Why Is Iron Important For Your Toddler?
Created by Urvashi Shah Updated on Oct 19, 2018
If you have a toddler, you know how fast they grow. This is why throughout their developing stage, you must be careful of your toddler’s eating habits, which contribute to the overall development and growth. Out of all the nutrients that your toddler seeks from the food he/she eats, iron is an important one. Iron plays a crucial role in the brain development and overall growth of a child. A steady supply of iron is essential for your child’s normal cognitive development and is also important for the production of haemoglobin, a protein in blood that carries oxygen around the body for energy and growth.
So now you know why iron is necessary for your toddler’s proper growth and development. The recommended daily amount of iron for toddlers between the ages of 1 to 3 years is 6.9mg. If your toddler doesn’t get the needed amount of iron, he/she might be at a risk of developing iron deficiencies. Low levels of iron can lead to fatigue in your child and even make your child prone to anaemia. It is estimated that around 50% of toddlers do not meet their regular intake of iron through their diet, which is why you need to start paying attention towards your child’s diet right from an early age.
For the first six months, breastfeeding babies withdraw the necessary levels of iron through breast milk. Breastfeeding mothers who are anaemic should have their babies screened for iron deficiency. Infants who thrive on formula milk must receive iron fortified formula. Once the baby crosses the age of six months, rapid development takes place and he/she is also introduced to solid foods by this time.
Heme vs. Non-heme Iron
Dietary iron is of two types: Heme and Non-heme. Plants contain nonheme iron. Meats and seafood contain both heme and non-heme iron. Non-heme iron isn’t easily absorbed by the body as heme iron. So, if your child is mainly eating a vegetarian diet, make sure you aim for twice the amount of iron as recommended.
The body tends to absorb iron better when the iron is fused with a source of vitamin C. To increase the amount of iron absorbed by the body, serve iron-rich foods alongside foods rich in vitamin C.
Examples of foods high in vitamin C include:
- orange juice
- bell peppers
- sweet potatoes
Foods For Your Toddler That Contains Iron
Lean meat:Meat and poultry make a good source of iron as they contain huge amounts of heme iron. Try making your toddler a stew or casserole with soft, well-cooked lean meat. Make sure to remove the fatty part of the meat since there is very little iron in the fatty parts. Spaghetti with meat and tomato sauce is another iron-friendly option
Fortified cereals:Fortified and low-sugar cereals like oatmeal are the best sources of iron that your toddler can seek. A few times a week, you can serve your toddler cereals for breakfast
Beans:If your child isn’t a fan of meat, beans are a great alternative. Soybeans, lima beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils, for example, are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, including iron. A half cup of white beans has 4 milligrams of iron, while a half cup of lentils has 3. You can also serve your child some baked beans with a piece of whole wheat bread for an iron rich lunch, a couple of times a week
Spinach:Remember how Popoye ate a lot of spinach, got the needed strength to fight Brutus? This example will work wonders for your child as you make sure he/she eats spinach to seek the needed amount of iron. A half cup of spinach has about 3mg of iron in it, which can be served to your child along with beans and other vegetables such as kale, broccoli and other green leafy vegetables
Dry fruits:Dry fruits will give your toddler the necessary iron boost, while also prevent constipation. Keep a bowlful of dry fruits that your child can reach for and snack on them as and when needed. A quarter cup of raisins has about 1mg of iron in it
Peanut butter and jelly:This will be your child’s favourite soon. You can make your child a peanut butter sandwich, which will give him/her the necessary dose of iron
Potato skins:Potato skin contain a lot of iron. So, the next time you make French fries or potato wedgies for your little one, make sure you keep the skin intact instead of peeling it off. Potato skins contain most of the nutrients in a potato, including five times the amount of iron as the rest of the potato and are also a good source of vitamin C
If your doctor thinks your child has anaemia, he/she might suggest iron supplements for the same after doing a simple blood test. You need to follow the instructions of your doctor and keep the supplements out of your child’s reach. Excessive iron intake can lead to serious health issues, which is why you must give iron supplements to your child only after a medical intervention. Following the above mentioned diet, you can ensure your child absorbs the necessary portions of iron and remains healthy.
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