Mariel here. Recently I took my toddler to his 18-month checkup….which entailed the dreaded fingerprick to test his lead and hemoglobin levels. The results came back instantly: he was borderline anemic, which is not exactly a big deal, but semi shocking since he eats a pretty colorful arrangement of cuisines, including his new fave, dog food. Our pediatrician turned and asked me – straight faced – “Does he eat a good amount of leafy greens?”
“Umm, do tree leaves from the backyard count?” I asked back, similarly straight faced. No, in fact, they do not.
Red meat is the first place people turn when iron runs low, but we’re not huge steak lovers in my household, so I’m also trying to sniff out other sources. When I came across this pesto recipe from Whole Living, I was intrigued and decided to adapt it based on what I had on-hand so it didn’t cost me a dime. Thankfully, my son is pretty piggy when it comes to pasta, so this was a huge hit – so huge that he took to eating it straight from the jar. It was the perfect way to get him back on track since the pumpkin seeds and spinach together account for 30% of the recommended daily value of iron.
I’ve done a little research since my son’s appointment, and plant-based iron sources (aka non-heme iron) isn’t as readily absorbed by the body as meat-based sources are (aka heme iron). So I do plan on adding red meat to the weekly menu, most likely via our Pesto-Parmesan Meatballs (which also sneak in spinach), this Orange Beef Stir Fry, and/or our Butcher’s Bolognese. Hopefully this will get my little iron man back in the red, and if it doesn’t, I may have to revisit the swaddle, since he basically non-verbally threatened to end the nurse’s life when she drew blood from his pointer.
Pumpkin Seed and Spinach Pesto
Makes about 2 cups
Adapted from Whole Living
1 cup hulled, raw pumpkin seeds – $6.87
1 cup fresh basil, packed – $1.79
¼-cup fresh chives, roughly chopped – $0.69
1 cup baby spinach, packed – $3.99
1 large garlic clove – stock
1 teaspoon salt – stock
Freshly ground black pepper – stock
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil – stock
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $13.34
1) Using a food processor, pulse together the pumpkin seeds, basil, chives, spinach, garlic, salt & pepper until it forms a thick paste. Leaving the processor running, pour in the olive oil until creamy. Taste and add more salt, if desired.