Iron is needed for healthy red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body and for normal growth and development.  Low levels of iron causes iron deficiency anaemia, which can result in (1):

  • Tiredness, irritability and poor concentration
  • Pale skin
  • Poor appetite
  • Poor growth and more frequent infections

Iron deficiency anaemia is diagnosed after a blood test is done.

Main causes of Iron Deficiency Anaemia
  • Poor diet is the most likely cause in babies from 6 -24 months (2). Not eating enough foods high in iron . Many children replace iron rich food sources with juices, sweets and processed foods and as a result don’t get enough nutrient dense sources of food daily.
  • Filling up on milk!  Keep to a maximum of a 450ml a day  in children over 2 years old so you don’t spoil your appetite and you have room for plenty of foods high in iron.
  • Where the diet has good sources of iron other causes for iron deficiency anaemia should be investigated (can also be found in Coeliac Disease).

How much iron does my child need each day?

Children  
0-3 months 1.7mg
4-6 months 4.3mg
7-9 months 7.8mg
10-12 months 7.8mg
1-3 years 6.9mg
4-6 years 6.1mg
7-10 years 8.7mg

*RNI = Reference nutrient intake. A reference nutrient intake is the amount of a nutrient that is enough, or more than enough for most infants and toddlers.

Which foods contain iron?

Iron is found in both animal and plant foods and a well balanced, varied diet will help you ensure you get sufficient.  Good sources of Iron include (3):

Food Portion Iron in mg
Liver, chicken, fried * 2 ½ oz (70g) 7.9
Liver * 2oz (57g) 5.0
Curried meat 2oz (57g) 3.0
Beef, grilled steak 2oz (57g) 1.4
Lambs kidney One kidney 3.9
Lamb, roast 2oz (57g) 1.5
Pork, roast lean 2oz (57g) 0.5
Chicken, white meat 2oz (57g) 0.2
Chicken, dark meat 2oz (57g) 0.4
Ham, 1 large slice 0.2
Beefburger, 2oz (57g) 1.5
Pork Sausage each 0.2
Sardines each 0.7
Salmon, canned small tin, 100g 1.0
Fish Fingers each 0.2
Eggs each 1.2
Cheese, cheddar 1oz/25g 0.1
Yogurts 150g tub 0.1
Vegeburger each 2.5
Hummus 2 tbspns 1.0
Tahini 1 heaped tspn 2.0
Lentils, cooked tablespoon 1.0
Milk 1/3rd pint (200mls) 1.0
Breakfast cereals, various See packet 2.0-6.0
Wholemeal bread medium slice 1.0
White bread medium slice 0.6
Pasta,wholemeal, boiled 3 tbspns 1.5
Potatoes 2 egg size 0.5
Baked Beans 1 sml tin (150g) 2.0
Tomato 1 medium 1.2
Peas 3 tablespoons 1.1
Dark green leafy, cooked 50g 0.5
Apricots, dried each 1.4
Peach each 0.5
Pears each 0.3
Sesame seeds 1 tbsp. 1.2
Marmite 1 level tspn 0.5
Chocolate 50g bar 1.0
Liquorice Allsorts 56g bag 4.0

Vitamin C can increase the amount of iron absorbed from plant foods(4)

Most fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamin C, so try to eat plenty of these with your meals, particularly:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, satsumas, grapefruit and their fruit juices
  • Blackcurrant & juice based drinks (low sugar options are available)
  • Kiwi, pomegranate & all berries
  • Lightly cooked cabbage, broccoli, spinach & other green vegetables
  • Peppers, tomatoes and salad vegetables

It is important to note that a very high fibre intakes and high intakes of tea can reduce the amount of iron absorbed. The tannin found in tea can reduce the absorption of the iron from food, so try not to drink tea with your meals (5).  

Iron deficiency anaemia can be reversed through dietary changes. It is extremely important to see a dietitian if your child has iron deficiency anaemia, or you may suspect your childs iron intake is low. There are certain ‘enhancers’ and ‘inhibitors’ that are involved in iron absorption that you dietitian would explain to you, specific to your childs current eating habits. Here at nutrition synergy we have specialist paediatric dietitian who will help with reversing your childs iron deficiency and give you a meal plan for your child to ensure they are meeting their requirements.

 

References:

1. Pavord, S., Myers, B., Robinson, S., Allard, S., Strong, J., Oppenheimer, C., & British Committee for Standards in Haematology. (2012). UK guidelines on the management of iron deficiency in pregnancy. British journal of haematology156(5), 588-600.

2. Lozoff, B., Kaciroti, N., & Walter, T. (2006). Iron deficiency in infancy: applying a physiologic framework for prediction. The American journal of clinical nutrition84(6), 1412-1421.

3. Kings college Iron deficiency resource guide for Iron deficiency Anaemia

4. Al-Quaiz, M. J. (2001). Iron deficiency anemia. Saudi Med J22(6), 490-496.

5. Delimont, N. M., Haub, M. D., & Lindshield, B. L. (2017). The impact of tannin consumption on iron bioavailability and status: a narrative review. Current developments in nutrition1(2), 1-12.

Written by Jenaed Brodell, Paediatric Dietitian (RD), child nutritionist