent. What are some of your go-to strategies to get kids to like and eat healthy foods?

Garrett: My main strategy for getting kids to try new foods is to involve them in the process.  This could be planting seeds, harvesting, cooking, participating in a focus group, or tasting and naming recipes.  When kids are included they feel a sense of ownership and seem to be more motivated to try something.

When I became a parent I was overly confident about raising an adventuresome eater.  I mean I’m a chef and registered dietitian after all—I’ve got this.  To make a long story short, my son is a lot more resistant to trying new foods than I had hoped.   When we cook together, he becomes interested in trying something new about half of the time.  That doesn’t mean he’ll like it, but the fact that he tries it is huge.  I am relieved that he likes many kinds of beans, which are a staple nutrient-rich protein source in his diet.

BB: It’s great to hear your son likes beans! In your experience creating and testing recipes for kids, what do you find are some of the main characteristics/ingredients/qualities that make a dish acceptable and enjoyed by kids?

Garrett: When creating recipes for K-12 meal programs, it’s important to remember the age range and preferences that go along with those ages.  Elementary aged students prefer dishes that are simple, meaning fewer mixed dishes and more finger foods, dip-able items, and items that are easy to eat.  Students at any grade level don’t have a lot of time to eat their lunch.

These same characteristics also apply to middle school and high school ages, but the older students are usually open to more sophisticated flavors and world cuisine.  This could include dishes with a hot chili element, more spices, fresh herbs, and more mixed dishes.  Older students find grab-and-go meals convenient because they are pre-packaged, portable, and can be eaten quickly.

BB: We know beans fall short of the recommended daily intake for children. Why do you think beans are underconsumed and underappreciated by today’s youth?

Garrett: I don’t know why beans fall short of the recommended daily intake in this demographic.  But I do know that now is the time to continue inspiring bean menu concepts for K-12 meal programs.  Today’s students are more familiar with and open to world cuisines, many of which rely on beans for protein.  Beans are also an economical choice for school menus.  I know many schools are looking to offer more vegetarian entrées on a regular basis, and beans are a natural fit.

 BB: Why do you think it’s important for kids to eat their beans?

Garrett: Kids should eat their beans because they like them.  As a chef/RDN I firmly believe that nutritious food must be presented in a way that is appealing and flavorful, or we cannot expect people of any age to enjoy them.  We know that beans are nutritious, fiber-rich sources of plant protein.  Do kids need to know that?  No, not really.  First, kids need to know that beans taste awesome in their many different forms.  Then, oh by the way kids, beans are also a powerful food that will fuel your body.

BB: Such great advice! For parents or caregivers looking for strategies to help their kids eat and ENJOY their beans, what do you recommend?  Any culinary tips or feeding guidelines?

Garrett: My best strategy is to involve kids in preparing beans.  I use both canned beans and dried beans in my home.  My son helps me sort through dried beans before we cook them in the pressure cooker.  He also likes to help season pinto beans for our burritos, tacos, or rice bowls.

BB: A lot of parents or caregivers keep snacks on hand for hungry kids. Do you have any simple ideas for how beans can be utilized as on the go snacks?

Garrett: We love refried beans in our house, so I like to keep some on hand to use as “bean dip” to serve with whole grain corn chips or pita chips.  If we’re on the go, though, I can roll it up into a whole grain tortilla with some cheese for an easy hand-held snack.

Another fun snack that can be made in advance are oven roasted beans.  Cooked, whole beans, like kidney beans, are tossed with a little bit of vegetable oil and seasoned to your preference, then roasted in the oven until crisp outside and tender inside.  We like to use chili powder, ground cumin, or curry powder on our roasted beans.

 BB: Yum – those sound delicious! And the most important question – what’s your favorite bean recipe?

Garrett: This is a tough question, and I’ve always said that I don’t play favorites with food.  Lately, I have enjoyed using gigante beans in either hot or chilled applications.  Their large size and tender texture are a nice alternative to animal protein.  I also really love beans in soup and chili.  Give me any bean soup and any chili recipe and I’m happy.  Finally, I’m a sucker for a slow cooked traditional French cassoulet with white beans.  This meaty dish is decadent, but I feel good about getting some beans with every bite.

To learn more about Chef Garrett and his work, visit http://garrettberdan.com/

New Ideas for Serving Beans in Schools

A Q & A with Two School Nutrition Leaders

We had some wonderful conversations with school nutrition professionals at the School Nutrition Association Annual Nutrition Conference this past July in San Antonio about how beans are used in schools. Our short conversations on the exhibit hall floor led us to ask a few more in-depth questions with two leaders in school nutrition, Donna Martin and Lisa Feldman.

