Iron is needed to make haemoglobin found in red blood cells.
These red blood cells carry oxygen around our child’s body, to ensure that their organs, muscles, tissues and cells receive oxygen.
Iron is also essential for brain development and optimal function of their central nervous system.
How much iron do babies and toddlers need per day?
Health experts advise that full-term healthy babies are born with an iron reserve. During the first six month, babies obtain iron through breastmilk and/or iron-fortified infant formula milk. When they are ready to start solids, foods rich in iron can be included in their diet so they receive essential nutrients from fresh food too.
As a guide on the amount of iron essential for healthy development, babies from 7 to 12 months need 11mg of iron per day, and toddlers (1 – 3 years) require about 7mg of iron daily.
Babies who have low iron levels, or are diagnosed with anaemia or iron deficiency, may experience symptoms such as pale skin, frequent tiredness, dizziness and a slower development. It is important to seek medical advice or treatment from health experts. Doctors may prescribe multivitamins with iron for kids, or iron supplements for children to include in their diets.
List of Wholesome Foods Rich in Iron
Through diet, children can obtain iron from their daily meals. Eating a balanced diet is part of forming healthy eating habits in the family, to educate young children about conscious eating.
There are 2 types of iron – Heme and non-heme iron; from meat and vegetables respectively. Between both types of iron, heme sources are more easily absorbed by the body. Here is a list of iron-rich food that are great options for your babies and toddlers:
#1: Red meat
Beef, lamb, pork and duck are types of red meat that parents can prepare for children. However, due to religion or other reasons, certain red meat may be avoided. Hence, parents should look to other poultry or non-heme iron from vegetables instead.
Amount of iron your child gets: 100g beef = approx. 2.6mg iron; 100g lamb = approx. 1.9mg iron; 100g duck = approx. 2.7mg
Food ideas: Grill, stir fry, roast or bake – put together a one-pot beef stew, lamb pasta, or duck porridge. For young children, ensure that meat is fully cooked, avoiding semi-rare cooking states to reduce risk of food contamination.
Besides being touted as a brain food for its doses of DHA and Choline, eggs are high in iron too. For babies, serve them fully cooked as undercooked ones may pose a risk for food poisoning due to salmonella bacteria.
Amount of iron your child gets: 1 whole egg = approx. 1mg iron
Food ideas: One of the most versatile ingredients, eggs can be served in a variety of ways. Hard boiled eggs are great for babies and toddlers for that palate experience. Stuff omelettes, scrambled eggs and baked frittatas with added goodness from spinach and tomatoes (or other veggies!) for extra nutrients! Or simply crack an egg in your toddler’s bowl of Mee Sua – easy peasy!
Don’t belittle these itsy-bitsy beans! Kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas provide a rich source of iron for growing children. Vegans and vegetarian families may consume more of these beans for iron intake. What’s more, these beans add fibre to your child’s diet too, easing his bowel movements.
Amount of iron your child gets: 100g kidney beans = approx. 2.2mg iron; 100g lentils = approx. 3.3mg iron; 100g chickpeas = approx. 2.9mg iron
Food ideas: For babies, these beans may be blended and mashed to prevent choking. Try a mixed beans hummus as a deliciously healthy dip with toast or celery sticks; or perhaps a warm beans gravy to go with their iron-fortified cereal or rice. For toddlers, roasted chickpeas make tasty and healthy finger food too!
#4: Kale and Spinach
These leafy greens are often added into baby’s food for good reasons. In addition to vitamins and minerals, Kale and spinach are rich in iron, and boost high nutritional goodness that support healthy development. Clearly, Popeye knew what’s good for him!
Amount of iron your child gets: 100g kale = approx. 1.5mg iron; 100g spinach = approx. 2.7mg iron
Food ideas: To retain the nutrients in spinach and kale, cook them briefly before they wilt completely. These vegetables are brilliant as is – try sautéed spinach with garlic, baked kale chips, or simply add a handful of these delectable greens into your child’s bowl of grains or noodles.
#5: Iron-fortified cereals, pastas and whole grains
Instead of white rice, consider offering iron-fortified cereals and pastas. That way, your child receives his daily dose of iron intake from his source of carbs too!
Amount of iron your child gets: Refer to individual packaging
Food ideas: Infant cereals enriched with iron are convenient food options. Serve according to the recommended way, so simply add fruits rich in Vitamin C to aid in iron absorption!
Clams and oysters are ocean-fresh sources of iron-rich foods to add to your child’s diet. However, do be careful with the first introduction of seafood to your little ones, especially if there’s a seafood allergy in the family.
Amount of iron your child gets: 100g cooked clams = approx. 28mg; 100g cooked oyster (farmed) = approx. 7.8mg iron
Food ideas: Clams are commonly added into porridge or soup-based meals for their natural seafood sweetness! If your child enjoys fresh seafood, try a clam and oyster pasta dish or a Spanish cuisine like paella – ensure seafood is thoroughly cooked before serving your tot.
Besides regular diet, children may consume iron-fortified formula to meet their daily nutritional requirements and support optimal development.
To improve iron absorption, offer foods or drinks rich in vitamin C to enhance iron absorption. Freshly squeezed juices usually score with the kids! All in a bid to raise healthy and happy world-ready children!
Are you including iron rich food in your children’s meals? Do share them too!