Children need regular sources of foods rich in iron. The amount of iron children absorb from food is variable, but is thought to be around 15-20%. How much iron is absorbed by the gut depends on  iron status, general health, age but also the availability of iron in the food itself, known as bioavailability.  6-12 months-old infants, toddlers and young children have high nutritional needs for iron, and are at risk of iron deficiency anaemia.  Foods rich in iron are needed for brain development, concentration, oxygen transport in the body, stamina and building muscle. Maximise your child’s iron rich foods using the following tips:

  • Avoid giving milk with a meal as the high calcium content of milk reduces iron absorption
  • Do include fruits and vegetables with each meal; the Vitamin C content increases iron absorption
  • Avoid giving children tea; the tannins in tea bind iron and reduce its absorption
  • Foods containing haem-iron such as those in foods of animal origin like red meat and eggs are absorbed more effectively
  • Foods containing non-haem-iron found in foods of plant origin like cereals, fruits, nuts, pulses and vegetables are less effectively absorbed
  • Eating red meat twice a week, 3 eggs per week, regular beans, pulses, nuts, fruits, cereals and vegetables will meet the needs of most children
  • Other good sources include apricots, blackcurrants, figs, prunes, cocoa, dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, edamame beans, kidney beans, cashew nuts, peanuts, tahini, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, oats, wholegrains,  quinoa, fortified cereals eg. ready brek, weetabix
  • Vegetarian and vegan school children generally have lower iron status but do get sufficient iron from beans, pulses, soya mince, nuts, nutritional yeast with iron, tofu fruits, cereals and vegetables – vitamin C intake is a valuable addition to enhance absorption for this group
  • Toddlers can reduce the risk of iron deficiency by having water with main meals instead of milk