HEADSHOT - Donna MartinDonna Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, FAND, is the director of the School Nutrition Program for Burke County Board of Education in Waynesboro, Georgia. Her school nutrition program serves breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks, and supper to 4,500 students in five schools. Donna is a member of the School Nutrition Association Foundation’s board of directors and the 2016-2017 president-elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Alabama – Birmingham and an education specialist degree from Augusta State University.

HEADSHOT - Lisa FeldmanLisa Feldman, CRC, is the director of Culinary Services for the Sodexo Culinary Solutions Center and a certified research chef. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Lisa joined Sodexo in 2001 where she has served in a variety of culinary development and training roles. For many years she led culinary development for their K-12 programs. She is a member of The Culinary Institute of America Healthy Kids Collaborative, a membership-based initiative that brings together school nutrition leaders who want to bring more chef-driven, speed scratch foods to our nation’s schools.


BB: What types of beans are most commonly served in your schools?

DM: Our students are used to eating beans at home so we have pretty good success with offering beans in our schools.  We offer a black bean and corn salad that is new and has gotten pretty popular.  We offer refried beans on taco days, and we do red beans and rice with link turkey sausage.  We have a taco soup recipe that is one of our students’ favorites that has pinto and kidney beans in it.  Our kids really like baked beans, too! 

LF: We operate in schools across the country. We use a great variety of beans, including refried, black, kidney, pinto, navy, and Great Northern. We take advantage of any beans offered through the USDA Foods program.

BB: What opportunities do you see for serving a greater variety of beans and bean-containing dishes in your schools?

DM: Because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, we have to offer dried peas, beans and legumes at least weekly so we are always looking for new bean recipes to incorporate into our menus. 

LF:  I see a huge opportunity for using beans not only as a vegetable but also as a cost-effective protein substitute for animal protein.  I think we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to fully creditable entrees that are plant forward where beans are the featured protein.  I also see an opportunity for more global dishes in schools that are representative of students’ cultural backgrounds and heritage.

BB: How are beans used in salad bar programs in your schools? 

DM: We don’t do salad bars.  We do packaged salads and currently do not put any beans in those packaged salads.

LF: They are used both drained/rinsed unseasoned and in bean-based salads and salsas.

BB: What differences do you see among bean acceptance for K-5 students compared to middle and high school students? 

DM: High school kids revert back to thinking all food is gross.  They eat it in elementary school and middle school, but then when they get to high school it somehow becomes “gross.”

LF: For K-5 kids, dishes need to be less complex and not so spicy.  I think there is more of a texture issue with whole beans.  The smaller kids love refried beans, black bean spread, and hummus.  The older kids are more likely to eat dishes with intact beans.

BB: What bean dishes do you wish you could serve in your schools?

DM: I wish the kids liked three bean salad and black bean soup, but right now those types of menu items are not popular.

LF:  I want our students to eat dishes that are globally inspired.  I know the kids will eat them, but it’s tough to get through the “adult menu hurdle” and get these dishes on the menu.  We recently created a killer recipe for Pozole. I’m interested to see how many menus it ends up on.

 Editor’s Note: Pozole is a traditional stew from Mexico. While there are endless variations, the classic recipe contains pork, chiles, onions, hominy, and spices. Pozole is typically topped with shredded cabbage, diced radishes, and diced avocado.

BB: Lisa, as a chef, are beans an ingredient you use because you have to (e.g., because of school lunch program regulations) or are they an ingredient you are inspired to use?

LF: I love to use beans because they are delicious, create interesting texture, and are inexpensive.  I don’t use them because I have to.  I use them because they are a blank canvas.

BB: What advice do you have for product developers interested in developing new products for schools that contain beans? 

DM: We would love to have an item we could put in a bag lunch that kids would eat and would count as a bean and legume serving. Or something we could use in summer feeding that would count as a bean serving.

LF: I’d like to see more product developers exploring using beans as a protein component versus a vegetable component.  You will end up with a very affordable product that will not be a hard sell for school districts. 

BB: Do you see any opportunities for using beans in school breakfast programs? 

DM: I think beans would be a tough sell in breakfast programs unless you do a Mexican-style burrito type product.  We do almost all grab-and-go breakfast and not many items that you need a fork for.  So, you would have to incorporate it into a wrap of some sort.

LF: Beans definitely work with Latin-inspired breakfast dishes, which are universally popular in all grade levels.




Smart Strategies for Promoting Beans in Schools

If you’re following the latest food trends, you’re likely aware that beans get a lot of positive buzz, and rightfully so.  Beans are a nutrition powerhouse, an affordable source of protein, and an incredibly versatile ingredient.

