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Beans are incredibly healthy food - chic and trendy, too. Bean consumption increased 36 percent from 1989 to 1993, topping 8 pounds per person in 1993.

As we phase out the traditional method of menu planning - framing a hunk of meat on every plate with a few paltry vegetables - beans are nutritionally correct. The keen bean with protein can replace meat when eaten with a complementary protein food (cornmeal, rice, etc.). And beans add fiber to the diet, while meat doesn't.Food companies are jumping on the beanwagon, creating convenience products such as Pasta & Beans Creative Dishes from W.J. Clark & Co. These mixes are ready for the table in 15 minutes. Different flavor varieties blend small pasta shapes, precooked dry beans and a seasoning packet in each box. You add a touch of olive oil, some stock and fresh vegetables to get a healthy stove-top meal.

W.J. Clark flavors include Mediterranean Black Beans with Fusilli, Barcelona Red Beans with Radiatore and Country French Beans with Gemelli.