Iron is extremely important for the body, as it’s involved with carrying oxygen to all bodily organs. This is why diets deficient in iron can cause major complications. This is multiplied for children as they are developing rapidly and have a higher need for nutrients and minerals. Diets deficient in iron can cause delayed mental and physical development for children among other affects. You might think that iron deficiency only exists in underdeveloped countries. However, this is not the case. Iron deficiency remains the most common deficiency in developed countries.
Signs of Iron Deficiency (Anaemia):
- Shortness of breath
- Delayed Speaking
- Delayed Walking
- Yellowness of the skin
- Low immunity and frequent infections
- Picky eating
If your child has any of the above symptoms, it’s best to discuss with your paediatrician and do blood test to test for iron deficiency to treat it accordingly either with medication or by discussing an adequate diet with a nutritionist.
In my infant and child nutrition workshops I put a heavy focus on complete diets and iron-rich diets. The importance of it begins with food at 6 months. I often hear people say that food is just for fun until the age of one, however this is far from the truth. You might be surprised to know that due to the infant’s rapid development between ages 6-12 months they need more iron than toddlers ages 1-3. This is why it is important for every parent to know all their child’s nutrition needs and how to provide it aside from breast milk or formula, both of which are not adequate in iron.
We know that meat is a rich iron source, and incorporating it in small amounts can help with providing adequate iron. That being said, we know most children dislike meat. Even some adults.
Here are 4 tips to increase iron in the diet without resorting to meat:
- Add dried fruits to porridges
Dried fruits contain iron, and go really well with a porridge. They can even be a great unmessy snack on the go that provides fibre, vitamins, and minerals especially iron.
- Include legumes in your diet once a day
Legumes are especially high in iron, the highest being in lentils and white beans which provide an adult man’s full iron needs in only 1 cup. Other legumes such as broad beans and chickpeas also have iron and can be easily incorporated into breakfast or lunch.
- Have tomatoes with meals. Go for a raw tomato in the morning and cooked tomatoes with stews to add a pinch of iron to every meal.
- Go for whole grains as they contain more iron and other minerals than refined grains.
For more about iron please read The Ultimate Iron Guide for the Whole Family