foods are high in iron for toddlers

What foods are high in iron for toddlers?

What foods are high in iron for toddlers?

What foods are high in iron for toddlers : Top Iron-Rich Foods to Include in Their Diet

High in iron foods for toddlers – Iron is an essential mineral for toddlers’ growth and development. Iron is critical in producing hemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen throughout the body, and myoglobin, which stores oxygen in muscles. Without sufficient iron, toddlers may develop anemia, leading to fatigue, weakness, and decreased immunity. 

Including various iron-rich foods – in toddlers’ meals and snacks ensures they get enough iron. This post will explore top iron-rich foods for toddlers, providing delicious and nutritious options for picky and adventurous eaters.

Benefits of Iron for Toddlers

foods are high in iron for toddlers
foods are high in iron for toddlers

Iron is essential for toddlers as it’s critical for proper brain and body development, boosts energy, enhances immunity, and promotes healthy growth. And here are the following benefits of iron for toddlers:

  • Improved cognitive development: 

Iron is necessary for the healthy development of the brain. It helps form myelin, a fatty substance that covers and protects nerve fibers and is essential for transmitting messages between the brain and other body parts.

  • Increased energy

Iron is vital in creating hemoglobin, a molecule responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs throughout the body.  This helps to increase energy levels and combat fatigue.

  • Strong immune system

Iron plays a crucial role in producing white blood cells, which aid in fighting infections and maintaining a robust immune system.

  • Healthy growth and development

Iron is crucial for the adequate development and growth of the body, including the production of new red blood cells and the construction of muscle tissue.

animal-based iron foods for toddlers

foods are high in iron for toddlers
foods are high in iron for toddlers


Animal-based foods contain heme iron that the body can absorb more efficiently than non-heme iron in plant-based sources. Here are some more iron-rich animal-based foods that toddlers can enjoy:

  • Meat

Beef, chicken, and turkey are all excellent sources of iron. Toddlers can enjoy ground beef in meatballs, chicken in a stir-fry, or turkey in a sandwich. To ensure your toddler gets enough iron from meat, serve it in small, bite-sized pieces that are easy to chew.

  • Fish

Fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich in iron and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain growth. Toddlers can enjoy salmon in a fish cake, tuna in a salad, or sardines on whole-grain crackers. If your toddler is a picky eater, try disguising fish in a sauce or soup.

  • Eggs

Eggs are a great source of iron, especially the yolks. They’re versatile and can be boiled, scrambled, or made into an omelet. For a fun twist, try making egg muffins with vegetables and cheese. To ensure your toddler gets enough iron from eggs, serve them with iron-rich vegetables like spinach or broccoli.

  • Liver

While the liver is high in iron, it should be consumed in moderation due to its high vitamin A levels. However, small amounts of liver can be a healthy addition to a toddler’s diet. Add chopped liver to meatballs or blend it into a pâté for a nutritious spread.


Shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels are a great source of iron and other nutrients like zinc and vitamin B12Toddlers can enjoy shellfish in a pasta dish or a seafood chowder. However, avoiding raw shellfish is important due to the risk of foodborne illness.

  • Shrimp

 Shrimp is a low-fat, high-protein seafood rich in iron. A 3-ounce serving of shrimp provides approximately 1.5 milligrams of iron or 8% of the recommended daily intake for toddlers.

  • Chicken

Chicken is a convenient and adaptable protein source rich in iron. A 3-ounce serving of chicken provides approximately 1 milligram of iron or 5% of the recommended daily intake for toddlers. Iron-rich animal-based foods can help toddlers grow and develop, but before introducing new foods, confer with a pediatrician.

Plant – based – foods that are rich in iron and suitable for toddlers.

Plant-based foods can provide important nutrients for toddlers, although animal-based foods are a great source of iron. Non-heme iron, found in plant-based foods, may not be as easily absorbed as heme iron but can still help increase a toddler’s daily iron intake. Here are some plant-based foods infants or toddlers can eat that are high in iron:

  • Leafy greens

Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens provide a good amount of iron and other crucial vitamins and minerals for toddlers. These greens can be included in their meals by adding them to salads, blending them into smoothies, or preparing them as a side dish.

  • Legumes

Iron-rich beans, legumes, and chickpeas can be used in various recipes, including soups, stews, and salads. You can enjoy roasted chickpeas or hummus with raw vegetables as a fun snack.

  • Fortified grains

 Many breakfast cereals, bread, and pasta are fortified with iron and other important nutrients.

Look for whole-grain options that are also low in sugar.

  • Dried fruit

Dried fruits like raisins, apricots, and prunes are a great source of iron and make a healthy and easy snack. They can also be added to oatmeal or baked goods for a nutritious twist.

Nuts and seeds

Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are just a few nuts and seeds rich in iron, protein, and good fats. Toddlers can enjoy nut kinds of butter on whole-grain toast or crackers or sprinkle seeds on top of yogurt or oatmeal.

  • Quinoa

This nutritious grain-like seed is a great plant-based protein and iron source. One cup of cooked quinoa contains around 2.8 milligrams of iron.

  • Tofu

A fantastic source of plant-based protein, tofu is manufactured from soybeans and has 6.6 milligrams of iron per cup. 

To improve protein and iron intake, it may be utilized as a component in various recipes such as stir-fries and curries.

  • Spinach


Spinach is a nutrient-dense green that contains iron and vitamins A and C. A ½ cup of cooked spinach has about 3.2 milligrams of iron. It can be added to smoothies, omelets, and pasta dishes. combining iron absorption from plant-based foods in toddlers with vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies is recommended. Before making significant dietary changes, seeking advice from a pediatrician is important.

