Nutritious and Tasty Lentil Sweet Potato Patties for Babies and Toddlers
Some of my mommy friends have been egging me to write another post about baby food so I thought I would share my son’s absolute favorite food (as of now). Not only are they tasty but they are also very nutritious! I call them, “lentil patties”.
I came up with the idea when I was trying to incorporate more iron rich foods in my first son’s diet. As a frame of reference, the recommended dietary allowance for iron for infants ages 7-12 months is 11 mg of iron per day. That is more than a grown man! My son was only 7 months old at the time so he wasn’t chowing down on sirloin steaks. In fact, it was difficult for him to bite off more than a sliver of meat, let alone enough to meet his iron needs. Since we were doing baby-led weaning, he needed his food to be large enough to hold but soft enough to eat without many teeth. I eventually tried liver pate (which was a hit and I will discuss in another blog!) but I had to spoon feed it. I also did not want him eating it daily due to the high vitamin A content.
So… I finally stumbled on lentil patties after my husband suggested we have homemade lentil soup on a chilly fall day. While lentils contain non-heme iron which is not as bioavailable as heme iron found only in animal foods, lentils have three times more iron per 100-calorie serving than steak (1). Plus, I know that I can increase the absorption of non-heme iron by serving a vitamin C rich fruit, vegetable, or breastmilk with lentils. According to a study on the bioavailability of iron, adding a vitamin C source to a meal increases non-heme iron absorption up to six-fold which makes the absorption of non-heme iron as good or better than that of heme iron (2).
To be honest, these lentil patties do take some time upfront to make but once they are prepared, you can freeze them in bulk, defrost in the microwave, and serve in one minute tops! Since I have made a batch three different times, I have been able to perfect my recipe to maximize nutrition and minimize mess. The first time I made them, I felt that I needed to add breadcrumbs to keep them bound. I did not feel very good about adding breadcrumbs because the only ones we have in our house (panko) are actually not very nutritious. I also felt that the more breadcrumbs there were in the patties, the fewer nutrient dense lentils and veggies. Every bite counts! I was able to figure out if I just kept them on the stove longer, continually stirring, I could evaporate most of the liquid, allowing the patties to stay together without breadcrumbs as a binder.
The recipe below is about half of the recipe I usually make so if you child loves these (which they probably will) you can definitely double the recipe and make and freeze a whole bunch of lentil patties.
2 T olive oil
¼ c finely diced carrots
¼ c finely diced celery
¼ c finely diced onion
1 T finely minced garlic
1 cup dry whole lentils, rinsed
3 cups of low-sodium broth (or water), plus more if necessary (Note: I use broth because we usually make a big pot of the lentils and use some for patties and some for soup. If you are making this for your baby only, you could use water instead of broth to decrease the amount of sodium in the recipe).
1/2 c shredded sweet potato
1 T ground flax seed, soaked in 3 T water (Note: This is considered a “flaxseed egg”. My son is allergic to eggs so I use this instead. If you decide to use an egg, I would beat the egg in a separate bowl and add it to the mixture only once it is fully cooled down to room temperature. You can also use an egg and a sprinkle of dry ground flaxseed to boost the nutritional value of these patties!)
2 T butter
In a large pot, heat up the oil and add the garlic, onions, carrots, and celery. Sauté on medium for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the broth and lentils. Let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Add more broth or water if it evaporates.
While the lentils are cooking, wash and peal a sweet potato. Shred about half of the potato using a cheese grater.
In a small dish, mix 3 T water with 1 T ground flaxseed.
After the lentils have been cooking for 20 minutes, taste them to see if they are done. They should be soft and easy to mash with a fork or between two fingers. Once the lentils are fully cooked, add the shredded sweet potato. Add an additional ½ cup of water to help the sweet potato cook. Continue to stir the mixture to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Once the sweet potato is cooked, continue to stir the mixture on low heat until most of the moisture has been absorbed and it becomes a thick and stiff mixture. Remove from the heat and add the ground flaxseed water emulsion.
Allow the mixture to cool down to room temperature. Once cooled, portion out heaping tablespoon-sized patties by rolling them into a ball and then flattening them between the palms of your hands. They should be about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Layout formed patties on a plate or tray.
Melt 1 T butter on a skillet at medium heat. Add a few patties to the pan (similar to making pancakes). Cook 1-2 minutes per side. Place cooked patties on a paper towel to cool. Add more butter if necessary and cook remaining patties.
Serve patties fresh or save for later!
If freezing patties, it is best to freeze them on a plate covered in plastic wrap. Once the patties are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.
To reheat, microwave 1-2 patties for 20 seconds, flip, 20 seconds. Allow to cool before serving!
Check out this infographic from Lentils.org!
Hallberg L. Bioavailability of dietary iron in man. Ann Rev Nutr 1981;1:123-147.