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Six iron-rich foods to incorporate into your toddler's meals for healthy growth and development.

Iron is an important nutrient in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. Without it, the body will stop producing healthy red blood cells and your child's muscles, tissues and cells might not get the oxygen they need.

Before six months, breastfed babies usually get enough iron from their mother's milk, while infants fed with formula should receive iron-fortified formula. When you are introducing solids to your baby, it's important to offer iron-rich foods to start.

Iron deficiency can hinder your child's growth and may cause:

  • irritability
  • poor appetite
  • slow weight gain
  • delayed motor skills such as walking and talking
  • pale skin

How much iron does my child need?

Babies need high amounts of iron because of their rapid growth. Offer babies and toddlers iron-rich foods at least twice a day.

The recommended dietary allowance for iron:

  • ages 7-12 months: 11 mg per day
  • ages 1 to 3 years: 7 mg per day

Avoid too much cow's milk

To make sure your toddler has an appetite for iron-rich foods, don’t let them fill up on milk and dairy products. Milk and dairy products have no iron. If you toddler drinks more than 750 ml (3 cups) of milk, there is an increased chance of them having iron deficiency.

Iron in food

Iron can be found in animal and plant foods. The iron in animal foods is more easily absorbed than the iron found in plant foods. If you are offering a vegetarian diet to your child, consult a dietitian to ensure that your child is getting all the nutrients they need.

The body absorbs iron from plant foods better when they are consumed with a source of vitamin C. Serve iron-rich foods alongside foods rich in vitamin C such as:

6 iron-rich foods for toddlers

1. Meats

Meats - beef, pork, chicken and turkey - are the highest source of iron. Serve well-cooked, finely minced meat as first foods. Or toddler-approved spaghetti with ground meat and tomato sauce.


2. Fish and seafood

Canned skipjack tuna is a great source of iron and is low in mercury. Try this easy tuna patties recipe.

Clams are also iron-rich. Enjoy a warm bowl of clam chowder with your child on a rainy day.

Clam Chowder

3. Fortified cereals

Iron-fortified infant cereals and oatmeal are good sources of iron. Throw in some strawberries on top for some added vitamin C.

Oats and Strawberries

4. Beans

Soybeans, kidney beans and lentils are packed with vitamins and minerals. Mash up some cooked lentils or make a soup. A half cup of lentils has about 3 mg of iron. Serve it with a side of mashed up sweet potatoes for a boost of vitamin C.


5. Chickpeas

Blend up chickpeas to make your own iron-rich hummus and spread it over crackers for a great snack. Serve with kiwi to add some vitamin C punch.


6. Eggs

Scrambled eggs are a quick and easy source of iron. This two ingredient "pancake" recipe is a breakfast hit with toddlers. Mash one banana and two eggs in a bowl. Pour mixture into a hot skillet, flip over once.

Scrambled Eggs

If you are worried that your child may be iron deficient, speak with your family physician.

Visit Fraserhealth.ca on healthy eating for your toddler, including meals and snack ideas. If you have any questions, consult with a registered dietitian at HealthLink BC.

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