Energy bars are so useful for busy toddlers - I love these as they freeze well so I can always have one ready to go and the added lentils packs in some extra nutrients.
Little Goat was on medication to help manage his reflux as a baby – one of the potential side effects that worried me was that it might make minerals harder to absorb – notably iron. I asked his paediatrician about this at our next appointment when he was about 8 months and she just replied “oh, all breastfed babies are iron-deficient”.
This deficiency is because one of the few things that breast milk is low in is iron – babies are born with iron stores that last 6 to 9 months but they need to start getting iron from other sources from around 6 months. There are a few competing theories as to why breast milk is low in iron – one is that when they start crawling they spend their time in the dirt and with everything going into their mouths they are getting sufficient iron from the soil – that’s my personal favourite as when Little Goat shovels another mouthful of muck into his mouth I can put it down to getting a balanced diet. Stew‘s theory is that breast milk needs to have built in obsolescence otherwise kids would breastfeed until they hit puberty.
The well-known source of iron is meat-products, especially beef, but Little Goat has never been a fan of it and with a few exceptions (like this 7 veg lasagna) won’t eat very much of it. Enter the lentils.
Lentils are an amazing source of protein and iron – they have more iron gram for gram than beef plus a load of other nutrients (including B vitamins and Zinc). Before experimenting with them I’d always thought of lentils as a pretty bland side-dish, like brown lentils with a bit of carrot and onion, and couldn’t understand why anyone would choose them as a meal. I am now a total convert. This recipe is one of the most toddler-pleasing and makes a great high-energy snack. They also freeze really well and you can grab a few from the freezer, pop them into your bag and they’re ready to eat by the time you’re at the park.
Lentil Energy Bars
Makes: 10 generous bars
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Cooling time: ~1 hour
- 50g red lentils (this doesn’t work nearly as well with any other kind as they need to basically disintegrate into the bars)
- 100g cashew nuts
- 60g coconut oil
- 200g dates (about 30 small dates)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon all-spice
- Sesame seeds for sprinkling on top (optional)
- Rinse the lentils, then put in a saucepan with ~100ml water and the spices (cinnamon is a must, all-spice is optional) cook for 20 minutes (packet instructions will say about 10-15 minutes but you want them to be mushy). Keep an eye on them for the last few minutes to make sure they don’t boil completely dry but you don’t want excess water at the end either.
- Add the coconut oil to the warm lentils so it melts completely
- Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend
- Scoop into a tray lined with baking paper and put into the fridge until set, cut into squares
- Freeze whatever you’re not going to use – put a bit of baking paper between each one and put them in a freezer bag so you can just peel off one or two as you need them (I reuse the baking paper I made them on - less waste!)