Sneaky ways to add extra iron to your toddler's diet

Eating & Nutrition   |   Age: 2 years 1 month

Sneaky ways to add extra iron to your toddler's diet

Toddlers are doing so much growing at this age, and the nutrients from a balanced, nutritious diet help toddlers grow and develop in amazing ways. Iron, specifically, is helping your baby's body get the oxygen it needs - it’s important for producing hemoglobin, which is the part of red blood cells that binds to oxygen in the blood, and carries it from the lungs to the rest of the body. Not getting enough iron can put children and adults at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Since iron is also important for immune system function, a lack of iron could also mean more illnesses for your little one - and no one wants that.

As you work to make sure that your baby eats nutritious meals, you may notice that toddlers can have unpredictable tastes. Though these sort of behaviors can easily turn mealtime into a challenge, it's important that your little one continues to have some control over what she eats.

Yes, you'll want to
 continue to offer your baby a variety of nutritious foods - including things she might have refused yesterday or last week - but you don't want to turn mealtime into a battleground. You can help to keep mealtime from turning into a power struggle by not forcing things - for example, not making your tot eat all her green beans or polish off those last few bites of meatloaf. However, respecting your toddler's appetite doesn’t mean that you need to be above creatively sneaking some iron into your little one’s meals.

Toddlers between the ages of one and three need about 7 milligrams of iron each day. Dietary iron comes in two forms: heme and nonheme - and nonheme iron isn’t as easily absorbed by the body.  Many plants are rich in iron, and plants contain nonheme iron. Meats - seafood included - contain both heme and nonheme iron. What this means is that if your little one is eating a diet that is primarily vegetarian, twice as much iron is recommended, since it won't be absorbed into her system as easily. Iron is best absorbed by the body when accompanied by Vitamin C, so it’s also helpful to serve iron alongside foods rich in Vitamin C. 

So just how can you be sure your little one is getting enough iron? You don’t necessarily need to go the Popeye route and aim for spinach at every meal!

If you’re offering options for your baby to eat these kinds of foods throughout the day, your little one will probably be getting all the iron she needs. Whether you serve your little one ground beef meatballs with a vitamin C rich tomato sauce, or have to sneak some silken tofu into a berry smoothie, remember that your little one might sometimes refuse the food you offer, and that's totally normal. If you keep trying, she will get the nutrients she needs in the end.


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