By: Kristen Yarker
Are You Giving Your Baby Iron-Rich Foods?
Iron is important for babies
In fact, the need for iron is one of the reasons why we recommend introducing solid foods at about 6 months. Iron is used in overall growth and development. It’s especially important for little one’s brain development – for babies to reach full their cognitive potential.
That’s why it’s recommended to offer your baby iron-rich foods at least twice a day.
The Best Iron-Rich Baby and Toddler Foods
- Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey)
- Fish and shellfish
- Egg yolk
- Beans and lentils
- Tofu (it’s made from soybeans after all)
- Nut butters
- Iron-fortified baby cereal
Baby and Toddler Foods that Aren’t Good Sources of Iron (a.k.a. Busting Myths):
- Dairy and alternatives.
- Grains. Yes, quinoa has more iron than other grains, but it’s still not a strong source of iron (In case you’re wondering, it is a good source of protein). It’s because grains are naturally low in iron that they add (called ‘fortifying’) iron to baby cereal/ mush.
- Vegetables. You may have heard that spinach is a good source of iron. It does have some. But the iron is attached to another molecule that makes it almost impossible for human bodies to absorb it. So unfortunately Popeye was wrong.
- Fruits. You may have read that dried apricots have iron. It’s true that they have more iron than other fruits. But being the highest of a group of foods that are all low in iron doesn’t mean that you have much.
Parents often ask me if they have to give their babies each of the high-iron foods. The short answer is “no”. This is a list of options. Choose the foods from this list that your family eats. For example, if you’re raising your baby vegetarian, choose the vegetarian foods. Or, if you never eat tofu in your house, don’t buy tofu. Or, if you hate the smell of fish cooking, don’t cook fish. Or, if you don’t like the idea of adding iron to baby cereal, don’t use iron-fortified baby cereal.
The Bottom Line
Either as purees or finger foods, offer your baby iron-rich foods at least twice a day.
Have you heard of any other foods are good sources of iron? Share what you’ve heard and I’ll let you know whether it’s truth or myth.
Kristen is a child feeding expert often referred to as The Dietitian who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids. She shows families evidence-based strategies to gets kids to try new foods on their own (without negotiations, deception, or being sneaky) to start them along a path to a life-long LOVE of healthy eating.
When she’s not gardening, shopping at a farmers’ markets, cooking or entertaining Kristen’s balancing all her food related interests by taking her surfboard down off the wall (where’s it’s been collecting dust for almost 10 years) and is getting back in the water. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.