I have a very picky toddler at home – a very picky vegetarian toddler, that is. Before I became a parent, I had grand dreams about how my kids’ would eat. They would love healthy foods and hate all things junk. What. A. Joke. I am convinced that kids are born loving junk food. Well, at least my kid was. I did everything “right”. No pre-packaged baby food. No sugary foods. Iron-rich foods first and then vegetables. I blended and smushed our meals so that he was eating what we were eating.
And that worked – at first – you know, before he could feed himself or say no.
Getting kids to eat healthy meals is a battle for every parent, but I feel like the pressure is really “on” when you’re the parent of a vegetarian child. Fair enough. The more I learn about proper nutrition (by that I mean the stuff of registered dietitians, not internet celebrities), the more I realize that it’s quite complex. The reality is that you have to be intentional if you are going to get all of the nutrients you need in a day.
For lacto-ovo vegetarians like us, getting enough fruit, vegetables, and calcium is not much of a problem, but getting enough iron – now, that can be tricky. After a conversation with a dietitian, I realized that I needed to get my son to eat more iron and, because he’s so picky, I knew I was going to have to get creative! Thankfully, the dietitian also suggested a surprising solution – baking with fortified infant cereal. Iron fortified infant cereal is seriously high in iron (check the box!) and it can be used pretty easily as a substitute for flour. Now, I’m obviously giving up on my little guy to eating the more “natural” sources of iron, like beans, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, but baking with infant cereal seemed like a reasonable compromise.
So, I got out and old family peanut butter cookie recipe and started experimenting. I wanted to make sure that the cookies were as nutritious and as delicious as possible. So, in addition to using fortified infant cereal, I also reduced the sugar (just a little!), substituted the all-purpose flour for whole wheat, and opted for puffed brown rice instead of crispy rice cereal.
Picky Toddler Protein Cookies
Made with peanut butter, fortified infant cereal, and whole wheat flour, this tasty cookie recipe to help your picky toddlers get the iron they need.
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 1 egg or flax seed egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup iron-fortified infant oat cereal the kind you add milk to not water
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tbsp maple syrup optional, to taste
- 1 1/2 cup puffed whole brown rice
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream together coconut oil, peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. Until smooth. You may need to use a fork to break up the coconut oil.
Mix in flour, infant cereal, baking soda, and salt. Stir until well combined.
Mix in rice and chocolate chips until well incorporated.
Using tablespoons, drop cookie batter onto cookie sheet. You may need to press the cookies together a little so that they do not fall apart. Place on cookie sheet.
Bake cookies for 12 minutes or until tips are golden and cookies are no longer shiny on top.
PLEASE NOTE: In order to ensure maximum iron absorption, iron-rich foods should be served with foods rich in vitamin C (e.g., apple, orange, 100% fruit juices) and at least 2 hours before and after calcium-rich foods.
VEGAN OPTION: Instead of traditional egg, use flax seed egg.
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