Being the parent and guardian of your child, their health and wellbeing is always uppermost in your mind. Of all the essential nutrients and supplements that your kid(s) would need in his or her growing up years, iron is undoubtedly going to be one of the most essential of minerals. So, you’d be anxious to know whether your toddler is getting his or her daily-recommended dosage of iron.
Iron is a vital mineral that is indispensably required by the body for making RBCs (red blood cells). RBCs supply oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also instrumental in protecting the body against infections and promoting holistic development and growth during one’s childhood. Iron intake is very essential for neonates, infants, kids, toddlers, and children, as far as brain development is concerned.
1. The Adverse Effects of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficient children may become lean and haggard, and complain about recurring headaches. They may also not be able to concentrate on their studies and will seem disinterested in playing or socializing with other children. In case your kid is iron starved, chances are that red blood cells in his or her bloodstream will be in short supply as well.
This in turn may hinder his or her all round growth. He or she might also encounter problems in learning and have a low IQ. Iron scarcity or deficiency is still a major issue with children, particularly kids and toddlers who are very finicky about what goes into their mouth. Consequently, they end up consuming excessive amounts of specific types of foods leading to a shortage of iron in their systems.
2. Supplement Diets of Children with Iron Rich Foods
Therefore, needless to say, kids and children will need to eat sufficient portions of iron rich foods for maintaining their haematological balance. To be specific, all children during their growing up years would need to imbibe at least two different kinds of iron enriched foods everyday. As a parent, drawing up a list of food items endowed with iron can be a trifle baffling though.
In this context, it is worth mentioning here that there are two basic types of iron that is found in the numerous food items and products – haem-iron and non-haem iron. Lean and red meats and different varieties of fishes are rich in haem-iron while cereals, wholegrain foods, and numerous kinds of vegetables contain non-haem iron. Though the body needs both types of iron, haem-iron is better absorbed than non-haem iron.
3. Foods that are Naturally Endowed with Iron
There are almost endless varieties of foods that are equipped with iron. But children being what they are may refrain from eating some of these foods. Therefore you may need to make such foods appear appealing by mixing them with other food supplements so that may lap up all the contents served on their platter without fuss or ado.
It’ll be convenient for you to pick up the right type of foods (that are blessed with iron) if you can segregate the haem iron rich foods from the non-haem iron rich foods. Foods containing haem-iron include (but not limited to) red meats like beef, pork, mutton, veal, lamb, lean meats like chicken, turkey, offal meats like kidney and liver, shellfish, and fish paste. However, foods having a high amount of non-haem iron are by far more numerous (compared to haem-iron food items).
Breakfast cereals fortified with iron, pasta, oatmeal, breads, breakfast cereals, grits and tortillas made from whole grains like rice, wheat, barley, maize, brown rice, oat contain non-haem iron. Kidney beans, baked beans, soybeans, tofu, chickpeas, and dried peas, vegetables like ladyfinger, bitter gourd, ridge gourd, pumpkin seeds, and tomatoes should be included in diet. Supplementing the diets of toddlers and children with fruits and vegetables containing high amounts of vitamin C helps their bodies to absorb iron more effectively.
Include fruits like strawberries, orange, sweet lime, kiwi fruit, pineapple, and citrus fruits. Serve these fruits along with their breakfast cereals or let them drink the juice extracts. Also include salad vegetables and green vegetables like cucumber, sugar beet, cauliflower, capsicum, and broccoli.
4. Iron Enriched Foods Suitable for Children
In the first six months of a kid’s life, he or she gets the daily iron dosage from breast milk or draws from his or her body’s storage. Infant formula foods are also a rich source of iron. However, kids and toddlers should be introduced to solids like rice cereal high in iron after they’re in their seventh month when the iron levels in their bodies plummets.
An infant between 1 and 3 years old typically needs 7 mg of iron on a daily basis. So, your kid can get his or her daily iron fix from a single or multiple servings of foods depending upon the kind of food he or she’s consuming. Before you breast feed or bottle-feed your baby, let him or her have solids containing iron.
As your child grows up, increase the texture and quality of the food servings in an integrated manner like graduating from iron enriched cereals to vegetables and pureed fruits. Children start developing teeth by their first year and therefore start chewing. That means you can progress to serving mashed fruits and vegetables, minced meats, grated fish (without bones).
5. Chewing the Food Plays a Significant Role
Learning to masticate (chew) with teeth and even gums is very crucial for children and toddlers as it aids in the development of strong teeth and robust jaws, and fosters speech development. Fruits and vegetables containing non-haem iron foods that the body cannot absorb easily but nevertheless essential should be judiciously combined with lean meats and lean red meats to speed up the process of absorption. Therefore infants and toddlers should be introduced to different types of meat when they’re into their seventh or eight month.
6. Let Them Have Finely Grated Foods by the Time They’re One Year Old
Encourage them to consume solids that have been finely chopped or grated by the time they become one year old. Offer them chopped or mashed vegetables along with soft-boiled pieces of chicken or mutton. Low fat foods are not suitable for children less than 5 years old. Low fat foods are recommended for children aged above 5 but take care to see that such foods are low in saturated fats.
7. Consumption of an Extensive Variety of Foods
Children should be encouraged and persuaded to consume an extensive variety of foods. Therefore, they should take foods that contain iron. Foods with high calcium content like cow’s milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, and cheese should also be eaten. They should also drink enough water throughout the day. Foods containing high amounts of sugar or salt should be avoided as much as possible.
Before summing up, it won’t be out of place to suggest that you should consult your paediatrician on a regular (at least once every month) basis for evaluating your kid’s iron levels. Go for a blood test if your child is obese. Obesity in children is a symptom of iron deficiency.
Assessing the iron levels is also necessary for finding out if your child is beset with the symptoms of anaemia (iron-deficient type) like frequent headaches, dizziness, pale skin, fatigue, and the like. If it turns out that your child is iron deficient, you may need to restructure his or her diet. You may also be required to give him or her iron supplements.