Why do babies need iron?
Our bodies require iron to make haemoglobin, which brings oxygen through the blood to all the cells. Haemoglobin is what brings colour to the red blood cells. When you don’t have enough iron, the red blood cells become tiny and pale, a disorder called anaemia. They can’t hold enough oxygen to the organs and muscles of your body. Babies and children require iron to grow their brains normally. Thus, iron proves to be one of the essential nutrients for babies.
Nutrition in kids is different from that in adults. For example, most newborns have enough iron contained in their bodies for at least the first 4 months of their lives. Breast milk also contains very little iron. When children obtain both breast milk and formula, the requirement for additional iron may depend on how much breast milk and the formula they eat.
Iron deficiency in Babies
Iron deficiency in kids may be less physically active and may develop more slowly. Iron deficiency in children can affect the way they do in school. Not having enough iron can lead to problems with concentration, shorter attention span and poor academic performance. Low Iron Iron Low levels of iron can make you feel tired and weak.
When babies don’t get enough iron, they may show these signs:
- Slow weight gain.
- Pale skin.
- No appetite.
- Irritability (cranky, fussy).
Iron deficiency is a common issue in children. It may occur at several stages, from mild deficiency to iron deficiency anaemia—a disorder in which blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells.
Here are some iron-rich foods for infants and toddlers that will help them get the iron that they need!
Tofu is a moderate, healthy plant-based diet that offers full protein, calcium, iron, and other nutrients. It’s going to have some of the essential nutrients your baby needs if they don’t eat meat. Half of a cup of tofu contains 3 mg of iron for babies. Tofu comes in a variety of shapes. You can chop the tofu and add it to the salads or stir-fry, bake or use it to make the nuggets. Tofu silk has a lighter feel to it. You can mix it with the salad dressings, add it to the smoothies or add the fruit to the dessert.
Questions have been raised as to whether isoflavones, an ingredient in tofu, could be harmful to the balance of hormones. Experts are currently agreeing that this is unlikely.
- Green Pea:
Green peas contain nutrients like protein, fibre, iron. A lot of toddlers love them, they’re easy to prepare, and they match well with a lot of dishes. Half a cup of green peas contains 1 mg of iron for infants. You can boil peas and serve them as a side dish, mash them with root vegetables for children, or add them to soups, stews and savoury rice. Keep a bag of peas in the freezer or add fresh peas to the pod in the season. Ask your baby to help you shell some fresh peas. Peas can pose a choking threat to young children, so consider mashing them for infants.
Eggs are a healthy source of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals, including iron. A hard-boiled egg contains 1 mg of iron for toddlers. For years, people have tried to reduce their egg intake, because eggs often contain cholesterol, which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Current evidence, however, shows that, after all, eggs do not increase the risk of CVD. Toddlers may eat eggs in many ways, such as:
- soft boiled toast sticks.
- Rice and noodle dishes
You can add sliced spinach and other iron-rich foods to omelettes and scrambled eggs. Try different ways to see how best your child likes them. Always make sure that the egg is fresh and very well cooked. If possible, use fresh, locally sourced organic, free-range eggs.
Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli and spinach, are some of your best iron vegetable options that are recommended by doctors. Half a cup of boiled, drained spinach contains about 3 mg of iron. Try to serve your toddler with finely chopped, steamed spinach or add chopped spinach or other greens:
- mac and cheese
- scrambled eggs
Spinach purée is often given to infants and is believed to be iron-rich. However, the leaves of Amarnath, beet, cauliflower, mustard, parsley, radish and turnip may also be given to infants. The greens can be pureed at first. Later they can be served mashed. They can also be included in cutlet mixes and paratha doughs.
Canned light tuna is a low-calorie and low-fat supplement to your child’s diet that also supplies iron and other important nutrients such as protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Three ounces of light tuna, stored in water, contains 1 mg of iron. Combine shredded tuna with purified vegetables to boost your baby’s iron intake, but hold off if your family has seafood allergies.
Tuna fish cakes and mashed Tuna, Potato, Tomato & Spinach Mash are great tasty and nutritious and iron-rich recipes for your little one!
If you’re aiming for a vegetarian diet, or if your child isn’t a meat fan, the beans are a great compromise. Soybeans, lime beans, kidney beans, lentils and other beans and pulses contain iron, fibre and other essential vitamins and minerals.
a half cup of white beans has 4 mg of iron
a half-cup of lentils has 3 mg of iron
a half-cup of red kidney beans has 2 mg of iron
Mash some of the cooked lentils or make a dal with some rice. Try mashing some of this enriched rice with your beans for a complete protein and high-iron meal. You can also try serving your baby some low sugar beans with a piece of whole wheat bread for a high iron lunch. The mashed sweet potato side adds vitamin C to the dish.
Iron is a nutrient that’s essential to your child’s growth and development, but some kids don’t have enough. After understanding the importance of iron for kids and learning how iron-rich foods help your kids prevent this from happening, enabling them to live their healthiest life.