Top 5 Best Iron-Rich Foods For Toddlers

6 min read

Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Top iron-rich foods for toddler

Iron is a really important micronutrient for health. It is important for both adults and kids, but more so for kids as it helps them grow and stay healthy. As they progress from infancy to toddlerhood, their bodies change a lot, so it’s crucial to ensure they eat well balanced meals. Including iron-rich foods for toddlers are a great way to meet their daily requirement needs.  

Iron is responsible for making a special protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood to all parts of the body. Iron also helps with brain development, keeping the immune system strong, and providing energy. When parents understand how important it is and include iron-rich foods in their toddler’s meals, it helps the little ones stay healthy and grow well.

In This Article

Why Do Toddlers and Kids Need Iron?

Toddler eating meat, a  source of heme iron

Iron is a mineral which is essential for the growth and development of the body. Iron is needed by both adults and kids alike. But toddlers and kids require it more than adults because of their rapid growth and development. Iron and iron-rich foods are important for toddlers for several reasons-

1. Brain Development

Scientific evidence supports the importance of iron for healthy brain development in toddlers. Insufficient iron during their growth years can have negative effects on their metabolism, myelination (formation of protective nerve coverings), neurotransmission (communication between nerve cells), and gene and protein profiles. Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate iron-rich foods into their diet and, if necessary, consider iron supplements at different stages of growth.

2. Aids in Hemoglobin Production

Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin, a protein found in the red blood cells. This hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to all the cells in the body. Less iron means less hemoglobin and less oxygen to body cells which makes it difficult for them to function. Lack of iron in the body can lead to anemia, which causes weakness and hampers the growth and development in toddlers.

3. Energy Production

Iron is necessary for several enzyme activities in the body. It helps the body to digest food and absorb nutrients from it. Better absorption of all the nutrients provides the much-needed energy which helps in the growth, physical activity, and overall health of the toddlers.

4. Builds Immunity

Iron helps the immune system, which protects the body from infections and diseases. It supports the production and activity of immune cells that fight off harmful germs. Having enough iron strengthens a toddler’s immune response.

5. Prevents Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is a commonly seen problem in kids. It can make them feel tired, weak, and can affect their growth and development. Getting enough iron in the diet helps prevent this condition and the health problems that come with it.

6. For Optimal Cognitive and Other Abilities

Research has indicated that toddlers who experience iron-deficiency anemia may have less developed cognitive and motor skills. Additionally, they may be at a higher risk of exhibiting poorer socio-emotional behavior and experiencing compromised neurophysiological development both in the short term and over time.

[Read : Developing Social Skills In Your Toddler]

How Much Iron Does a Toddler Need Everyday?

Toddlers require iron to support their rapid growth and development. Iron requirements for the body vary according to age. For toddlers between the ages of 1-3 years, daily iron requirement is 7 mg. This will change as they grow.

Top 5 Iron-Rich Foods For Toddlers

Dietary iron is of two types- heme iron and nonheme iron. Heme iron is basically the iron which is found in seafood, meat and poultry, and nonheme iron is present in vegetables, fruits, cereals, pulses and legumes. Out of these both, heme iron is readily absorbed in the body (around 15%-35%) while absorption of nonheme iron is not that much (about 2%-20%).

If your toddler is primarily on a vegetarian diet, they may require more than the recommended amount of iron. To ensure adequate iron, you can try these top 5 iron-rich foods for your toddler-

1. Ragi

Ragi is rich in iron

Finger millet or ragi is a rich source of iron, and is a boon for someone suffering from low hemoglobin levels. In fact, sprouted ragi has high vitamin C levels which helps in easy absorption of iron in the body. You can make porridge, idli, dosa, chapati, pancake etc. out of it.

2. Lean Meat and Eggs

Lean meat and eggs contain heme iron

Lean meat contains a good amount of heme iron. When you are serving meat to your tiny tot, always keep in mind to remove the fatty part of the meat as it contains very little iron. You can make stew, casseroles, curries, etc. with lean meats like chicken, lamb, duck for your toddler.

Eggs contain both heme and nonheme iron. You can make your toddler eat eggs in the form of omelet, boiled egg, fried etc. But do note the iron is found in the yolk of the egg so don’t skip on it while giving to your toddler.

3. Legumes and Beans

Beans are good source of iron

Beans are a great source of iron for vegetarians. Legumes and beans like chickpeas, soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, and other pulses contain nonheme iron along with other vitamins and minerals. You can serve them in the form of curries, soups, chats, salads, and purees to your little one.

4. Leafy Vegetables

Leafy vegetables like spinach are iron-rich

Dark leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli are iron-rich and great for vegetarians. For example- a half cup of spinach in puree or soup form contains 3 mg of iron. You can use these vegetables to make delicious parathas, fried rice, pancakes, stir fry, smoothies etc.

5. Seafood

Seafood like tuna, contain heme iron

Seafood like tuna, sardines, mackerel, shrimp, and clams are some of the iron-rich foods you can give your toddler. Just exercise a little caution while giving seafood as sometimes it may cause allergic reaction in toddlers.

[Read : Food Allergies in Babies]

How to Incorporate Iron Into Your Toddler’s Diet?

Cooking in cast iron pans adds iron to food

To ensure your toddler gets enough iron, it’s important to incorporate iron-rich foods in their diet. Here are some tips on how you can do that-

  • Offer lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, fortified cereals, and green leafy vegetables in your toddler’s meals and snacks
  • Combine iron-rich foods with vitamin C to boost iron absorption in the body
  • According PubMed Central, Preparing meals in cast-iron pans helps to boost iron levels. Acidic foods will absorb more iron from the utensil
  • While milk is important, its excess consumption can hamper iron absorption. Ensure you are giving milk in limited quantities
  • If your little one has a less intake of iron-rich meals, consult a pediatrician about giving them iron-fortified foods

Iron is necessary for your toddler’s growth and overall wellness. Iron-rich foods should be included in their diet to avoid iron deficiency anemia and to boost their cognitive and motor abilities. Parents can help their toddlers flourish by prioritizing iron-rich meals and encouraging their physical and cognitive development while lowering the risk of iron deficiency anemia and its related health consequences.


1. Are Bananas High in Iron?

Bananas are a nutritious fruit, but they are not considered to be a rich source of iron. While they do contain a small amount of iron, it is not significant when compared to other foods that are higher in iron content.

2. What is Iron?

Iron is a mineral our bodies need to function correctly. Energy production, blood oxygen transport, and growth and development are all dependent on it. Meat, fish, poultry, beans, fortified cereals, and leafy greens are some of the foods that provide us with iron. It keeps our immune system in good shape and aids in cell activity.

3. Is Cow Milk a Good Source of Iron?

No. Cow milk is not a good source of iron. Also it should not be introduced to babies before the age of 12 months. Also, drinking too much cow’s milk can in fact lead to iron deficiency or anemia. So, it’s better to limit its quantity.

Read Also: Top 5 Best Calcium Rich Foods For Toddlers

Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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