The Best Iron-Rich Foods for Kids and Toddlers
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 food 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.
Iron Fortified Cereals are Great for Kids
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.
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.
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.
Let your kids create their own healthy trail mix for snacks using raisins, iron-fortified cereals and crackers, and almonds. Try this quick and easy recipe for Fruity Snack Mix; kids love to mix this up!
Here's 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 kid's diets with a minimal effort. It's incredibly versatile because you can use almost any type of rice, and you can swap out the other ingredient's to suit your child's preferences. the
- As a plus, this dish freezes well, so you can make it in advance and pull it out offreezer 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.
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 are an incredible iron rich food, and their 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 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.
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.
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:
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.
Best Way to Make Beans in a Crockpot
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,”
Questions & Answers
My daughter is one year old, and she lacks hemoglobin. What kind of food should I give her to improve her HB?
Consulting your physician or a registered dietitian is the best way to get specific advice about your daughter's health.