More Than a Cookie | Nutrient-Dense Treats Your Little Ones Will Love

recipe bMary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD of Milk & Honey Nutrition

As a mom to two little girls, ages 3 and 4, I’ve become well-accustomed to packaged foods, sweets, treats, and anything else that isn’t a fruit or a vegetable being their “favorite food” of the moment. There’s something about a shiny package or a sugar-laden treat that just seems to call their name any time it’s within a 10ft radius. (Yes, even the dietitian’s kids have a fascination with all things sugar.)

But what if we, as moms, could make the most of those so-called “treats”? What if we were ok with giving our kids a few “cookies” for breakfast, or a “brownie” every day at lunch?

Now, before you write this off as another article teaching you how to hide veggies in your kids’ food, let me explain. Rather than thinking of ways we can hide more nutrient-dense options in our kids’ snacks and meals, what if we viewed them as an opportunity to pack as much nutrition into their little bodies as possible? And still offer them fruits, veggies, and other nutrient loaded foods right alongside them? What if things like avocado cookies and black bean brownies were the norm, and our kids ate them up the same way they do a fat chocolate chip cookie?

Well, it’s not too good to be true, I promise. Here’s four ways to make sure the next time you make cookies or brownies with your kids, they’re loaded with as much nutrition as possible.

1. Leafy Greens

Kids love bright colors! Whether it’s a smoothie, muffins, or cookies… leafy green vegetables are a great way to add bright, fun green color to any dish. Leafy green vegetables, like kale, spinach, and collard greens, are a great source of vitamins A, C, E, and K. AND they’re rich in carotenoids which are amazing antioxidants.

Try adding spinach to muffins or kale to cookies!

2. Grain free flours

Grain free flours are all the rage right now for people following gluten-free, paleo, and whole30 diets. Coconut, almond, tapioca, and cassava to name a few. But even if you’re not considering those eating patterns, grain free flours are an excellent alternative to traditional white/wheat flours for a number of reasons:

  • They offer a lower glycemic index than traditional flours, meaning less blood sugar swings, which means less sugar crashes and mood swings from your kids.
  • They have a wider flavor profile and expose your kids to different flavors.
  • Grain free flours typically have a higher protein and fat content, and help contribute to satiety (feeling full). So, your child is less likely to ask for another snack an hour later.

Try coconut flour in blondies or blueberry muffins!

3. Oats

In addition to grain free flours, regular old oats are a great, higher fiber and lower glycemic option. They contain more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than other grains, as well as more protein and fiber. You can use them as your “flour” in pancakes, muffins, and cookies.

4. Avocado

What? You’ve never thought to add avocado to your baked goods? Believe it or not, avocado can be subbed for butter in many recipes, but it works especially well in cookies. Like these avocado banana cookies.

Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, and K, as well as several B vitamins. They’re also rich in lutein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote healthy eyes and a healthy heart. And since they’re also high in fiber, they help aid in digestion keeping you full and satisfied. (And, for you dairy-free mamas, this is a great nutrient-dense option to turn your favorite recipes into allergy friendly treats for your kids.)

5. Beans

If you take a quick look around my website, you’ll notice that any dessert labeled “high protein” also happens to have beans in it! Beans add a dense, soft texture to baked goods, as well as a hefty dose of protein and fiber. Try them out in brownies or even chocolate chip cookies! And just like avocado, beans help you (and your kids) feel fuller, longer and result in less “sugar crashes” later on.

Next time you’re in the kitchen, with kids or not, think about how you can make those favorite treats a little more nutrient-dense… and enjoy!