A frequent question I hear from parents is what is the best source of iron for toddlers and babies. In the first years of life it can be very important to provide many different iron-rich foods for toddlers and babies to help prevent iron deficiency, or anemia. If you haven't heard about the need for iron already from your doctor, you likely will soon!
Many vegetarian families are especially worried about iron, as the common wisdom encourages the belief that animal sources of iron are really the only adequate sources for kids. (This is not true, by the way!) Those families whose kids tend to boycott meat also tend to be in this boat.
There are lots of iron-rich foods out there, from both plant and animal sources. I've created a list to help de-mystify some of the amounts of iron in common foods, and to allow you to feel better informed when creating your child's plate. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it's a good place to start!
How much does my child need?
For a reference point, a 7-12 month old baby needs around 11mg of Iron a day, a 1-3 year old needs around 7mg, and a 4-8 year old needs around 10mg.
You can use the iron list to give yourself a ballpark of good food sources of iron, keeping in mind the above ranges.
I've included the amounts of iron in a serving so that those parents who want the specifics have them. If you aren't that parent, shooting for an iron rich food with every meal is a great place to start.
Which way you operate is up to you, but there is really no need to stress about how much your baby is actually consuming. Just focus on serving it, let your baby decide how much they want to eat.
Vegetarian vs Animal Sources
Some of you have likely heard about the difference in iron that is in plant-based foods (non-heme iron) and animal-based foods (heme iron).
Heme iron is a more readily available source of iron, but with some planning a vegetarian diet can be perfectly adequate in iron, too.
If you are a vegetarian, ensure that you are having a good source of Vitamin C with your iron foods. If you are not a vegetarian, having animal sources of iron with your non-animal sources can also increase the amount of iron that is absorbed from plant sources.
Grab the list, and get started making balanced, iron-rich foods for your kids!
Do you already get a lot of these sources of iron? Are you unsure how to incorporate some of these into meals? Follow me on Instagram, where I post example baby meals and breakdown the iron sources for you.