How much iron does my toddler or child need?

In fact Iron is an indispensable nutrient that should not be ignored in a child’s growth and development. However, calculating the appropriate iron intake for your toddler or child can be challenging, as it depends on various factors such as age, gender, and overall health. Ultimately Therefore, it’s important to be aware of these factors and seek advice from your pediatrician to ensure your child gets the ideal amount of iron for optimal growth and development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the recommended daily intake of iron for children is as follows:

Age Group Recommended Iron Intake (mg/day)
Infants 7-12 months 11
Children 1-3 years 7
Children 4-8 years 10
Boys 9-13 years 8
Girls 9-13 years 8
Boys 14-18 years 11
Girls 14-18 years 15


Consult your child’s pediatrician to determine if they’re getting enough iron, especially if they follow 

a vegetarian or vegan diet. The pediatrician can help advise on incorporating more iron-rich foods and ensure your child meets the recommended daily amount. You should give your child a range of iron-rich meals and adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations since iron is crucial for their growth.

Ideas to increase your toddler or child’s intake of iron. 

Iron is an essential mineral that is crucial to your child’s growth and development. Insufficient iron levels can cause anemia, which may cause tiredness, feebleness, and an impaired immune system. Ensuring your child’s diet includes sufficient iron intake is imperative. Below are some innovative and intelligent suggestions to increase your child’s consumption of iron:

  1. Offer red meat dishes like minced meat sauce over pasta, meatballs, rissoles, or slow-cooked beef or lamb, three times a week. These dishes are delicious and rich in iron, which can help maintain healthy iron levels in your child’s body.
  2. Experiment with dehydrated fruits or nuts (use nut spreads or ground nuts if under three years old) as snacks. You can also spread nut pastes on toast or crackers for a tasty, iron-rich snack.
  3. Thicken homemade soups with dried peas, beans, or lentils. These ingredients are not only nutritious but also excellent sources of iron.
  4. Use whole meals instead of white bread and choose whole-grain cereals like bran flakes. These are high in fiber and iron and can be a great addition to your child’s breakfast.
  5. Serve baked beans or fresh meat on whole meals/whole-grain toast with fruit in the same meal (or occasionally with a small glass of 100% fruit juice). This will provide a balanced meal with iron-rich foods and vitamin C to aid iron absorption.
  6. Choose a breakfast cereal with added iron, like baby rice cereal or Weetabix, and add some berry fruits to help with iron uptake.
  7. Use vegetables high in vitamin C, like capsicum, tomato, celery, and broccoli, in pasta, stir-fry, or a side salad. Vitamin C can enhance iron absorption, making it easier for your child’s body to absorb the iron they need.
Iron supplements for toddlers 

Sometimes, your child may need to take iron supplements as their doctor prescribes. Here are some things to keep in mind if your child is taking iron supplements:

  • You should take them according to medical advice and consume iron-rich meals and snacks.
  • Iron supplements may cause stomach cramps, constipation, nausea, and vomiting for the first few days as the body adjusts to the medication. 

Iron can also cause the stools to turn black in color, which is not harmful.

  • Be aware of the symptoms of iron toxicity, such as severe stomach pains, chest pain, clammy skin, bluish-colored lips, or fingernails.
  • Avoid self-diagnosing and giving your child over-the-counter iron supplements, as these can be harmful. In young children, 20mg per day is the safe upper limit. 

Most iron supplements contain about 100mg per tablet, so carefully following the doctor’s advice is essential.

  • Iron tablets are often mistaken as candy by children, so it’s important to keep them tightly capped and out of reach.

Seek medical advice if you suspect your child has an iron deficiencyFollow these tips to ensure your child’s healthy growth and development by getting the necessary iron intake.

Tips for increasing – iron absorption in toddlers

While it’s important to incorporate iron-rich foods into your toddler’s diet, it’s equally important to help their bodies absorb the iron effectively. Here are some tips to increase iron absorption in toddlers:

  • Pair iron-rich foods with vitamin C

Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron found in plant-based foods. To enhance iron absorption in the body, but it is recommended to serve foods high in iron with fruits and vegetables that contain a high amount of vitamin C, such as oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, or broccoli.

  • Avoid calcium-rich foods with iron-rich foods

Calcium can inhibit iron absorption, so it’s best to avoid serving calcium-rich foods like milk and cheese with iron-rich foods. Instead, try serving iron-rich foods with water or juice.

  • Cook in cast-iron cookware

Cooking foods in cast-iron cookware can increase the iron content of the food, particularly acidic foods like tomato sauce.

  • Avoid tea and coffee with meals

The tannins in tea and coffee can inhibit iron absorption, so avoiding serving these beverages with meals is best. Instead, offer water or juice.

  • Consider iron supplements

Your pediatrician may recommend an iron supplement if your toddler is not getting enough iron from their diet. However, staying within the recommended dosage is important, as too much iron can be harmful. By implementing these recommendations, elevate your toddler’s iron absorption and fortify their development. Remember that it’s vital to consult with your pediatrician before any significant changes to your child’s diet or introducing supplements.


As a result Iron is a vital nutrient essential for toddlers’ growth and development. It’s crucial to ensure your child’s diet includes a variety of iron-rich foods, such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, beans, tofu, spinach, and quinoa. 

Pair iron-rich foods with those high in vitamin C to increase absorption, and don’t give iron supplements without medical advice. Incorporating iron-rich foods and following these guidelines can help your child’s growth and development.


National Institutes of Health. Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Accessed March 20, 2023.

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