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The Best Iron-Rich Foods for Kids and Toddlers

Donna has been an online multi-topic writer for over eight years.

Iron fortified cereals are great for kids

Iron fortified cereals are great for kids

How to Sneak Iron Into Child’s Diet

Isn't it odd most lists of iron-rich foods for kids include foods they would never eat like liver, prune juice, tofu or oysters? While these foods are all rich sources of iron, they aren't the most kid-friendly foods. Try these five iron-rich foods kids love and then use these ideas and recipes to get your kids to eat healthier foods.

Why Worry About Iron Intake?

There is solid medical evidence to prove that iron is an important part of any child’s diet. Iron is necessary for healthy blood and brains; not getting enough iron can lead to anemia and iron deficiency. The proper amount of dietary iron helps cognitive functioning so kids learn faster.

Post Raisin Bran Cereal

According to the authors of the FSNEP Anemia curriculum, adding iron-fortified cereals is a good way to increase a child’s iron intake. They recommend individuals “Choose cereals with at least 45% DV (Daily Value) for iron per serving.” 1

Post Raisin Bran Cereal ranks number four on the Cleveland Clinic’s list of iron-rich foods and provides a whopping 60 percent DV of iron per serving. A tasty combination of bran flakes and raisins, there are many ways to work this food into your child’s diet even if he refuses it as a breakfast cereal.

For instance, separate the raisins from the bran flakes. Let your child do this, as she probably loves to play with her food. Reserve the raisins to use in trail mixes, cookies, or one of the recipes below or serve them separately as a nutritious snack.

Put the cereal in a zip-closure plastic bag and seal tightly. Let him use a rolling pin to crush the cereal – gently - and use the crumbs as breading for homemade chicken, turkey or fish fingers. Use the crushed cereal to replace oatmeal or bread fillers in meatloaf and meatball recipes. Kids are more willing to try new foods when they help cook them.

Try one or all of these tasty recipes from the Post Foods website to use raisin bran cereal to tempt your picky eater or search their recipe database for some tempting ideas:

  • Sunny Cranberry Nut Bread: Serve this for breakfast or snack with an icy cold glass of milk. For an extra nutritional boost, spread a tablespoon of peanut or nut butter over top.
  • Bran Flake Muffins: Serve this delicious muffin with a bowl of yogurt garnished with a sprinkle of granola or with soup or salad to pump up the nutrition. It's also a great snack and it freezes well.
Having trouble getting kids to eat their beans? Add some cut-up hot dogs to the mix!

Having trouble getting kids to eat their beans? Add some cut-up hot dogs to the mix!

Iron Rich Foods for Kids: Beans

Beans are rich sources of iron and awesome meat replacements. Including them in children’s meals boosts both the iron and the protein content of foods.

However, if your youngster balks at eating bean soup, there are other ways to serve them. Puree the beans in a food processor, mix the puree with salsa, and serve the mixture with whole-wheat tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and sour cream.

Most kids love to dip foods into sauces and will gobble this up.

Add a handful of raisins or other dried fruit to trail mix to add a healthy boost of iron.

Add a handful of raisins or other dried fruit to trail mix to add a healthy boost of iron.

Raisins and Dried Fruits

Sprinkle dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and cut-up prunes over iron-fortified ready-to-eat cereals. Just use your kitchen shears to snip them into bits, and add them to oatmeal, cookies, or cakes for a nutritional boost.

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Let your kids create their own healthy trail mix for snacks using raisins, iron-fortified cereals and crackers, and almonds.

Here are some other recipe suggestions and tips for increasing nutrition:

  • Rice with Dried Fruit and Nuts: This is a perfect way to include more iron in kids' diets with minimal effort. It's incredibly versatile because you can use almost any type of rice, and you can swap out the other ingredients to suit your child's preferences.
  • As a plus, this dish freezes well, so you can make it in advance and pull it out of the freezer when you need it.
  • Flavorful Dried Fruit Bars: Rich with natural sweetness from dried fruits, these make a tasty, nutritious snack that is not loaded with added sugar.
  • Fig and Apricot Bars: These bars are delicious and car-friendly as well. Perfect for on-the-go breakfast or snack.

Blackstrap Molasses

Keep an open mind on this one. It’s true, most kids will not devour a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses willing; most adults would not. However, blackstrap molasses is an incredible iron-rich food, and its strong taste is easily disguised in many foods. Here’s how:

You need one jar of regular molasses and one jar of blackstrap molasses. In recipes, exchange one cup of sugar for one and one-third cups of regular molasses.

Pour one-tablespoon blackstrap molasses into the measuring cup, and use regular molasses for the remainder. Reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by five tablespoons and add one-half teaspoon of baking soda.

While this adds a few extra minutes of prep time to a recipe, isn’t your child’s health worth it?

Use this idea to include blackstrap molasses in baked bean recipes, gingerbread and chocolate-based recipes, or molasses cookies. Smile happily when the kids beg for more.

Snow peas are fun finger foods and kids love to dip them in ranch dip. They are rich sources of iron.

