Is Your Toddler Getting Enough Iron?
Iron is an essential nutrient for toddlers. Yet, it’s often deficient in their diets. Unfortunately, the foods toddlers typically prefer (i.e. crackers, yogurt, cheese and fruit) are not great sources of iron. A pediatrician recently mentioned that many parents misperceive milk as a source of iron in their kids’ diets. Although iron is found in most animal protein sources, milk is an exception to this rule. Plus, toddlers that drink more than the recommended amount of milk per day (16oz whole milk) are at greater risk of iron deficiency since too much calcium can hinder the absorption of iron.
Why is iron so important for kids? First and foremost, it’s essential to the metabolic processes required for growth and development. It’s also required for oxygen transport throughout the body and helps immune function by protecting the body from oxidative damage. Our muscles require oxygen to function properly. Why do you think Popeye got such a boost from his spinach? It’s a great source of iron. Although, not often a popular one with kiddos.
How can you ensure your toddler gets enough iron? Toddlers need 10mg of iron a day. Iron-rich foods that may appeal to pre-schoolers include dried beans (black beans, kidney beans, lentils), meat, dried fruits and nuts, soybeans and tofu, egg yolks (cooked into food), iron-fortified cereals and to some extent, pasta. For more foods high in iron, check out this list at www.wholesometoddlerfoods.com.
For meals high in iron, consider pasta with ground turkey/beef sauce, three-bean salad or mix some tuna or ground beef into macaroni and cheese. High iron snacks include dried cranberries, edamameor kidney beans, fortified cereals and bars and crackers with peanut butter. Molasses is another great source of iron.For an iron-boose at breakfast, try these Molasses Bran Muffins.