It seems like Jay Bush and Duke the Dog are always on TV hocking cans of Bush’s Best Beans. We love beans as much as the next person—especially with some barbecue!—but a recent commercial gave us pause. At the end of it one mother, who’s watching her kids eat baked beans, says something along the lines of, “Isn’t it great to see them eating vegetables?”
Now, there’s no denying that beans are plants–after all, the navy beans used for most varieties come from a plant that looks a lot like a green bean. But, when you add bacon, salt, and sugar to beans, do they still really qualify as a vegetable?
Here’s what Mary Hartley, RD, our in-house nutrition expert had to say:
“As a plant food, beans are technically in the vegetable group. Like all vegetables, they are loaded with fiber, potassium and folate. Dried beans can also fill in for meat because they have more protein, iron, and zinc than other vegetables.
Commercial baked beans are a wholesome food that is good for children some of the time. However, they do contain added sugar (about 3 teaspoons per half cup) and too much sodium (over 500 milligrams per half cup; the daily limit is 1500 mg), although reduced sodium baked beans are available.”
So, baked beans aren’t necessarily the best way for kiddos (or adults!) to get nutrients, but they are just fine, in moderation. Of course, that’s not to say all beans should be monitored and limited. Plain, canned, and rinsed dried beans are always a great food for children, says Hartley. Black beans and garbanzo beans are a typical household staple and navy beans, kidney beans, and canellini beans are also quite versatile. Her suggestion for getting these on the table: Add them to soups and stews, make your own chili, or put them in a cup for little fingers to pick up one by one.