Did you know that iron-deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world? As such, it is important to ensure that your child is getting enough iron to support their growing body. With a little planning, you can get the right amount of iron in your child’s plant-based diet. Keep reading for tips to increase iron-rich food for kids.
Children need iron to build their supply of red blood cells. This will give them the energy to participate in school activities, and help them to focus and concentrate in class. To see how much iron your child needs based on their age, see the chart below. Note that iron needs are almost doubled for plant-based eaters compared to non-plant-based eaters because iron is not absorbed as well from plant-based foods.
|1-3 years||7 mg daily|
|4-8 years||10 mg daily|
|9-13 years||8 mg daily|
|14-18 years||Males 11 mg daily/ Females 15 mg daily|
When following a plant-based diet, there are plenty of iron-rich foods to choose from. You can experiment with these foods in new and fun kid-friendly recipes. Or, try incorporating them into meals they already love and enjoy eating daily. A list of plant-based food sources of iron can be found in the table below.
|Kidney beans, cooked||1 cup||5.2|
|Lentils, cooked||¾ cup||4.6-4.9|
|Chickpeas, cooked||1 cup||4.7|
|Soybeans, cooked||1 cup||4.5|
|Lima beans, cooked||1 cup||4.5|
|Black-eyed peas, cooked||1 cup||4.3|
|Iron-fortified cereals||¾ cup||4-4.3|
|Swiss chard, cooked||1 cup||4.0|
|Bagel, enriched||1 medium||3.8|
|Black and Pinto beans, cooked||1 cup||3.6|
|Blackstrap molasses||1 tablespoon||3.6|
|Prune juice||1 cup||3.0|
|Soy formula for toddlers||1 cup||3.0|
|Spinach, cooked||½ cup||2-3.4|
|Quinoa, cooked||1 cup||2.8|
|Beet greens, cooked||1 cup||2.7|
|Peas, cooked||1 cup||2.5|
|Brussels sprouts, cooked||1 cup||1.9|
|Potato with skin||1 large||1.9|
|Bok choy, cooked||1 cup||1.8|
|Bulgur, cooked||1 cup||1.7|
|Apricots, dried||½ cup||1.4|
|Soy yogurt||½ cup||1.4|
|Kale, cooked||½ cup||1.3|
|Sunflower seeds||¼ cup||1.2|
|Broccoli, cooked||½ cup||1.0|
|Tomato juice||¼ cup||1.0|
Here are some great tips to increase iron-rich food for kids:
- Ensure that there is a plant-based source of iron at every meal and snack.
- Build meals and snacks around iron-rich foods, such as a chickpea casserole or a warming lentil soup. Try a quinoa bake with some veggies mixed in. Your kids will love it!
- For iron-rich snacks, make a hummus dip and cut vegetables up in fun shapes. You could also do a trail mix that includes almonds, sunflower seeds, and dried fruit.
- Most kids like straws. Boost the appeal of an iron-rich drink like tomato juice or a berry smoothie with a twisty, playful straw.
- Kids love food that is visually appealing. Cut a slice of bread into fun shapes and top with hummus and half-slices of tomatoes. Add raisins or dried apricot bits to make a face! This will add a touch of sweetness to an already fun snack.
- Kids like to get involved. Have them pick out some foods they want and make food preparation fun. Focus the choices you give your kids on iron-rich plant-based foods. Create a grocery list and have them choose a few items or bring them to the grocery store with you.
- Keep in mind that vitamin C increases the absorption of plant-based sources of iron. Kids like colorful foods, which are great for a vitamin C boost. Include colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. Some examples include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, strawberries, melons, kiwi, tomatoes, and oranges. Together you can make a colorful kale salad with dried cranberries and mixed bell peppers, for a source of both iron and vitamin C in one meal.
- Choose foods that are iron-fortified such as breakfast cereals and bread. Giving your child a supplement may be beneficial to ensure that your child is getting enough. Speak to your doctor or dietitian regarding food fortification and/or supplementation.
There are many plant-based sources of iron, but your child’s high iron needs can be difficult to meet. If you’re open to it, consider adding vegetarian sources of iron such as egg yolks to help ensure they’re getting enough.
In summary, iron is critical for your child’s growth and development. Be sure to include iron-rich foods for kids of all ages as part of their plant-based diet!
What do you do to ensure that your child is getting enough iron in their plant-based diet? Comment below!
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