One in three kids under age 6 doesn’t get enough iron, which is crucial for growth and for carrying oxygen in the blood. A lack of it can make your child tired, irritable, and unable to think clearly.
Kids often fall short because they don’t eat enough meat and dark-green leafy vegetables — two big sources. And though breads, cereals, and other grains are usually fortified with iron, calcium can interfere with absorption in the body. If your child eats fortified cereal (the biggest source of iron for young kids) with milk, for instance, she won’t absorb much of the iron.
To boost intake, from Jodi Citrin, president of Citrition, a nutrition counseling practice in New York City:
Serve kid-friendly meat sources, such as turkey sandwiches, burgers, beef tacos, and pasta with meatballs. (Serve red meats at most twice a week.)
Have your child drink non-calcium-fortified OJ with an iron-packed breakfast, since vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Or serve vitamin-C rich strawberries or oranges afterward.
While it’s great to drink milk with meals, you might aim for at least one meal that’s a good source of iron (consisting of meat and/or fortified grains), and serve water or 100 percent fruit juice instead.
Serve snacks that are good sources of iron: hummus (with pita for dipping), watermelon, raisins, and dry fortified cereal.