Pulses are highly versatile ingredients to cook with—as either a main meal or a side dish, they are the perfect complement to even the boldest of flavours. But just like any new type of food, convincing the pickiest eaters in the family to try these nutritious beans, peas and lentils can sometimes prove difficult.

Here are some fun and creative suggestions for getting your kids excited about eating their pulses.

Start with the familiar

Hummus is a widely popular dip made of chickpeas and many children love it. But did you know you can make it with almost any kind of cooked pulses? Using your favourite hummus recipe, simply replace the chickpeas with cooked lentils or beans. Try adding flavours to your hummus that you know your children already enjoy, such as red bell pepper or sundried tomato. Serve these tasty new creations with toasted pita or sliced veggies, or as spread on a sandwich. See how many fun combinations you can come up with!

Burgers and meatballs are also a popular food with children, and lentils, beans or a mixture of the two can be substituted for meat to make delicious, homemade patties and meatless meatballs. Especially if you have picky eaters, you may want to start with these burgers since kids are more likely to try a food that looks familiar to them.

Eliminate mushiness

Many kids hate the “mushy” texture of beans. This can be eliminated by cooking with dried beans instead of canned beans, which will produce a much more palatable texture. Dried beans should be soaked overnight before cooking.

  • Take the hands-on approach

Borrow a book from the library on how pulses grow, or even plant your own variety of pulses in the backyard so that your kids can learn where their food comes from. If you can get your children excited about the process, they will be much more enthusiastic about trying the result.

Getting kids involved in cooking can also make them excited about the dishes they helped create. Take a trip to the market together and let your children choose the pulses (and even fruits and vegetables!) that they want to eat.

Once you’re back at home, continue the experience by having your kids help prepare the pulses by soaking them in bowls of water. Ask your children to be in charge of the project by setting a timer or choosing a time to come back and check on the pulses.

When making patties with pulses, let your kids help you mix and shape the patties. Give your kids a chance to “cook dinner” for the family by letting them build their own burritos or tacos using beans as an ingredient.

  • Play with your food

Beans, peas and lentils are easy to arrange on a plate to create different designs. Shape your beans into happy faces or your lentils into shooting stars—let your children design their own plate of pulses.

  • Mix into your favourite soups and sauces

Cooked lentils, beans and peas can easily be pureed and stirred into soups, stews and even sauces. They not only add depth and flavour, but also help thicken your soups and stews to make them heartier and more nutrient-rich.

  • Save room for dessert

Many desserts incorporate beans, as they have a mild flavour and can add richness and moistness to baked goods. In East Asian cuisine, sweet bean pastes are used often in desserts such as mooncakes and steamed buns. You can easily add beans into your own desserts by making a sweet bean paste from pureed red beans and brown sugar.

Cooked black beans can also replace eggs in many chocolate cake and brownie recipes—and your kids will never know the difference!

Pulses have a low glycemic index, are low in fat and good source of iron and other vitamins and minerals. The variety of ways to incorporate pulses into every meal make them an excellent and easy addition to your family’s diet.

Pulses typically contain about twice as much protein as most grains, making these legumes an important food staple around the world – especially in areas where malnutrition is a serious issue. As an affordable, nutrient-rich food, pulses are an important tool toward achieving #ZeroHunger.