Ensuring that our kids eat a well balanced diet, including iron-rich foods, can be hard when they’re eating unpredictably. I hope this info on iron-rich foods for kids (and the recipe ideas at the bottom) helps to set your mind at ease!

iron-rich-foods-for-babyIron-Rich Foods

Ensuring that your kids are getting enough iron can seem hard when they’re in a phase of picky eating—or just not eating a ton. But since iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia are still common issues with kids and it can impact their development and behavior, it’s important to try to include iron-rich foods in their daily meals.

For some context, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Among children ages 1 to 3 years, iron deficiency occurs in 6.6 percent to 15.2 percent of toddlers, depending on ethnicity and socioeconomic status.” Which is much higher than I would have expected. They say that preterm infants, exclusively breastfed infants, and infants at risk of developmental disabilities are at higher risk for deficiencies.

I never want any parents to worry excessively about their child’s nutritional intake and thankfully, adding iron to a diet is actually quite easy.

iron rich food for kids chart

How much iron does my child need?

Toddlers ages 1 to 3 years need 7 mg/day of iron. Kids aged 4-8 need 10 mg/day. For context:

TIP: It’s possible that your kiddo is already getting enough just by eating normal toddler-size servings.

Does my child need an iron supplement?

This question will vary a lot by child so it’s best to check in with your doctor. Kids are routinely screened for iron deficiency when they’re babies and toddlers, so definitely discuss this with your pediatrician if you don’t remember what those results were, if your child is older, or if you’re just curious about supplementing.

It can be hard to find a multivitamin with iron, so check your label, or consider a separate iron supplement in consultation with your doctor.

sample day of toddler meals with iron

What are the best sources of iron for kids?

The AAP recommends that iron comes from iron-rich foods first and foremost. The type of iron in meat, fish, and poultry is easier for our bodies to absorb, but adding a range of iron-rich foods is your best bet. Here are some examples of foods with a good dose of iron.

  • Red meats like beef and lamb
  • Dark meat poultry
  • Fish including shrimp and oysters
  • Iron-rich vegetables including dark leafy greens (think Popeye!), baked potatoes, and pumpkin
  • Beans and legumes like kidney beans, lentils, and tofu
  • Fortified cereals like Cheerios and some hot cereals including baby oatmeal
  • Whole grains and whole grain products (including some of the newer bean pastas like Banza)

TIP: A toddler-size serving of meat is 2 tablespoons to ¼ cup. A toddler-size serving of produce is 2 tbsp to ¼ cup. A serving of beans and legumes is 1-2 tablespoons for younger kids and ¼ cup for older kids. (Find more specifics in my Daily Toddler Nutrition Guide.)

sweet potato pureeTop 10 Best Iron-Rich Foods for Babies

Here are my go-to foods with a lot of iron that you can feed to a baby who’s eating purees or baby led weaning style foods.

  1. Beef, ground
  2. Bean puree
  3. Beans, very soft and lightly mashed
  4. Bean pasta, cooked very soft (like Banza)
  5. Chicken, finely shredded or ground
  6. Eggs, scrambled or hard cooked yolks mashed with water
  7. Green bean puree
  8. Infant cereal like baby oatmeal, fortified
  9. Oatmeal
  10. O cereal
  11. Smoothies with spinach or kale (serve on a spoon or in a reusable pouch)
  12. Sweet potatoes, mashed
  13. Pea puree
  14. Peanut butter puree
  15. Strawberry puree

TIP: Iron stores in babies start to run out starting around 6 months, so you’ll want to incorporate these foods into your baby’s diet from an early age.

easy marinara sauce with extra veggiesTop 15 Best Iron-Rich Foods for Toddlers and Big Kids

These foods are easy to prepare and packed with iron for kids.

