A Healthier Growth for Your Child
Iron sources are important for individuals of all ages to make hemoglobin, which allows the red blood cells to carry oxygen to the parts of the body that need it. However, babies require iron for proper neurological development, making it even more important.
Eventually, if a baby or child doesn’t get enough iron, they may have difficulty concentrating in school and may struggle academically. However, most babies have enough iron within the first four to six months of life. After six months, they will need to eat iron-fortified foods to avoid any complications.
As a parent, you likely want the best for your child, so how can you ensure they get enough iron? Here are eight iron-rich foods for babies.
1. Breast Milk
While not every mother can breastfeed, it’s always about doing the best you can. If breast milk isn’t an option, you can also try formulas to ensure your child gets enough iron. Most often, babies will get enough iron from breast milk, but if this is a concern, bring it up with your doctor and discuss other options, especially if the baby is under six months.
2. Iron-Fortified Formula
Most formula is fortified with iron and other nutrients. The only problem that could occur here is if you opt to “water-down” the formula as this could reduce the iron concentration. However, water isn’t required for babies until after six months as they get enough hydration from the formula or breast milk alone.
3. Pureed Baby Foods
Once your child is eating puree, some of the best ways to ensure they get enough iron is by selecting iron-rich food to make homemade baby food. Here are a few options you might want to consider.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Spinach and kale come with tons of nutrients, and iron is one of them! Start by cooking these veggies, then blend them in a blender until smooth. You may also want to add other foods to this puree for even more nutritional benefits.
Beans are a wonderful option for kids and adults alike. Go for kidney beans, navy beans, black beans or lentils. You can blend them or, again, add them to other veggies to make the flavor nicer and amp up the nutritional content. Always make sure to drain and rinse the beans or lentils before pureeing them!
These can be store-bought or homemade. Meat, like chicken, turkey, beef and pork, all make great puree options. If you buy in-store, double-check the label to ensure it doesn’t contain added salt or sugars.
4. Fortified Cereals
For spoon-fed meals, fortified cereals are an easy go-to for many parents. Many of these fortified cereals contain iron, but always ensure you check the label. Some great options include single-grain oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice or barely cereals.
When introducing your little one to solid foods, eggs can be a wonderful choice as they are highly nutritious and also contain iron. You can also hard-boil them, scramble them or make mini quiches. They can also be a wonderful way to introduce other seasonings.
When old enough and eating solids, seafood is a great source of iron. You’ll want to ensure you opt for low-mercury containing fish, such as anchovies, catfish, mackerel, salmon, crab, scallops or tuna. Always make sure the fish is cooked thoroughly and try starting with two servings of this a week when the time is right.
Just like pureed meat, solid meat (when the time is right) can provide a great source of iron and protein for your little one. Try beef, chicken, pork, lamb or turkey. And always make sure to cut them up into bite-size pieces so it’s easy for your child to grab and eat.
It’s also worth noting that meat contains heme-iron, which is easy for the body to absorb.
Tofu is a great source of iron, protein and calcium. Chopped up into small pieces, it is also really easy for babies and kids to eat, making it a wonderful plant-based option. It can also be added alongside other foods, like veggies and fruits. Its softness further makes it easy for children with new baby teeth to chew.
When it comes down to it, iron is important for everyone, from babies to seniors. Getting enough of it can be made easy by incorporating a whole foods diet or using fortified foods to your advantage. Ensure your baby is given the best start to life by researching proper foods for their age. From birth to six months, usually, babies have enough iron so it’s more so after six months that you may need to pay closer attention to their diet and iron-rich foods.