All parents want the best for their children. This includes helping children eat a balanced diet so they can grow into the best version of themselves. Amongst the most important nutrients for children to get from their diet is iron. However, iron deficiency anaemia is also the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide, with an estimated 800
million women and children affected.1
Why is iron so important in our diet?
When a child doesn’t get enough iron, it can affect many different behaviours, including:
- Being very tired and irritable
- Being unable to sleep properly
- Having a low appetite, not really interested in food
- Having trouble concentrating at school
- Having trouble remembering tasks and instructions
- Sometimes having dark circles under their eyes
- Having poor growth over time
Where does iron come from in our diets?
The main sources of iron from food are red meats such as beef, pork and lamb. Other meats such as chicken and fish also provide some iron. We can also get small amounts of iron from dark green leafy vegetables, legumes such as lentils and beans, dried fruits such as apricots, dates and figs, peanuts, eggs, wholemeal bread and fortified breakfast cereals, BUT, iron from plant sources needs to be eaten with a source of vitamin C to help our body absorb it. Good sources of Vitamin C include fruit, broccoli, capsicum and tomato. A great, simple, iron rich meal could be scrambled eggs with chopped tomato on wholemeal toast, spinach salad with lentils and drizzled with lemon juice or a chicken, salad and tomato wholemeal sandwich. Iron rich snacks include dried fruit and roasted peanuts.
Did you know…?
- A 6-month-old baby needs as much iron as a fully grown adult male! That’s why it’s so important to include iron rich foods when starting solids.
- Using cast iron cookware such as a camp oven leeches iron into the food we’re cooking! A
great excuse to have fun cooking outdoors, all while getting more iron from your diet!
- The Global Prevalence of Anaemia in 2011, World Health Organisation, http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/177094/9789241564960_eng.pdf;jsessionid=DA4EFBE81828B97BEA7125A290332A58?sequence=1, accessed 23/10/18
– by Emma Robinson
Emma is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian with experience working with infants, children and adults across a range of areas including allergies, feeding difficulties, fussy eating, growth difficulties and chronic conditions. She is passionate about nutrition during pregnancy and early years, and helping children and their families discover the joys of food and eating together. I like: camping/outdoor adventures, strong family and friend connections, being active, and of course all things food! I dislike: snakes, being cold, and I have an irrational phobia of ET – one day I’ll get around to working through it! Favourite colour: blue
“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” – John Lennon