Be an Iron Family!

Iron is an essential nutrient, but sadly most kids in the US, and worldwide, are still not getting enough. According to WHO (World Health Organization) iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. It’s not just enough to eat enough foods rich in iron but how you consume your iron is important.
Iron takes on many tasks in our bodies like keeping our skin, hair and nails healthy. Enzymes, via iron, help our bodies digest food, and the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells are made by iron.

Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, heart issues, decreased appetite, dizziness, irritability and more. According to the CDC, iron deficiency in pregnancy can cause an increased risk for small or preterm babies; can lead to delayed motor function or mental function in infants; cause problematic fatigue and mental function in children, teenagers and adults. We all need iron but kids especially need iron, so how can you make sure they are getting enough or boost your family’s consumption? How can you be an iron family?

Here are some easy ways to help increase iron consumption:
Pair veggies and grains with some meat for better iron absorption
Pair vitamin C with iron for better absorption (*think outside the box for vit C)
Add spices such as thyme or curry to dishes

Something to keep in mind when eating iron
Try avoiding high-calcium foods such as cheese, milk and yogurt when serving a meal rich in iron as research via Sweden and The US show that diary “can reduce iron absorption by as much as 50-60%”

How to increase your family’s iron:
What our family does is careful meal planning!!! We separate our calcium intake from our iron intake. I serve filtered water (so no or lessened calcium in water which is found in most tap water) with meals high in iron and pair a fruit for vitamin C to serve as a dessert or side addition. Then, sometime during the day, I have 1-2 dairy meals and or snacks where I serve up calcium rich food such as milk to drink and a cheese sick, a yogurt drink or a yogurt cup and a glass of milk.

*When pairing Vitamin C with iron for better absorption, use a variety from different food sources. Everyone told me to pair oranges up with iron when I started my son on solids. The problem with oranges, for all babies, the acidity can cause a rash or digestive upset. This actually still happens with one of my 2 year old twins. Instead of always serving oranges, I paired fruits such as avocadoes, mangos, persimmons and kiwi with foods high in iron for the diet of my baby’s first foods. Well, I still do this! There are so many other fruits higher in vitamin C content than even oranges. Give a variety of vitamin C options to your children. Click here for a post with more vitamin C information and chart that I have used for my own personal reference.

Iron Focused Foods:
Beans: lentils, dried/baked beans, black eye peas, peas, white beans, soy beans
Broccoli, spinach or other green leafy veggies
Sweet potato
Blackstrap molasses
Use ground turkey in the sauce for your spaghetti-Bolognese
Meat, poultry, fish
Liver, if your child will eat it, dish it up (in moderate quantities so they don’t get too much vitamin A)

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Here are some of our favorite iron rich foods and spices. What are some of your favorite foods with iron?

Here is a site that I like to reference when meal planning to make sure my family is consuming all the nutrients they need.
Additional links to support the importance of Iron for kids and health: Kidsheatlth, Everyday health and the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for Iron.

What are some of your favorite foods with iron? How do you menu plan to ensure your family is getting needed nutrients?

**Also, do you know the link between iron deficiency and lead toxicity? No, read more here. 

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2 thoughts on “Be an Iron Family!”

  1. This is very informative! I’m so glad I’ve come upon this post. My doctor advised me to take vitamins for iron. Although I’m okay with taking prescription drugs, I still prefer natural and healthy foods. Thanks to this post, I know now what to eat for iron deficiency. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Hi Aika, Thanks for reading and the feedback! I love knowing that some of my posts have helped and supported others. Thank you, Beth


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