When we think about vitamin and mineral needs, iron is a mineral that may come to mind. It’s a important component of hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells that transport oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our body. It is also one of the most common mineral deficiencies, especially in children.
I work with many clients who want to know about about adequate iron intake in their infant and young toddler's diet. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), or average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals, is 11 mg iron for babies 6-12 months of age, and 7 mg of iron for children 1-3 years of age. There are two forms of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron is the iron that is typically found in meat and non-heme is the iron commonly found in plant sources. It’s important to note that typically, heme iron is absorbed better by our bodies than non-heme iron. BUT, if you don’t eat meat or have a child that is not the biggest meat fan, there are many ways to meet your child’s iron needs.
Here are three of my favorite iron rich food sources that I feel are not given enough credit, along with some great toddler approved recipes. And read to the end - I also include a list of iron rich foods.
There are many more sources of iron that I love to include in my family's meals like:
Red meat and dark poultry
Fish sources like tuna and salmon
Grains (like quinoa, barley, teff, amaranth, oat bran, wheat bran
Green leafy vegetables
Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
And BONUS: if you consume a food rich in vitamin C with an iron rich food, your body will absorb more iron.
Stay turned for future blog posts which highlight some of these foods. Do you have a favorite iron rich recipe? Let me know in the comments below, or contact me with questions.