At the Bean Institute we’ve had the fortune to travel across the country and meet many outstanding school nutrition professionals who’ve shared their strategies for getting kids to like and eat beans. We’ve consolidated their brilliant ideas and are sharing them with you.

Spice Up Beans on the Salad Bar

Many districts utilize the salad bar to serve beans to students. This works as a great offering place, but schools find more success when they enhance their salad bar beans. Draining and rinsing beans and placing on the salad bar is easy, but adding a few ingredients like herbs and spices or a simple vinaigrette can take beans from bland to grand. Our zesty Black & White Bean Salad is an easy recipe that is gaining popularity around the country.

 What’s in a Name?black-bean-spinach-burritos-21

Did you know the name a food is given can make a big difference in how much students will serve themselves and eat? According to research from The Smarter School Lunchroom Movement, when a menu item called a Bean Burrito was changed to the Big Bad Bean Burrito consumption increased by more than 40 percent. Consumption could have been higher, but they sold out in the second of three lunch periods! Take a few moments to examine the names you give your menu items; if they need some help, consider asking students to recommend new, more appealing names.

 The Power of Presentation

We’ve all heard the phrase, “We eat with our eyes, but with the success of social media websites like Pinterest and Instagram, students expect beauty from all of their food choices. Schools are finding styling success by presenting beans in disposable plastic serving cups with colorful garnishes, or by layering bean salads by individual ingredient in plastic cups with domed lids. These presentation steps take time and money, but they make the final dish feel a little more special—and more likely to be selected and eaten.

Customization is King

Young people are accustomed to the “Have It Your Way” restaurant world. By providing this type of experience in schools, you can encourage students to exert more control over their food choices. Build-Your-Own Burrito Bars are a great way to provide customized food experiences. And what do all burritos need? Beans! Schools that have provided both a pinto and black bean option at their burrito bar have reported the most success in getting kids to take beans. One district told us recently they put a small sign between the two beans containers that says “Two Beans Are Better Than One.” That small sign is having a major impact on motivating students to put both black and pinto beans in their burritos.

Send Home Recipe Ideas

Kids eat what they like and like what they know. And kids get to know a food by seeing and eating it over and over again. Schools are an important place to expose young people to delicious bean recipes regularly, but we know kids also need to taste beans at home. You can provide beans recipes for parents in school newsletters or on your district’s website. Providing simple, delicious bean recipes is a great way to encourage continued bean consumption at home. You can access the volume recipe for White Bean Turkey Chili and the home version at BeanInstitute.com.

Editor’s Note: Yes, you have our permission to share bean recipes from The Bean Institute website with your student and their parents.






Black Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Mini Fritatta

This black bean and roasted red pepper frittata makes a hearty breakfast or brunch for a high-protein start to the day. You can make this meatless frittata in mini bite-size servings or in a full sheet pan. Try pairing the beans in this frittata with other ingredients such as caramelized onions, sautéed spinach or chopped Kalamata olives.  

To download a Spanish translation of this recipe click here.

Macaroni & Cheese with Cannellini Beans

Macaroni & cheese is always a hit with kids. This dish combines the rich cheese sauce that kids love with creamy cannellini beans― which add the complete protein and fiber that parents love. Baking individual servings with a bread crumb crust until golden brown makes for a more sophisticated presentation suitable for a casual bar menu.

To download a Spanish translation of this recipe click here.

Pinto Bean, Monterey Jack & Red Salsa Quesadilla

Quesadillas are a meal that kids are guaranteed to love. This simple-to-make quesadilla mixes pinto beans with Monterey Jack cheese and salsa verde, for a healthy and flavorful favorite with a twist. Pairing beans with the whole grains in this tortilla makes a complete protein that supplies all nine essential amino acids.

To download a Spanish translation of this recipe click here.

Southwest Black Bean Salad with Avocado and Sherry Vinaigrette

This healthy summer salad can be served in lettuce cups or rolled into a whole-wheat tortilla for a quick grab-and-go wrap. The fresh and colorful summer vegetables mixed with creamy black beans and avocado dressing make for a healthy dish kids and adults alike will enjoy.

To download a Spanish translation of this recipe click here.

Pinto Bean and Quinoa Burger with Sriracha Mayonnaise

This healthy whole-grain burger is a great example of using beans in place of meat. Beans provide the protein that every body needs, but with none of the cholesterol that meat supplies. The mix of spices, nutty quinoa, sweet romesco spread and hearty beans, make this burger a satisfying meal for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.

To download a Spanish translation of this recipe click here.