Snow peas are fun finger foods and kids love to dip them in ranch dip. They are rich sources of iron.

Green Peas

When nestling peas inside a mound of mashed potatoes has lost its novelty, there are other ways to entice kids to eat them. Serve them cold as finger foods with ranch dip, and let them use toothpicks to stab them and dip.

Puree the peas and add to tomato-based soups and sauces (the tomato overpowers the pea taste; your family will never know the difference.) Remember the chocolate-based recipes that worked so well for disguising the taste of blackstrap molasses?

As it turns out, chocolate is a strong flavor that masks other flavors, and it is a good disguise for vegetable purees. Do this:

Use up to one-half cup of pea puree to replace an equal amount of oil or butter, and add with the other liquid ingredients in recipes. Be aware that the finished products such as cookies may be a little thinner and softer than usual.

Citrus fruits provide Vitamin C and help the body absorb iron better.

Citrus fruits provide Vitamin C and help the body absorb iron better.

The Rest of the Iron Story

Another great way to boost iron intake is by including many vitamin-C-rich foods in children’s diets. Vitamin C increases iron absorption so you get more bang for your nutritional buck.

Fortunately, the best sources of vitamin C are also some of kids’ favorite foods:

  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Mangos
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe

While this is not an all-inclusive list of foods with high vitamin C, it will get you started. Iron-rich foods for kids are the best protection against anemia and iron deficiency.

Adding these foods to their diets protects blood and bone health.


1 - Mary Lavender Fujii, MS, RD, NFCS Advisor Contra Costa County, cathi Lamp, MSN, MPH, RD, NFCS Advisor Tulare County, “Help Children Learn and Grow: Prevent Anemia – Eat Iron Rich Foods,” 4/2005, University of California Cooperative Extension

Post Cereals, Post Raisin Bran nutritional information, accessed 04/06/2011

The Cleveland Clinic, “Anemia and iron rich foods,”


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: My daughter is one year old, and she lacks hemoglobin. What kind of food should I give her to improve her HB?

Answer: Consulting your physician or a registered dietitian is the best way to get specific advice about your daughter's health.

What's Your Tip for Getting Kids to Eat Iron Rich Foods?

peachy from Home Sweet Home on December 19, 2014:

cereals and nuts are good for kids

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on May 02, 2013:

Thanks for sharing and voting this up, Lisa! Like you, I'm very interested in health and nutrition and always looking for ways to sneak a few more nutrients into my family's meals.

liswilliams from South Africa on May 01, 2013:

Thanks Donna - great info and great writing. Voted up and shared (of course!)

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on March 25, 2012:

Thanks for the votes of confidence, KoffeeKlatch Girls! I'm all for everyone improving their nutrition in any ways possible:)

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on March 25, 2012:

These are great ideas for everyone, not just for kids. Bookmarking, up, useful, and interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on March 07, 2012:

Thank you for promoting this article on healthy ways to get your daily vitamin C, MT! I appreciated your ongoing support of my writing:)

Shasta Matova from USA on March 04, 2012:

Hi Donna, I know you know, but I wanted to post here that this hub was on my list of favorites for Feb 26, so your readers know, and so I don't accidentally use it again another week! Sorry I missed informing everyone last week. Congrats!

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on February 27, 2012:

Thank you for voting this up and sharing your feedback, urmilashukla23. I appreciate your sharing this article on iron rich foods with your friends.

Urmila from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA on February 26, 2012:

Great information! Bookmarked and shared with friends. Voted up!

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on February 26, 2012:

Thanks for sharing your feedback, Millionaire Tips! I tried to focus on foods that were nutritious but tasty. After who wants to choke down horrible tasting food just because it's "healthy'? Thank you as well for the vote of confidence.

Shasta Matova from USA on February 25, 2012:

These are all great ideas, not only for finicky kids, but for myself. All these foods are ones that I am willing to eat, and would enjoy eating. Voted up.

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on October 24, 2011:

That's a healthy approach...the processed, convenience and fast food trap is where the highest nutrient losses occur. Thanks you for taking the time to read and to comment on this, I really appreciate your feedback.

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on September 11, 2011:

Thank you! Our son is also autistic so making sure he gets enough nutritious foods is a top priority for us. I'm always glad to get tips and feedback from others on how they are helping their families eat healthier.

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on August 29, 2011:

Hi Makhosi - great question! Read the food labels when you are shopping and choose the iron rich sources; follow the recommendations for serving sizes. Of course most anyone should benefit from eating the same foods suggested for the kids. However, before you add or change anything in your diet, it's always best to consult your healthcare professional for advice that is personalized to you.

Makhosi on August 28, 2011:

But what about the adult,what is their diet,cos i want to boost myself,as i am studying

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on April 17, 2011:

Thanks so much! Our little guy is autistic and getting him to eat healthy is really occurred to me that others might be struggling with this issue. I hope it helps!

andycool on April 17, 2011:

Very useful hub, I've already bookmarked this one. Voted up! Thanks for sharing! - Andy

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