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School Fuel: Powering Up Your Child’s Lunch

Has the excitement of a new school year already worn off and left a dull, daily routine in its wake? Have you noticed your children’s lunches coming home half-eaten or worse – totally ignored? It’s time to combat drudgery by packing your child’s lunch box full of energy, colour, nutrition and flavour!

Its common knowledge that children who eat a well- balanced lunch are often more alert in class and generally perform better. But planning meals and snacks for your little lunch box connoisseurs can be a daunting task. If only there were nutrient dense foods tasty enough for those picky little palettes. Oh wait – there is!

Chickpeas, beans, peas and lentils (also referred to as pulses) are sensational foods that can be used in a variety of ways to get your children the fibre, protein and nutrients they need to thrive. Used the right way you can definitely win their hearts and taste buds!

Pulses come in a rainbow of colours and a variety of shapes and sizes, everything from bright orange lentils to yellow peas to big black beans. They also come in different formats: *canned, frozen, dry, even milled into flours. One easy way to get your kids eating healthier is to incorporate pulses into lunchtime foods your child already likes.

Here are 7 simple ways to pack more energy and nutrition into your child’s lunchbox:

  • use chickpea hummus instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches and wraps
  • blend cooked white beans into a fruit smoothie and store in a thermos (they’ll never even know!)
  • add cooked lentils to mac n’ cheese or other pasta dishes
  • whip up a tasty bean dip for veggies and crackers
  • add a handful of cooked peas to prepared soups or taco filling
  • make a sweet dip for sliced apples by pureeing cooked lentils with a ripe banana, sunflower butter (or other spread), honey and cinnamon (you can adjust the consistency by adding hot water)
  • be adventurous and include pureed pulses in a dessert like Raspberry Lentil Bars or Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

As you’re brainstorming ideas and preparing lunches, invite your kids to join in. This can be a fun and interactive way to connect with your children and teach them a thing or two about eating right. Happy creating/mixing/blending/spreading/dipping and eating!

*Using canned beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils: Strain and rinse the canned pulses under water for 2 minutes. This reduces the sodium content by 40%! Reduced sodium canned products are also available on the market.

For more great lunch ideas and recipes, check out

Have a question? Ask Christine Farkas, pulse enthusiast and chef at Pulse Canada: