If your are looking for iron rich foods for babies and toddlers you've come to the right place. Iron is one of the most important nutrients for the body. It is important for the creation of hemoglobin, which helps make red blood cells that transport oxygen to the different parts of the body.
Until the age of 6 months, the breast or formula milk fulfills the iron requirements of the baby. Formula milk usually comes fortified with iron. However, a mother’s diet influences the iron content in breast milk. If the mother is taking balanced and nutritious diet, the breast milk will provide ample iron to the baby.
Babies build sufficient iron reserves until they are six months old. However, beyond this age, it is important to introduce iron-rich foods as the iron reserves begin to deplete. Just like adults, without adequate iron consumption, babies can develop serious health issues that hamper their development.
You might also like: 21 Weight Gain Foods for Babies
Why is iron important for babies and kids?
Iron is necessary for several bodily functions. Some of the most important benefits of iron for babies are:
- Iron aids the production of red blood cells in the body. The more red blood cells are there, greater is the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. This means there will be adequate oxygen supply to different parts of the body.
- It is needed to convert the sugar in the blood to energy. Iron-rich foods given before or after playtime or any strenuous activity help regain strength.
- It helps to build a stronger immune system in children. Subsequently, their frequency of falling sick reduces.
- It is necessary for faster recovery from any ailments. It helps build new tissue cells, produce necessary hormones, amino acids, and neurotransmitters.
- It aids the proper development of organs and overall physical development of the baby.
- It also aids brain development in children.
Also read- Food Chart for 11 Months Baby
What is an iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency is the lack of as much iron, as is required by the body to carry out the functions mentioned above. Deficiency of iron is a common problem in children. Some of the symptoms of iron deficiency are:
- Iron deficiency anemia (discussed below)
- Sluggishness, low energy levels, and less active
- Excessive irritability and crankiness
- Loss of appetite or no appetite
- Slow weight gain
- Paleness of the skin
- Lack of concentration in older children
- Weakness and fatigue in older children
Anemia in babies and toddlers
Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in children and that is why it is being discussed with special mention. Each red blood cell in the body contains iron and hemoglobin. If your child does not get enough iron, the body is unable to produce enough hemoglobin, leading to a condition called Anemia.
Anemia is common in:
Children who drink more than 24 ounces of milk each day without a balance of iron-rich foods. Giving too much milk reduces the iron content in the body.
Children who are fussy eaters and do not eat sufficient iron-rich foods. This includes green leafy vegetables and fruits in most cases.
Also read- 10 Food Recipes for 1 to 2 years old kids
The symptoms of anemia include:
- Pale skin, especially around the eyelids, hands, and nails
- Heart murmur and rapid heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Lack of appetite
Anemia can also affect the function of the brain and muscles. This condition develops over a period of time. It becomes more pronounced when the iron reserves of the body are depleted and the child does not get enough iron in his diet. You need to make sure that the foods which you give to your child, when you introduce him or her to solid foods, should contain iron in them to prevent anemia.
21 iron rich foods for babies and toddlers
It is important for mothers to know which foods provide maximum iron to the kids. This way every time you prepare meal for your little one, you can incorporate one or the other of these elements to enhance the nutritional value. Some foods are extremely rich in iron and perfect for your baby. These are -
#1. Ragi (Finger Millet)
Ragi is a rich source of iron besides being a food that provides instant energy to the little ones. It also contains significant calcium that aids bone development. The high protein content in Ragi helps to keep the baby satiated for long.
#2. Sweet potato
Sweet potato contains iron and folate that enhance the immune system in babies. It is an excellent source of dietary fiber and is a storehouse of an array of vitamins. This is a delicious first food for little ones that can be cooked in a versatile manner to have the numerous choices.
Beetroot is an excellent source of folic acid and iron. In particular, beetroot leaves are rich in iron, Vitamin A, and calcium. It is especially recommended for the overall growth of babies and toddlers. Beetroot raita and salads are great food choices.
Cod, Pollock, Salmon, Flatfish, and Catfish are some great choices of fish for babies and toddlers. They do not contain mercury and are rich sources of Vitamin A, iron, and Vitamin E. In addition, they contain omega fatty acids that are great for bone, skin, and the immune system. Fish is also good for the little one’s eyesight and bone strength.
We have always advocated using eggs with caution for babies below one year old. However, eggs are a storehouse of protein, iron, essential vitamins, and minerals. Eggs make for a balanced diet for the little one besides milk. They are also great for your baby’s hair, nails, and skin.
Jaggery is one of the richest sources of iron. It is great as an alternative to sugar as it also contains calcium and phosphorus, besides being a good source of instant energy. Jaggery prevents anemia in babies and toddlers. It also aids the digestive system and offers relief from constipation. Jaggery helps treat cold and flu besides being good for the bones and liver as well. Opt for organic jaggery for best quality.
#7. Sesame seeds
Sesame seeds are rich in minerals such as iron, manganese, and copper. They also contain Vitamin B1 and proteins. Sesame seeds are tiny, yet high energy giving foods for the baby that also prove to be good for heart health in the long run. You could either cook your little one’s foods in sesame seeds or make laddoos with these for high nutritious value.
