Iron is a vital nutrient that bestows diverse health benefits on the body, ranging from healthy metabolism to better productivity, enhanced brain development to strengthened immunity. Pediatricians opine that babies between 6-12 months of age require around 11 mgs of iron each day, while toddlers aged between 1-3 years need 7 mg of iron. Indeed, iron takes part in almost every biochemical process within the body. Adequate iron levels is integral to maintaining a strong immunity and reducing susceptibility to outside infections like cold and flu. On the other hand, deficiency in iron can lead to anemia, low IQ, and fatigue. Thus, as a parent, it’s your responsibility to incorporate sufficient sources of iron in your kid’s diet every day.
a quick roundup of 10 iron rich foods for toddlers:
1-Dark, Leafy Vegetables
One of the best sources of iron is dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach and collard. They are also fortified with vast amounts of vitamins and minerals to boost basal metabolism and accelerate growth in children. To enable maximum absorption, serve them with citrus fruits as they are rich in vitamin C. While dark, green veggies can come across as rather bland to children, you can always use them in versatile ways to make sure your kid gets its daily dose of veggies. Try adding flavors to an ordinary spinach salad with sweet peppers or strawberries, or make a pasta dish with kale and tomatoes.
Here is a recipe of kale pasta:
5-6 ounces of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons of roasted sunflower seeds
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt to taste
-Keep spinach in a bowl and add in hot water. Let it stay till it has wilted and stir for around 2-3 minutes. Drain the excess water and let it cool. Pat the leaves dry.
-Place the wilted spinach into the food processor together with lemon juice, lemon zest, sunflower seeds, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Blend well till the mixture has turned homogeneous. Add a little more olive oil to create a smoother consistency and season with salt to taste.
-Stir this mixture into pre-cooked pasta and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes, white beans and sliced cucumbers.
Red meat is considered to be one of the best sources of heme iron. Beef liver, in particular, has the highest amount (i.e. 6.5 mg in 4-ounce serving). Most children distaste liver, so try serving hamburgers or meatballs made with lean beef instead, and if that is too much meat for your kid, consider making a beef bolognese. Serve alongside a bowl of ketchup for maximum absorption of iron.
Here’s a beef recipe your kid might like:
Beef & Rice
225 g lean minced beef
50 g rice
300 ml chicken stock
1 carrot peeled and chopped
onion, peeled and finely chopped
400 g chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
50 g sweetcorn
small red pepper, chopped
-Take the rice and chicken stock in a saucepan. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
-Add in the red pepper and sweetcorn and cook for 7 minutes or till the rice has cooked and all the excess liquid has been absorbed.
-In the mean time, saute the carrot and onion in the oil for 5 minutes or so.
-Add in meat and cook till it turns brown.
-Add in the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes.
-Add in the rice and cook everything for 3-4 minutes
3- Dried fruits
Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, dates and prunes are packed with high quantities of iron, with each serving consisting of about 1.5-3 mg of iron. Additionally, they also contain sizable levels of beta-carotene, niacin, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin E. The best way to consume them is by soaking them in warm water overnight and have them next morning with a glass of full-fat milk. Alternatively, you can add some to your kid’s favorite cereal for a hearty breakfast, or use them when baking muffins for a tasty snack.
Here is a nice recipe for toddler muffins:
1 12 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 12 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
14 teaspoon ground ginger
12 cup rolled oats
14 cup pureed squash
12 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 14 cups shredded carrots
1 14 cups shredded zucchini
34 cup raisins
3 large eggs
1 egg white
34 cup oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour and sugar in a bowl.
Then in another bowl, combine the eggs and oil and whisk thoroughly to dissolve any lumps. Add in the squash, zucchini and carrots.
-Combine both wet and dry ingredients and mix properly. Add in the raisins and other dried fruits as well.
-Scoop the mix into muffin tins and fill to about three-fourths full.
-Bake for 20 minutes or till the toothpick comes out completely non-sticky.
Peanut butter is not just loaded with high-quality protein, but also iron. In fact, there is around 1.9 gm of iron in every 100 gm of butter. It also has fiber to promote bowel health, and healthy fats and magnesium to fortify the bones and muscles. Additionally, it consists of vitamin E as well to strengthen the cognitive development of children. Hence, a few slices of brown bread with peanut butter or a cupcake, or peanut butter smoothie can be excellent ways for increasing your child’s iron intake.
Here’s a quick recipe of peanut butter & honey balls:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup honey
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup of nuts or dried fruit
Crushed nuts, granola cereal, or unsweetened coconut
Mix peanut butter, honey, rolled oats and nuts thoroughly. Shape them into uniform-sized balls and then roll them in a layer of crushed nuts, unsweetened coconut or granola cereal. Refrigerate for a while and serve cold.
Tofu is a great vegetarian source of iron, containing about 6 mg per 5-ounce of serving. Additionally, it is also packed with proteins and contains all the essential 8 amino acids. Being a potent reservoir of magnesium, copper and vitamin B1, tofu is ideal for the young, developing body of your toddler. The firm texture of tofu makes it a hit with the kids, and it’s one of those finger foods that takes less time to prepare. Just cut tofu into even cubes, rub with some wheat germs and serve for a nice midday snack.
Here are two tofu recipes your kid is sure to love!
Triple Berry Tofu Smoothie
2 cups of berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup silken tofu
1 cup ice
Blend all the ingredients together in a food processor till the mixture turns smooth, creamy and homogeneous. Transfer to glasses and serve immediately.
