Iron is the second most abundant metal in the earth's crust. Yet iron deficiency is the world's most common form of malnutrition, believed to affect 43 per cent of children worldwide.
TODDLERS’ IRON REQUIREMENTS
Provided that the mother's iron status during pregnancy has been adequate, the healthy new born infant should have sufficient iron stores in the liver and other tissues to last for about six months.
Infants need iron-rich foods during weaning so that they learn to like those foods before they may become wary of new foods at around 12 months
DIETARY SOURCES OF IRON
Iron in the diet is found in the well-absorbed 'haem' form in animal tissue such as red meat, meat products, offal, shellfish and oily fish. Less well absorbed 'non-haem' iron is found in plant sources such as leafy green vegetables, grains, pulses, beans and dairy products.
Certain breakfast cereals and some commercially prepared baby cereals are fortified with extra iron. Iron is added to white and brown flour to replace that lost in the milling process. Standard infant milk formulas, follow-on formulas and growing up milks are fortified with iron.
Vitamin C in fruit, vegetables and fruit juices will enhance iron absorption if consumed with iron-rich foods.
Foods High in Vitamin C include:
• Kiwi Fruit
• Citrus Fruits
• Sweet Potatoes
GUIDANCE AND TIPS
• It is important that toddlers get enough iron in their diet to prevent them from becoming naemic.When toddlers are anaemic, the blood is unable to supply all the oxygen that the body needs.
• Symptoms and signs of anaemia include: looking pale, being tired all the time, irritable behaviour and suffering a lot of infections. Anaemia can also slow down your toddler’s mental development.
• Foods from animals are the best source of iron, such as red meat (beef, lamb and pork), dark poultry meat (chicken legs and thighs), meat products, shellfish and oily fish. Liver is a good source of iron but should be limited to once per week because it contains high amounts of vitamin A.
• If your child does not eat meat you should include plenty of oily fish, cereal foods, lentils, dhal, chickpeas, hummus and other pulses along with green leafy vegetables and fruit in the diet.
• Vitamin C in fruit or fruit juice (but not in fizzy drinks or diluted fruit squash) helps the body to absorb iron from cereal and vegetable foods.
• Do not let your toddler drink tea with meals because this reduces the absorption of iron from foods.
• Toddlers who drink too much cows' milk every day and do not eat a healthy balanced diet may not get enough iron. After their first birthday about three cups of milk of 120mls (4oz) each per day is enough. Toddlers do not need large bottles of milk.
• Follow-on milks and growing up milks are fortified with iron. These can be used in place of cows' milk if you are worried that your toddler does not eat enough iron-rich foods.
Examples of Meals and snacks suitable for toddlers which are high in iron
• Liver pate sandwich or on toast
• Fish or meat paste sandwich - Bacon sandwich
• Hot dog sausage in bread roll
• Taramasalata and pitta bread
• Peanut butter sandwich with half a glass of diluted fresh orange juice
• Hummus and tortilla chips with two small tomatoes
• Baked beans on toast with small green salad
• Portion of dhal and chapatti with a slice of mango
• Breakfast cereals fortified with iron with milk and half a glass of diluted orange juice
• Drinking chocolate with iron fortified follow-on or growing up milk
• Baby rusk and banana
• Dried apricots
• Slice of fruit cake or dark ginger cake with a glass of diluted orange juice
• Digestive biscuits and a handful of strawberries
• Two slices of malt bread with half a glass of dilute
If you are concerned that your toddler might be anaemic or iron-deficient, seek advice from your health visitor or doctor.