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Bean brownies even picky eaters will love

Hidden goodness: Picky eaters will not know these chocolate brownies have a secret ingredient in the form of pinto or black beans (Photograph courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie)

I have always been an awkward dancer. A trusty glass of bubbles helps, but I’ve never dashed on to an empty dance floor. I am most comfortable in the middle of a sweaty mob where there is barely any room between bodies and a simple shimmy will do.

I am not being modest. When your friend leans over with the tip, “less elbows, more ass”, you know you’re not knocking it out of the park.

I was once laughed off the dance floor at a work Christmas party. I am not sure I will ever recover.

So the idea of doing Zumba with the children this week at our summer camp was a bit horrifying.

Broad daylight, no wine and zero co-ordination seemed like a bad combination. However, when you are faced with some hesitant children and you do not want them to catch your inhibitions, you have to throw yourself into it.

I have done the penguin dance, the chicken dance, the robot, the speed racer, the dinosaur walk and another one where I have to yell out “yo, yo” as if I am some kind of rapper. Honestly, my finals at university were easier than this.

Did I have a sudden epiphany and let out my inner booty-shaker? Er, no. Chloe leaned in at one point to give me some directions: “Mummy, it’s two steps that way then FOUR shakes, OK?”

She then demonstrated some ridiculously hard little routine that required moving your bum and interlocked arms in diagonally opposite directions. But despite my lack of ability, aside from Coach Chloe, none of the other children noticed.

They were far too busy following along themselves to look at me.

So “dance like nobody’s watching” is great advice after all — or at least when you are surrounded by children and pretending to be a stegosaurus.

I realised, though, that the same hesitation I have to dancing, some of our children have when it comes to trying new foods.

When dancing is something you love, it is hard to understand how someone else can dread it. The same applies to an adventurous diet. Some people like to stick to the same old, same old — nothing new or unusual.

So I have more empathy now for our nervous campers. I can see how trying a pepper or a cherry might throw them through a loop, especially when they are surrounded by a lot of new people.

I have been interested in children’s nutrition and eating habits ever since my own came along.

But it is only in the past few years of running a summer camp that I have really been exposed to a variety of preferences and behaviours.

Some children just need a little coaxing, a fun game or some educational motivation to start branching out. Others need time and understanding. It is tempting to get frustrated, and I admit sometimes I do, but there is often a bigger picture.

Whether a new baby has come along, they are finding school difficult or having problems with friends, food is one area that children feel they can “control”.

Short of forcing it down their necks, which may be tempting and yet no parent would ever really do, none of us can make a child eat something. In this instance, hesitancy can be a child’s way of saying, “hold on, I am going to decide if and what and when”.

In a world where they are often told how to behave, what to wear, when to wake, when to sleep and even when to pee, is it any wonder that rebellion raises its head?

While picky eating can be a frustrating phase, it is usually harmless. Check in with a doctor, dietitian or nutritionist to make sure that you have all the bases covered or some kind of supplement in place. Also, remember that in older children, this type of control can result in disordered eating so, again, keep your child’s healthcare providers in the loop.

Above all, if you can, and as hard as it may be, try not to let their food control affect your mood control.

Reacting often perpetuates the problem, so give yourself a timeout and get creative in the kitchen.

Although I always recommend offering fruit and vegetables in plain sight, there is nothing wrong with hiding things for picky eaters.

Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious, can give you all of the basics and there are lots of recipes online, too. At camp this week we experimented with bean brownies based on a recipe (see sidebar) by blogger Chocolate Covered Katie.

We used pinto beans (well rinsed) and even though the children saw exactly what went into the brownies, they were a hit. They passed the taste test with 26 of the 29 children giving them a thumbs-up.

Using beans in brownies instead of flour helps to make them allergy-friendly (we have several gluten-free children) although not for the bean-allergic, obviously.

It also gets an all-important dose of veggies in. Beans provide long-lasting energy and some extra B vitamins, too. The brownies have more of a fudgy consistency and are best served chilled from the fridge. They are so good, try them and see.

• The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the managing director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda

<p>Chocolate bean brownies</p>


• 1½ cups pinto beans (unsalted) or black beans, drained and rinsed well

• 2½ tbsp cocoa powder

• ½ cup quick-cook, gluten-free oats

• ¼ tsp salt

• ½ cup pure maple syrup

• ½ cup oil (coconut or safflower)

• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract (do not omit this)

• ½ tsp baking powder

• ½ cup dairy-free chocolate chips, such as Enjoy Life


1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease an 8x8in pan well.

2. Blend all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor until the mixture is as smooth as you think you can get it. I let mine go for at least a minute.

3. Stir through the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the pan.

4. Bake for 18-20 minutes and cool in the pan. Cut into squares and then place into the fridge to really set well (if you can wait that long). Use the freezer if you are in a hurry, for example, if you have a long line of hungry children waiting.