All About Iron for Preschoolers
You probably are very familiar with the importance of iron for babies. Your baby’s first solid food may have been iron rich infant cereal and if you used formula, it had iron too. Iron is still an essential nutrient for your growing preschooler – helping to keep her blood healthy by forming hemoglobin. Hemoglobin allows the blood to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Iron also plays a role in healthy brain development and helps support a healthy immune system. Without enough iron in the diet, anemia can develop which is a very serious condition in children. Your pediatrician can tell you if your child is at risk for low iron and what to do about it. Dietary intake research shows many preschoolers are not getting the recommended amount of iron in their diet.
Iron in Food
There are two forms of iron in foods – heme iron found in animal sources, such as meat and poultry; and non-heme iron found in plant based foods, such as spinach. The body absorbs heme iron more easily than non-heme iron. Dark meats, such as beef and dark meat poultry are among the best sources of heme iron. You can help enhance iron absorption from non-heme sources by eating those foods with foods rich in vitamin C, such as orange juice, citrus fruits, strawberries and red bell peppers (developmentally prepared for preschoolers). Also, a small amount of heme iron can also help iron absorption from all sources. Ground beef eaten with enriched pasta (enriched with iron) helps your body absorb the iron from the pasta too.
Iron sources for Preschoolers
Each of these foods is a good source of iron for preschoolers.
***Don’t forget that fortified breakfast cereals are typically a good or excellent source of iron for your preschooler. Serving sizes for cereals vary so check the Nutrition Facts panel. Pair breakfast cereal with orange juice to enhance absorption.