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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Keeping Iron Intake in Check: Tips from a Dietitian Mom of Toddler Twins

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It is not uncommon for children between the ages of one and three to become iron deficient, so take the proper steps to make sure your child is getting the nutrients he needs.

The dietitian’s trick: provide your kids with many good sources of iron and do what you can to help the iron get absorbed!

Iron Sources and Serving Suggestions:

  • Animal sources: poultry, meats, eggs, liver, fish, seafood
  • Consult your pediatrician for guidelines on egg and fish introduction. Some pediatricians recommend introducing eggs as late as age two and fish as late as age three. See Introduction to Solids
  • Keep texture in mind. Roast beef, steak, pork, or hamburger may be too hard to chew for some children.
  • Cooking methods matter! Keep food moist by cooking slowly or in liquid, and be sure to cut into small pieces.
  • Meatballs, moist meatloaf, and soft turkey or chicken “bites” are great! See Infant and Toddler Recipes/Meal Ideas
  • Head to the deli! Order reduced-sodium lunchmeats, sliced thick. Before serving, microwave until steaming to reduce the risk of listeria contamination, and cut these into fun squares.
  • Don’t feel like you have to succumb to fast food, hot dogs (a choking hazard in infants and toddlers), or other convenience kids’ meals. These foods are not kid-friendly since they typically have too much salt, fat, and trans fat.
  • Beans/legumes are good iron sources! For a quick meal, rinse canned beans and serve in soft tacos with melted cheddar cheese or guacamole. For little ones, cut the folded-over taco into small pieces.
  • For another easy iron-rich snack, spread hummus on sliced pita.
  • Dark green veggies have iron! Top them with a little butter, non-hydrogenated margarine or parmesan and serve.
  • Many grain foods are fortified with iron. One example of a grain iron source is commercial infant cereal.
  • You don’t need to stop using infant cereals when your babies turn one.
  • Or use instant oatmeal, which is fortified with iron. When compared to old-fashioned oats, instant oats have added iron and added sodium. Look for the lowest sodium variety when possible.

Getting the Iron Absorbed:

  • Add vitamin C foods like citrus, pineapple, kiwi, melon, or greens to iron-rich meals!
  • Give water with iron-rich meals rather than milk, which can be served in between.
  • If the child refuses iron-rich foods, try different cooking methods and don’t give up. It may take many “tries” before a food is accepted!


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About the Author

Picture of April Rudat, MS Ed, RD, LDN

April Rudat, MS Ed, RD, LDN

April is a licensed and registered dietitian in the state of Pennsylvania. She holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management and a Master's Degree in Counseling. She works with people with disordered eating, overweight, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and more. April also enjoys freelance writing and speaking engagements for community or professional groups on the national, state, and local levels.

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