Crispy Tofu Dippers
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Cornmeal
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
-Drain and press the tofu and cut it into small, even-sized pieces
-Mix cornstarch, cornmeal and Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Whisk together to combine well.
-Transfer tofu pieces into the mixture and coat properly on each side.
-Heat olive oil in a skillet and add in the coated tofu pieces gently as soon as the oil turns hot.
-Cook on all the sides till they turn golden-brown and crispy.
-Serve lukewarm with a dipping sauce of choice.
Children often shy away from seafood, but clams, tuna and shrimp are all excellent sources of iron. With just 1 mg in 3 ounces, tuna has the lowest amount of iron, but you can always boost the nutritive value further by serving it with iron-fortified pita bread. Since kids love finger foods with a nice dipping sauce, you can serve shrimp (2 mg iron in 4 ounces) with a spicy, tangy cocktail sauce. Additionally, you can encourage your kids to try clams (3 mg iron in 4 ounces) by offering a creamy pasta (like linguine) that is topped with clam sauce.
Here are two delectable seafood recipes:
Garlic Butter Shrimp
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Juice of 1 lemon, or more, to taste
-Melt two spoonfuls of butter in a skillet over medium heat.
-Toss in the shrimp, salt and pepper. Cook while stirring occasionally till it turns pink and tender. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Set the cooked shrimp aside.
-Add in the garlic to the skillet and stir frequently until it’s fragrant for about 1 minute. Add in the lemon juice and chicken stock and bring it to a boil.
-Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, for about 1-2 minutes. Add in the remaining tablespoons of butter until it becomes smooth and melted.
-Stir in the shrimp and toss gently to combine everything.
-Garnish with fresh parsley leaves and serve immediately.
Toddler Tuna Spread
(6 ounce) of can chunk light tuna, drained
14 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon cream cheese
2 slices of bread
-Mix cream cheese, shredded cheese and tuna in a microwave-safe bowl.
-Then heat in the microwave for a minute or so, and ensure to stir in intervals to allow even melting of the cheese.
-Toast slices of bread in the toaster and cut off crusts if required.
-Spread the baked tuna mix onto each slice and serve with a dipping of choice.
Gluten-free and high in protein, quinoa is an ideal iron-enriched option (8 mg per half-cup) for vegetarian children who dislike meat. This is a versatile and crunchy seed that can be consumed and cooked just like rice. Just add in a cup of roasted quinoa to soups or salad or serve it along with any dish that requires the flavors of rice.
Consider the following two quinoa recipes:
Quinoa & Banana Breakfast:
cup of quinoa, cooked
cup of milk or whole milk
1 tbsp apricots, dried
-Slice banana into small pieces
-Combine them along with milk in a saucepan.
-Add a tablespoon of dried apricots and a cup of quinoa to the pan and stir gently for about ten minutes till it becomes thick.
Sweet & Savory Vegetable Quinoa
1 cup of cooked quinoa
One green onion
One sweet potato
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp of zucchini diced
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp of dried and diced apricots
-Soak raisin and apricots in warm water. Leave them for sometime until they turn soft.
-Heat some olive oil in a pan and add in the sweet potato, zucchini and onion.
-Saute till the onion turns golden and fragrant. Serve immediately.
In addition to being an inexpensive source of high-quality protein, eggs, especially the yolk portion has a rich iron content, almost up to 2.7 mg per 100 gm of serving. Since it provides the non-heme form of iron which is less absorbed by the body, you can serve it with a glass of orange juice to aid in the absorption process.
Mash an avocado with one or two hard-boiled eggs. Season with lemon juice, pepper and salt to taste and serve with fried/baked tortilla chips.
Chickpeas are jam-packed with vitamins, fiber and iron. With a 6.2 mg of iron per 100 gm, chickpeas are believed to have the highest iron content among all known legumes. The best way to eat them for better iron absorption is raw (soaked) or cooked. Alternatively, you can prepare a tangy chickpea salad with lemon and tomatoes. And if they dislike the raw, crunchy texture of chickpeas, you can make a hummus out of it and serve with pita bread.
2 can drained – chickpeas
1 clove – garlic
1 large – egg
1 cup, crumbs
1/3 cup, chopped – onion
1/2 cup, diced – cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp – salt
1/4 tsp, ground – black pepper, ground
-Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Then drain and rinse the beans.
-Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the mixture turns smooth.
-Form bite-sized tots by rolling between your palms.
-Proceed to bake the tots for about 10 minutes one each side. Turn them over and bake again for 5 minutes more, or until they look golden and crispy.
-Serve with a dipping sauce of choice.
10- Sweet potatoes
Sweet potato is the healthier and tastier version of potatoes. With an iron content of 2.5 mg per cup, it is a great choice of food for children. To really boost the iron intake, serve alongside a dish of chicken meal or steak.
Sweet Potato Wedges
-2-3 Garlic cloves
-Two tbs of olive oil
-Salt and crushed red pepper to taste
-4-5 sweet potatoes
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them in half-crosswise and then in wedges. Rub garlic clove on its skin.
-Take a rimmed baking sheet and toss in the sweet potatoes with garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper. Bake for 10 minutes on each side till it turns golden and crispy.
Who said healthy has to be bland and boring! These aforementioned iron rich foods for toddlers are fortified with nutrients and yet offer versatile options to add unique flavors that tantalize the taste buds of your child.