Canned Beans and Peas Offer Great, Nutrient-Rich Choices for Athletes

By Chris Rosenbloom//Contributor  | Monday, April 20, 2020

Social distancing due to COVID-19 is limiting trips to grocery stores, Farmer’s Markets, or big box stores and many are turning to canned foods to stock kitchen pantries. One popular item is canned beans and peas, great choices for a nutrient-rich food for athletes. Why? Beans and other legumes (like chickpeas, black-eyed peas, and lentils) are unique among vegetables for their high protein content. Beans are capable of an important biological process called nitrogen fixation giving them a higher protein content than other vegetables. Nitrogen fixation is also good for the environment by enriching or naturally fertilizing the soil. Besides being a protein powerhouse, beans also are a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and the B-vitamin, folate.

Here’s some tips for using the canned beans in a variety of ways, from breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks.  Beans are a versatile part of many cuisines. From vegetarian to Latin or Indian-inspired dishes, beans are often the star ingredient.

To get started, drain beans in a colander and rinse under cool tap water. Draining and rinsing beans can lower sodium content by about 40% (here’s a link to the study to tell you how it was done


  • Make a breakfast burrito with canned pinto beans, cheese, and salsa
  • Add black beans to scrambled eggs
  • Add your favorite bean to a spinach frittata


  • Use canned navy beans to make a hearty soup
  • Add a can of any bean to a can of vegetable or chicken noodle soup
  • Add black beans to guacamole and eat with bean chips
  • Jazz up canned baked beans by adding mustard, catsup, onion, and brown sugar and serve as a side to a sandwich


  • Try white chicken chili with cannellini beans (a white kidney bean)
  • Make a layered bean dip with canned refried beans. Mix beans with salsa and spread in baking dish and layer with chopped lettuce, tomato, black olives, cheese, and sour cream
  • Add chickpeas to a salad topped with grilled salmon
  • Make Cuban black beans and rice; add sausage, chicken, or soy crumbles
  • Make a side salad of a variety of canned beans, add corn, and mix with cilantro and an oil/vinegar dressing.
  • Try a side of Hoppin’ John…. canned black-eyed peas and rice. (A traditional Southern dish eaten on New Year’s Day for good luck.)
  • Make dal, an Indian dish with lentils, tomatoes, onions, and spices and serve with Nan bread


  • Learn to make your own hummus with canned chickpeas. They’re less expensive than store-bought, and everyone can add their favorite flavors such as lemon, roasted red pepper, or olive tamponade
  • Roast chickpeas in the oven for a healthy snack
  • Make bean dips and serve with carrots and celery
  • Try homemade black bean burgers

If you are looking to build your cooking muscles as you spend more time at home, here are a few good websites for recipes using beans:

Food & Nutrition Solutions by Jill Weisenberger has great recipes; check out her chickpea bowl, black bean soup, orange lentil salad, and black bean burger (one of my favorite recipes)

Sharon Palmer, The Plant-Powered Dietitian, provides 100% vegan recipes, many featuring beans

Produce for Better Health Foundation has a website with tag line, “Have a plant,” and features recipes with fruits and veggies. Try the 7 Can Soup in the crockpot, featuring two kinds of beans

You might expect great bean recipes from Bush’s Beans, and you’d be right. With over 300 recipes, my favorites are Nacho Average Nachos and Black Bean Chili

What’s your favorite way to use canned beans? Let me know at and we’ll feature it in a future post.

Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian, sports nutritionists, and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She welcomes questions from swimmers, parents, and coaches at