There are ways that we can include more pulses in our daily meals, including for babies and young children. Pulses are suitable for those following vegetarian and vegan diets and for all different religious and cultural groups (Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslin, Buddhist, and Rastafarian). Here are a few reasons for the benefits of eating pulses and how you can go about using pulses more regularly.
What are the nutritional benefits of pulses?
Pulses are nutrient dense and are great sources of protein, iron, zinc, calcium, riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and fibre while being low in fat. Two tablespoons (50g) of cooked pulses can provide about 10% of the iron, zinc and magnesium required by 4–6-year-olds.
Increasing evidence shows that pulses have a role in the prevention and control of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
How can pulses be used in meals for babies and young children?
Pulses can be offered, among other first foods from 6 months and part of an increasingly varied diet. Pulses and are great for this age, since they can be mashed easily and provide a variety of tastes and textures. Just see all the pictures below!
Pulses can be eaten daily and can be included in both meals and snacks. We have a wide variety of recipe ideas for babies and young children that include different types of pulses.
First Steps Nutrition Trust have put together a list of pulse-based recipes that are in their free downloadable recipe books. Click here to learn more.
How can pulses be used to save costs?
One way to decrease costs with cooking is to cut down the amount of meat bought and to use less meat in dishes especially by adding more vegetables, and pulses (e.g., chickpeas, lentils, or red kidney beans) to add extra protein. For example, when making mince dishes, the mince could be replaced with lentils or you could use half mince, half lentils. Pulses also have a long shelf-life which means there is low risk of wastage.
We hope that this has provided some practical ideas about how you can start to include more pulses in the daily meals of your little ones. We hope you look forward to trying out some of the suggestions we have made.
First Steps Nutrition Trust (FSNT). 2020. Eating well: vegan infants and under-5s. https://www.firststepsnutrition.org/s/Eating_well_Vegans-Feb_2020_forweb.pdf
Firsts Steps Nutrition Trust (FSNT). 2020. Eating well recipe book: Simple, cost-effective ideas for the whole family. https://www.firststepsnutrition.org/s/Eating-Well-Recipe-Book-for-web-10-Apr-2022-for-web.pdf
Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). 2018. How to get kids to eat pulses. https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1126738/
Vieira EDF, Gomes AM, Gil AM & Vasconcelos MW. 2021. Pulses’ Benefits in Children’s Diets: A Narrative Review. Journal of Obesity and Chronic Diseases. 5(1):13-22. https://doi.org/10.17756/jocd.2021-042
First Steps Nutrition Trust is an independent public health nutrition charity that endeavours to fill practical and policy-relevant information gaps and provide resources for health workers supporting eating well from pre-conception to five years.
Katie Pereira-Kotze is a Senior Nutritionist at First Steps Nutrition Trust.