So I was talking to a mother the other day and she mentioned that her 1 year old daughter had tested positive for anemia (actually at a severe level) while at a routine check up. We haven’t signed HIPAA forms here at Cuizoo, so I can’t name names, but suffice it to say that she was freaked out and a little dumbfounded by the diagnosis. And as with many childhood medical situations, the pediatrician was rather matter of fact about it and forgot that MOTHERS FREAK THE F**K OUT when told something like this. She was sent off with some rushed instructions about supplements and a two second statement about feeding the child dark leafy greens.
It instantly reminded me of when my daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies. The pediatrician gave us the test results, told me they were life threatening, and sent us on our way with an Epi-Pen prescription. And I was like, I’M FREAKING THE F**K OUT here and you are already next door checking on Timmy’s whooping cough.
At that point, I had very few friends who had kids (and no one with experience with food allergies) so I was pretty much on my own trying to figure out what to feed a child who couldn’t consume dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, or nuts. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I became a specialist when it came to limited or special diets for children — which has been a good thing because I get questions from people needing advice on a daily basis.
When the unnamed person told me about the anemia, I started searching for iron-rich foods that wouldn’t require the child to chew on meat and bones all day long. I told her that I would come up with a reasonably healthy, toddler-friendly snack that would be super rich in iron. I decided to go the pumpkin and white bean route because they are great sources of iron — and what I ended up with is a great kid’s treat (that adults will probably enjoy too). It is a very cakey and tender cookie and it definitely passed my kids’ taste test. It could actually almost be a breakfast bar on the go if you skip the white chocolate (or don’t . . . your choice).
And if your family is not eating as much meat as you used to, it’s also good to remember iron levels for non-anemic children (and adults). Legumes and dark leafy greens are great sources — and actually it seems like you can’t go wrong integrating them both into your diet for many reasons. I ran this recipe through a nutritional analysis and it came back pretty strong with each cookie having 120 calories, 4 grams of fat (could easily cut back on that further by using applesauce), 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 4% of your daily Calcium, 20% of your daily Vitamin A, and 10% of your daily Iron.
And it seems to me that getting a one year old to eat one of these is going to be a hell of a lot easier than a bowl full of spinach.
Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
1/2 cup of butter, softened (1 stick, could replace at least half with applesauce if watching fat)
1/2 cup of honey*
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 cup of white bean puree (approximately one 15 ounce can pureed with 1/8 cup of water)
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup of old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds (finely chopped if giving to small children or toddlers)
1/2 cup of small white chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup of raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit (Optional. But once again, finely chopped if giving to small children or toddlers)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. Cream softened butter and honey together until light and fluffy. Add in egg and mix well. Add in egg yolk and mix well again. Add in white bean puree and pumpkin puree and mix until incorporated.
3. Slowly add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix until just barely combined.
4. Finish mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, white chocolate chips/chunks, and dried fruit (if using).
5. Drop by the tablespoon full onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 11-12 minutes until just golden. Let cool on sheets for 1-2 minutes and then cool fully on racks. (Can store in a tightly covered tin or freeze.)
*Remember that honey should not be given to children under one year of age. You can substitute sugar or maple syrup for the younger crowd.