Iron is arguably one of the most important nutrients for kids. So why is iron so important? Well iron responsible for the transport of oxygen around the body (it binds it to the red blood cells) – aka a very vital role for our survival. With kids growing bodies and fast development they need to make sure they enough oxygen to the right places.
The problem is, in-utero infants get all their iron from their mother and build up their stores. But breast milk doesn’t contain any iron so those stores start to deplete by the time your child is ready to start solids (around 6months old!). This is why it is so important to include iron rich food sources in your babies diet from the beginning of their solids journey.
But its not just that simple. Where iron gets a little more complex than some of the other nutrients is that there are two different types of it.
Haem Iron: Aka Animal based iron. It’s the preferred source of iron for the body as it’s easily bio available (which just means the body can digest and absorb it easily!).
Non Haem Iron: Aka Plant based iron. For our bodies to use Non Haem Iron it first needs to be converted into Haem Iron, which is the reason that plant based irons are much less bioavailable (aka harder to absorb).
But that doesn’t mean we should only be getting our iron from animal based products. In fact its important to include irons sources of all kinds especially in your kids diet to ensure they are getting what they need and increasing their mealtime variety at the same time.
The good news?
There are 4 hacks to increase the absorption:
- Cook your veggies – Cooking vegetables such as spinach and broccoli can increase the absorption of iron 5 fold!
- Use a cast iron pan – When you use a cast iron pan it transfers small amounts of iron to your food increasing your iron intake. This is especially great for kids that aren’t yet adventurous or big eaters! Its important to note, this only works with the black cast iron pans, not those with an enamel coating.
- Lucky Iron fish – Similar to a cast iron pan a lucky iron fish can be added to any liquid while you are cooking to increase the iron content of the food. So think rice, pasta or even stews and soups while they cook.
- Serve it up with a source of vitamin C – When iron is coupled with vitamin C it makes it much easier for the body to digest and absorb. So when serving up iron to your kids serve it along side kiwifruit, orange juice, capsicum, tomatoes, or even just drizzle over some lemon juice.
So what iron rich foods should you include in your kids diet?
Animal Based Sources
*The general rule of thumb is the redder the meat the higher in iron it is. That is why things like lean beef, kangaroo and liver are all great sources.
Plant based Sources
- Dark leafy greens – like spinach, silver beat and kale
- Legumes – chickpeas, kidney beans, blackbeans etc
- Baked beans
- Nuts and seeds
- Fortified cereal and bread – like Weetabix
- Wholemeal bread
How many sources of iron are you already including in your kids diet with out realising? Jump across to Instagram and DM me to let me know!