Let’s face it, cooking dried beans can be a daunting task, and it’s certainly not the first food you would associate with baby food. You have to soak them ahead of time, cooking times are unpredictable, and we all know what property helped them to become notoriously known as the “musical fruit”. How do you easily incorporate these nutrient-packed little legumes into your baby food, and can you do it in a way that’s easily digestible?
This is not a blog about how to cook dried beans (I’ll leave that to you & Google). It’s about how to make them beans digestible for baby and to give you some recipe inspirations for baby food that you can use when you’re making your own.
And for those who have no interest in cooking dried beans from scratch, we’ll even talk about a specific brand of canned beans…one of the few canned items that I recommend for parents.
Behold the Bean
What makes them good for baby? From a nutritional standpoint, beans are packed with fiber and protein, about 8g of each in ½ cup. They’re digested and absorbed slowly, making baby (and us) feel fuller for a longer period of time. Beans are also very low on the glycemic index, which means there’s no dramatic spike in insulin. They’re great for maintaining consistent blood sugar levels and are typically a very satiating food.
And now we come to the word on everyone’s mind: digestion. Here are some suggestions on how to make dried beans more digestible…for baby and for your entire family.
Tip #1) Soak dried beans for 2 whole days – This is a process called “sprouting”, but you drain the beans before they actually sprout. Change the water 1-2 times per day and keep the soaking beans in the refrigerator, not on your kitchen counter! Most of the gas-causing agents are in the skins, so a 2-day soak with several water changes usually takes care of 80% of the gas problem.
Tip #2) Add kombu or other sea vegetables when you cook the beans – Kombu has enzymes that further break down the beans making them more digestible. Add a 2-3 inch strip to the beans to the pot during cooking. Available at most natural food stores.
Tip #3) Ease babies into beans the first time – start small if little ones are new to legumes. Give a few spoonfuls of your bean-based baby food to start, and feel free to combine with your favorite fruit, veggie or meat. If you use the two methods above (like I do at Little City Kitchen for all our bean flavors), then the chances are baby will be able to digest them easily.
I don’t generally recommend canned items, but there are occasionally some items that are good compromises. Native Forest coconut milk is one of them (the brand we use exclusively at Little City Kitchen), as are canned beans, specifically the Eden Organic brand. Most canned goods have BPA in the lining, but the Eden Organic brand are both organic and come in BPA-free cans. If you’re going for a canned bean, then this is the brand to buy.
Once your beans are cooked (or drained and rinsed if you’ve gone the can route), just throw them in your food processor with water or coconut milk, add any other fun ingredients and buzz away.
- Red beans: wonderful source of iron, go “Cajun” style with some okra, celery and green pepper, or sweet with some cinnamon and coconut milk
- Black beans: for savory, saute up some onions, mushrooms & garlic or for sweet, add some fruit like mangos or peaches and coconut milk
- Garbanzo beans (chickpeas): think hummus here…lemon, basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese
- White cannellini beans: go savory with some roasted carrot, parsnip and orange zest
Go forth to the bulk bins at Whole Foods and report back with your own bean adventures!
Jill Epner is the owner of Little City Kitchen Co. is a Bay Area company making handcrafted, organic, frozen baby food with an International twist. Follow us on Facebook, or sign up to receive our newsletter with information on starting solids & making your own baby food.