Bean dips and spreads are perfect for school lunches and after school snacks. Here is why you should consider adding them to your diet:

• Kids love dipping. Give them a variety of different vegetables and crackers to dip.

• Dips are SO easy to make. Depending on the recipe, it can take less than 5 minutes to mix or blend all the ingredients.

• You can make a large batch of a dip in advance and freeze it in individual containers for quick and healthy lunch. Use straight-sided glass jam jars, plastic lunch containers or even freeze dips in an ice cube tray, then store the frozen cubes in a Ziploc bag.

• Homemade dips are a great way to make sure your kids are eating plenty of vegetables. If dipping a carrot stick into a batch of hummus isn’t your kid’s sort of thing, then add vegetables directly to the dip.

• Beans are a nutrient-dense food, high in protein and fibre.

The following three bean dip recipes are simple and can be made in less than 10 minutes. I recommend making a double or triple batch and freezing some for those days when you need a quick and easy option for lunch.

Mexican Bean and Salsa Dip
(Total Time: 5 minutes)
This is a ridiculously easy dip. It is also incredibly delicious. Serve it with slices of coloured peppers, cherry tomatoes and corn chips.

1 can of refried beans
1 ½ cups of your favourite salsa
Optional toppings: grated cheese, cilantro, chopped green onions, sour cream

1. Mix the salsa and the refried beans together.
2. Taste the dip and add more salsa, if you want.
3. This dip is delicious without any of the toppings, however, feel free to serve it with grated cheese, cilantro or sour cream.

Creamy Bean and Spinach Dip
(Total Time: 15 minutes)
This creamy bean and cheese dip is similar to a spinach dip with added beans for protein. It’s important to use creamy white beans as it will add to the buttery flavour of the dip. I recommend using butter beans if you can find them. Otherwise white kidney beans or cannellini beans will work.

10 oz package of frozen spinach
3 green onions
1 can of white beans
½ cup yogurt
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp salt

1. Defrost and drain the package of frozen spinach.
2. Coarsely chop the green onions.
3. Drain and rinse the can of white beans.
4. Place the spinach in a food processor with the onions, beans, yogurt and olive oil.
5. Process everything together until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water, as needed, to help with the processing.
6. Finish the dip by adding the grated Parmesan cheese, then add the salt, to taste.

Hummus
(Total Time: 15 minutes)
Hummus is the classic bean dip. It is popular, which is why there are so many different types available in the grocery store. However, hummus is easy and inexpensive to make at home. Consider making large batches of hummus and freezing them in 500mL containers.

If you use dried chickpeas, soak them in water overnight, then boil them with 1 Tbsp of baking soda. The baking soda helps to breakdown the tough hulls, resulting in smooth and creamy hummus.

If you want to get some extra vegetables into your diet, then add cooked vegetables to your hummus. I’ve suggested some more typical flavour combinations, but you could add 1 cup of cooked carrots, cauliflower, spinach or sweet potato during the processing. Just add pesto or roasted red peppers to mask the unusual flavour.

Hummus Ingredients:
2 cans of chickpeas
½ cup of tahini paste
¼ cup of lemon juice
2 tsp garlic powder (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic)
¼–3/4 cup of water
1 tsp salt, to taste

Flavours:
Pesto
Sun-dried tomatoes (drained from oil and chopped into small pieces)
Roasted red peppers
Kalamata olives with the pits removed
Toasted pine nuts
Za’atar spice
Fresh herbs like basil, parsley or chives

1. Drain and rinse the canned chickpeas.
2. Mix the chickpeas with the tahini, lemon juice and garlic powder in a blender or a food processor. I usually use an immersion blender.
3. Grind the chickpeas as much as possible.
4. When the mixture is too thick to grind, add a little of the water. Keep processing and adding water as needed. The exact amount of water required will depend on how soft the chickpeas are. The goal is it create a smooth dip. The hummus will become thicker when it’s refrigerated, so be sure not to make it too thick.
5. Flavours can be either added to the blending or chopped up finely and sprinkled on top. If you are adding pesto, olives or sun-dried tomatoes to the hummus then you may want to reduce the amount of salt. When blending flavours into the hummus, use about ¼ to ½ cup of flavour.
6. Za’atar, pine nuts and fresh herbs are nice when sprinkled on top of the hummus then drizzled with 2 Tbsp of olive oil.

Emillie Parrish loves having adventures with her two busy children. She lives in Victoria and is the author of the fermentation-based blog fermentingforfoodies.com.