  1. Apricots, dried
  2. Beans
  3. Bean pasta (like Banza with marinara sauce)
  4. Beef burgers
  5. Broccoli
  6. Eggs
  7. Green beans
  8. Oatmeal
  9. Peanut butter
  10. Raisins
  11. Smoothies with spinach or kale
  12. Spinach Pesto
  13. Strawberries
  14. Watermelon
  15. Wheat bread

TIP: Aim to serve 2-3 of these foods (from either the baby or toddler list) most days and you should easily provide enough opportunities for your child to eat enough iron.

spinach muffins on a plate with fruitAdd Vitamin C for Increased Iron Absorption

If you pair iron-rich foods with produce with plenty of Vitamin C—think citrus, strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, dark greens, and bell peppers—the iron will be more readily absorbed by the body. Some ideas to consider:

Limit Milk to No More than 24 Ounces Each Day to Avoid Limiting Iron Absorption

Experts at the Mayo Clinic also advise against letting the kids have more than 24 ounces of milk in a day (or three 8 ounce servings) which could negatively impact iron absorption. That much milk could also make them less hungry for other foods, which could also limit how much iron they’re able to eat through foods.

best iron rich recipes for kids50 Best Iron-Rich Recipes for Babies, Toddlers, and Kids

Here are some of my favorite recipes for kids of all ages that are rich in iron. (The list is organized alphabetically for easy reference, not in order of preference!)

  1. Bean Puree
  2. Bean Pasta with Marinara Sauce
  3. Beef Burritos with Veggies
  4. Black Bean Quesadillas
  5. Black Bean Soup with Citrus
  6. Broccoli Pesto
  7. Broccoli Cheddar Soup
  8. BBQ Shredded Chicken
  9. Cheesy Meat Buns
  10. Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Potato
  11. Chocolate Smoothie with Hidden Veggies
  12. Green Smoothie
  13. Kale Bites
  14. Lentils and Rice with Dried Fruit
  15. Lentils with Tomatoes and Italian Spices
  16. Lentil Soup with Veggies
  17. Lentil Falafel
  18. Meatballs with Hidden Veggies
  19. Mini Egg Muffins
  20. Mexican Egg Muffins with Spinach
  21. Moroccan Lamb Meatballs
  22. No-Bake Energy Bites
  23. Nut-Free Hummus
  24. Oatmeal with Apple and Raisins
  25. Oatmeal with Pumpkin
  26. Pesto Chicken and Brown Rice
  27. Potato Nachos
  28. Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
  29. Slow Cooker Chicken and Bean Tacos
  30. Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
  31. Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
  32. Spinach Banana Muffins with Banana
  33. Spinach Pesto
  34. Spinach Quesadillas
  35. Strawberry Puree
  36. Strawberry Smoothie
  37. Strawberry Muffins
  38. Sweet Potato Quesadillas
  39. Sweet Potato Baby Food
  40. Tofu Nuggets
  41. Tofu with Sesame
  42. Whole Wheat Bread
  43. Veggie Chili
  44. Veggie Chili Mac
  45. Zucchini Burgers

iron rich foods listPrintable Iron-Rich Foods List

For easy reference, you can print this list of iron-rich foods for kids keep in your kitchen, or save the image on your phone. Simply sign up for my newsletter and gain access to my entire FREE Resource Library of printables!

I’d love to hear if iron has been an issue for you with your kids. Chime in below in the comments!

 

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Comments

  1. Thanks! I see most of the recipes include also dairy (eg cheese, cottage cheese), doesn’t it interfere with the absorption of iron?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, this is what I mention about that: “Experts at the Mayo Clinic also advise against letting the kids have more than 24 ounces of milk in a day (or three 8 ounce servings) which could negatively impact iron absorption. That much milk could also make them less hungry for other foods, which could also limit how much iron they’re able to eat through foods.”

  2. Beautiful list! My 14 month girl has been a pretty good eater, but we just found out yesterday that she is extremely low on iron.. Dr prescribed iron supplements for 3 months to help get her levels up, and I’ll definitely be using this list in the future to help her iron intake!

    1. Thank-you your info has came in very handy to me. Because my granddaughter has the same problem. And I was not to sure what to do. With your info now I know what to do! Thank-you once again

    2. Your info posting came in very handy to me because my granddaughter has the same thing and I didn’t know what to do. Now I know what to do to help her. Thank-you very much!!!

  3. Thanks for not only listing foods high in iron, as well as the reminders about the important relationship between iron and vitamin C, but also for the recipes!

    When my son was first diagnosed as severely anemic a nurse told us not to worry because he was breastfeed- she never considered if his food source-me- was anemic. Of course I was trying my best but with my predisposition and breastfeeding literally sucking my nutrients, I couldn’t keep up. My kiddo has been on iron supplements for a year and is trending up, but still a long way to go. We continue to look for new recipes to keep our iron in take up via food.

    Thanks again for the recipes! I’m excited to try them.