Is your child showing signs of iron deficiency such as tiredness, irritability or loss of appetite?
If you’re worried that your child isn’t getting enough iron in their healthy eating diet (and some kids show none of the symptoms), try some of our healthy eating ideas to help them get more iron in their growing bodies.

Why is iron important?

  • Iron helps to transport oxygen around a child’s growing body.
  • It assists with brain development and a healthy immune system.
  • Babies and children need iron in order to learn new things like walking and talking.
  • Kids also need additional iron in their diets when they are going through a growth spurt.
  • For the first months of their life, breastmilk or formula provide the essential iron that they need. At around 6 months and older, baby’s iron stores are depleted and they need to start eating iron rich foods.

What causes iron deficiency?

  • Introducing solids beyond 6 months of age – baby’s iron stores need topping up at this time
  • Offering cow’s milk as their main source of milk (instead of breastmilk or formula) before 12 months of age
  • Milkaholics – when kids drink lots of cow’s milk they can end up eating less food as a result.
  • Kids shouldn’t be given tea as this can affect how their body absorbs iron.
  • A child who is low in iron or has iron deficiency can have problems with their growth, their brain development and their ability to fight infections. A simple blood test at the doctor can tell you if their iron levels need attention.

Where is iron found?

Iron is naturally found in animal based foods such as beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey and fish.
It is also found in plant based foods such as Weet Bix, wholegrain bread, kidney beans, chickpeas, baked beans, lentils, eggs, green leafy veggies, nut butters, nuts, seeds and dried fruits.

Practical ideas for increasing iron:

  • healthy_eatingOmelettes: eggs are a source of iron and a healthy omelette can also include some tomatoes and chopped up spinach with is another source of iron.
  • Lentil Patties: if you little one likes to feed themselves you can make these as small finger-food sized patties.
  • Shepherd’s Pie: this recipe uses lean mince as well as lentils, both of which are rich in iron.
  • Chicken and Chickpea Tacos: a double dose of iron from the meat and the chickpeas.
  • Quinoa: use this in your baking as it contains iron. We love the Quinoa Breakfast Muffins and you can make them in kid friendly mini-muffin trays (just reduce the cooking time).
  • Tofu: some kids may not be fans of tofu so why not try it in something they will love – Silky Chocolate Mousse.
  • Mexican: packed with kidney beans, lean mince and tomatoes, Mexican Lasagna is sure to become a family favourite.
  • Bolognese: try finely chopping some baby spinach or even blending it to add to the sauce.
  • Smoothies: add some kale. Once it is blended up with some sweet fruit the taste is very mild.
  • Nutty Chicken Noodles: use peanut butter to flavour a simple noodle dish that kids adore.
  • Offer nuts and dried fruit as a Healthy Trail Mix with some air popped popcorn.
  • Use almond or cashew spread mixed with natural yoghurt as a fun ‘dip’ for chunks of apple of celery.
  • Hummus and crackers make a super afternoon snack. In fact dip is a great way to get some legumes or veggies into a fussy eater.

Iron deficiency affects adults too. Be sure to keep up your healthy eating plan as you try to lose pregnancy weight.
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