How to Provide Your Kids with Iron if They Don’t Eat Meat

Your tot needs enough iron. Iron influences the generation of red blood cells, which are responsible for the circulation of oxygen through the body. If the iron level is low, it almost certainly means the little one doesn’t have a proper amount of red blood cells, a poorer blood circulation and, consequently, problems like defective growth, behavior deviations, and learning impediment.


The problem is spreading, according to statistics, iron deficiency is increasing in children up to three years old, so it’s a good idea to check your toddler’s diet with an eye on the iron intake.

Include foods with high iron content

Toddlers up to three ought to get a daily dose of 7 mg of iron. You can give the dose to your tot at once like in a cup of Corn Chex, which contains 8 mg, or stretched into a few portions, given in slices of whole-wheat bread (1 mg) or beef (about 1 mg per ounce). Meat contains the best-absorbing iron known as heme iron, there is also non-heme iron whose chemical structure is different, so it does not absorb so easily, it is usually found in plants. Both of them are wholesome, and since heme iron is known to make the absorption of non-heme iron easier, consider giving the child foods containing both kinds of iron simultaneously (put a piece of poultry on a slice of whole-wheat bread). Here is the list of food to be given for maintaining a proper level of iron in the body:

Foods rich in heme iron:

  • Lean meat – beef or pork
  • Poultry (especially dark meat)
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs

Foods rich in non-heme iron:

  • Prunes (also in juice)
  • Raisins
  • Figs
  • Peanut butter
  • Most kinds of beans
  • Tofu
  • Hummus
  • Leafy green vegetables (kale, broccoli, etc.)
  • Oatmeal
  • Enriched breads and cereals

Give iron-rich food with other kinds of nutrition

Iron is better absorbed when the child takes foods rich in Vitamin C at the same time, therefore plant-source iron had better be taken with some fruits and vegetables like in the example match-ups:

  • Iron-rich cereal with orange juice
  • Iron-rich oatmeal with strawberries or kiwi
  • Hummus with tomato and red pepper slices
  • Iron-rich pasta with broccoli

A supplement may be necessary

If meat is out of your toddler’s diet you can fall back on iron supplements. Before you give them you’d better consult a pediatrician so that you strike a proper balance. Besides, if you cook the child’s food in cast-iron cookware, you will be able to enrich the iron content of the dish for the child.

Check the intake of milk

While milk is a very necessary thing for a child under three, he or she begins to need other nutrients as well, but the habit of getting a tummyful of milk is still strong. Your tot remembers well the days he or she drank a lot of milk, and it seems like a good idea to fill up on milk and not have enough appetite for other food. Some parents don’t see anything bad in their child’s not eating his or her dinner because they know that the little one has drunk much milk. But milk doesn’t have any iron in it, so getting stuck on it – or any other single food – doesn’t get your child the necessary variety of nutrients. You should see that your toddler eats many different foods in a day and not just fills up on milk only, two or three cups is enough.

Get pediatric advice

It is a common pediatric procedure to check iron in children in the period from 6 to 18 months from birth, so your doctor should conduct a blood test if he hasn’t already done so. He will just prick a finger or a toe. If your tot weighs rather more than he or she should, it can mean that he or she is iron deficient, so the necessity of the test is even greater. What your toddler is eating may be not the most wholesome food for him, low on iron and other nutrients.

Anemia Signs

Look out for possible symptoms of iron deficiency in your child. Iron deficiency causes anemia, the child tires easily, complains of dizziness or frequent headaches, has cold limbs, becomes irritable. So, if you discover that the toddler‘s iron is low, discuss with your pediatrician in what ways it is better to boost it.

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