Pulses might be small, but they certainly are mighty when it comes to their versatility and nutritient density. That's why to celebrate World Pulses Day (yes, it's a thing!), we chat to Lucy Upton, our resident Children's Dietitian, who explains what makes pulses so beneficial and shares her most-loved pulses…
What exactly is a pulse?
Pulses are the dry, edible seeds of plants in the legume family. A pulse is basically a term that encompasses a group of foods which includes; dry beans, lentils, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lupins and more. You can see the full list and visual guide of pulses here.
What are the benefits of pulses?
Pulses are a fantastic and versatile food to include in children's diets. They are a powerhouse of beneficial big nutrients including fibre, protein and smaller nutrients including iron, zinc and magnesium. Did you also know that pulses also count towards a child’s 5-a-day?
As a Children's Dietitian, which pulses are your favourite?
It’s difficult to pin point a favourite pulse for me - as they all have benefits and the wide variety you can choose from easily helps to provide variety in a child’s diet. I often tell parents to just pick up a different can or packet of pulses a week for a simple way to mix up dietary variety.
My favourite ones to use at home are:
Red lentils: They are cheap, so easy to cook and versatile. You can add red lentils to bolognese or chilli to increase the fibre and nutrients. You can use them to make dhal, falafel and even wraps or savoury pancakes (you’ll also see red lentil flour now used to make pasta!).
Chickpeas: For me the texture of chickpeas means they are easy to incorporate into lots of meals - from curry to sandwich fillings or blending to a smooth hummus. A filling and fibre rich option for main meals, snacks and even sweeter foods, such as chickpea ‘cookie dough’!
Kidney beans: Red kidney beans are a versatile pulse, and a great source of plant-based protein, iron, folate and magnesium. Like all pulses, they don't have to be pigeonholed into a one-meal wonder (like chilli con carne which is what most of use associate them with), and can be used to mix up your children's dietary variety by;
- Making nutritious dips e.g. blended with roasted vegetables, garlic and some oil.
- Mashing and mixing through mashed potato to boost the fibre and nutrient content of a child's favourite!
- Using to make homemade baked beans (simply combine with passata and veggies of your choice, and bake in the oven for around 25 mins).
- Using instead of pulses like chickpeas for curries and stews.
- Adding to soups or rice dishes.
Pulses included in Pots for Tots meals...
Yes! From the green lentils in our Lentil Bolognese, to the chickpeas in our Veggie Korma and red kidney beans in our Three Bean Chilli, we wanted to ensure our meals include gut-loving, nutrient-dense pulses!
We know that the first few years of a child’s life can really help to shape a happy gut microbiome (did you know the first 3 years are THE most important time for establishing a diverse ‘gut garden’?) - so including pulses alongside the wide range of veggie we use across our meals was a no brainer! You can read more about supporting a healthy gut garden in this blog post.
Pots for Tots meals which include pulses:
Simple Chicken Korma
Indian-Style Veggie Pilaf
Three Bean Chilli
Thanks Lucy for keeping our fingers on the pulse (see what we did there?) when it comes to all things nutrition! If you're looking for more from Lucy, she's recently shared tips on how to support your child's gut microbiome, and how to support their immune system.
Love, Team Pots for Tots x