#8. Brown rice
When choosing between white rice or brown rice for your baby, it is good to remember that white rice is processed in a manner that all its iron, manganese, and zinc content is lost. Brown rice has higher iron content than white rice besides other minerals. Although little babies cannot digest brown rice as it is, you can give them brown rice dalia or powdered brown rice dishes such as kheer, or pancakes.
#9. Dry fruit mix
Dry fruits and nut powders make an excellent source of iron for your little one. It is best to give these to your baby when she starts to chew. This also aids teething, besides offering an array of nutrients in addition to iron. You can add dried fruits and powdered nuts on your kiddo’s porridge, in her pancakes, khichdi, or just put some on her feeding tray to pick and much.
Lentils are a great source of iron besides being rich in proteins. Lentils also contain a lot of dietary fiber and vitamin B1 and B6. You could make soups or khichdi with lentils and rice for your baby.
If you want to supplement your little one’s diet with iron than soybeans are a good option. They are also high in proteins and keep the baby satiated for a longer duration. In addition to that, they contain manganese, copper, omega 3-fatty acids, and dietary fibre that aid digestion in babies.
#12. Bajra (Pearl Millet)
Bajra is a good iron-rich food for your baby. It is also a perfect mix of proteins and carbohydrates and is a filling. Bajra also offers a healthy intake of calcium. Also known as pearl millet, Bajra aids digestion, prevents constipation, enables proper blood circulation, and strengthens bones in kids.
#13. Chicken Liver
You can give chicken liver to your baby from the age of eight months. It is a super-rich source of iron and all the B Vitamins. Cook and puree chicken’s liver if you want to give it to your baby. However, avoid giving more than two to three teaspoons a week, as it might get difficult to digest for the baby initially.
Also Read: 7 Best (& Proven) Home Remedies to Treat Low Iron in Kids
Spinach is a well-known source of iron. Thanks to Popeye - the sailor man who loves eating spinach for strength, this leafy veggie has gained popularity among kids. In addition to iron spinach, it also contains Vitamin K, A, B2, B6, and E. It is a good source of magnesium and proteins as well. Therefore, spinach is good for the eyes, blood circulation, skin, and immune system.
#15. Cowpea (Lobhia)
In addition to iron, cowpea is also a rich source of fibre and proteins. It aids digestion and helps the body to repair and rejuvenate itself. Cowpea also aids better sleep patterns in babies and adults alike. However, it is important to cook cowpea thoroughly as uncooked cowpea might have toxic residue.
#16. Cauliflower and Broccoli
You can introduce cauliflower or broccoli to your baby at the age of 8 months. Before that the baby’s digestive system might not accept it well and may cause gas and colic pains in babies. Besides containing iron, cauliflower and broccoli are healthy sources of carbohydrates and vitamin C.
#17. Rajgira (Amaranth Grain)
Rajgira is a rich source of iron and calcium. It also contains dietary fiber and proteins. Therefore, it is a wholesome food, which is great for the overall growth and development of your little one. It is a good way to fight anemia in kids and strengthens the baby’s bones. Rajgira porridge is very delicious and most babies like it.
This is another wholesome food option that is loaded with iron and carbohydrates. Poha or pressed rice flakes are also very low in gluten. As a result, it poses very little chance of being allergy causing to your baby.
#19. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Seeds are a great way to compensate for iron in the baby’s diet. You can dry and powder seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin. Sprinkle them on the baby’s mashed potatoes, khichdi, or kheer for added flavour and nutrition. These seeds are also helpful for children suffering from insomnia. However, these should be given to babies above one year old and only under supervision to avoid choking.'
Fenugreek or methi is known as yet another food source that is high in iron. It helps to boost your little one’s immunity and is a rich source of magnesium, which is needed for the proper functioning of your baby’s muscles.
#21. Sun-Dried tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are a rich source of iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and manganese. They also contain antioxidants and therefore, are great immunity boosters as well. Babies and toddlers love their taste. You can add them to a food item or simply give them to your baby to nibble on.
Remember that when you give iron-rich foods to your children, also give them foods rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for the absorption of iron in the body. If the child is showing symptoms of iron deficiency despite giving him food items that are rich in iron, then it is an indication that they are not receiving enough Vitamin C. Include foods like broccoli, citrus fruits, and tomatoes in your child’s diet.
Also Read: 13 Benefits of Figaro olive oil for baby
Does your child need iron supplements?
Ideally, iron supplements or drops are not necessary for at least the first four months as the baby gets enough iron from breast-milk. If the child is not eating well after four months of age, get a doctor’s opinion to rule out iron deficiency. Usually, babies are checked for iron levels when they are one-year old. In case of premature babies, this test is done at the age of six months.
In case a deficiency is seen, an iron supplement of about 11 mg per day may be recommended. Never give your baby any supplements without consulting your doctor.
Normal Hemoglobin Levels in Children
How much iron do children need each day?
The daily requirement of iron changes as per the age of the child. The amount of iron needed is as follows:
It is important to take care of little one’s diet to avoid iron deficiency. This health issue in kids can take you by surprise. Therefore, maintain a balanced diet and watch out for the symptoms to keep your baby healthy. We hope that this list of iron rich foods for babies and toddlers will be helpful for you.
Want to share your experience as a mom with other moms through words or images? Become a part of the Moms United community click here and we will get in touch with you