Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers

According to the CDC, sufficient iron intake is important for children’s neurological development and hemoglobin production (hemoglobin delivers oxygen throughout the body). And for toddlers, the Mayo Clinic states that children aged 1-3 years old need 7 mg of iron daily. 

Ever since learning about the importance of iron for child development, I started wondering;

  • How can I increase my toddler’s iron intake? 
  • And what are some good iron rich foods for toddlers?
So after doing some research on iron rich foods, I started compiling a list and finding ways to incorporate those foods into my toddler’s diet. And because this has been so useful, I am excited to share my findings here! 

Below are tables with information on iron rich foods, pictures of various serving sizes, as well as some ideas for iron rich meals and snacks for toddlers.

Please note that I am not a nutritionist or medical professional and that I encourage you to speak with your pediatrician regarding your child’s individual nutritional needs. Additionally, some of the foods listed below are common allergens, so please be aware of any food sensitives or allergies your child may have.

Table of Contents

Iron Rich Food Tables


Iron Rich Meal & Snack Ideas for Toddlers


Easy Iron Rich Recipes for Toddlers

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Meats, Fish, Poultry & Eggs

Iron Rich Animal ProductsServing SizeIron (mg)Informational Source
Egg1 egg.9 mg ironNutrition Value
Cooked Ground Beef1 oz.7 mg ironNutrition Value
Light Canned Tuna in Water (drained)1 oz.5 mg ironNutrition Value
Ground Turkey (93% lean, 7% fat)1 oz.3 mg ironNutrition Value
Wild Atlantic Salmon1 oz.3 mg ironNutrition Value
Farmed Atlantic Salmon1 oz.1 mg ironNutrition Value
Cooked Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless)1 oz.1 mg ironNutrition Value
Meats and seafoods are listed among the top sources of iron, because animal products have “heme iron”. So unlike iron from plants (“non heme iron”), heme iron is more readily absorbed by the body (CDC).

So when offering plant based iron rich foods, it is helpful to pair them with foods that are high in vitamin C. The vitamin C helps the body absorb the non heme iron. 

Meat, Fish & Poultry

While Everyday Health sites red meats, organ meats and seafoods like lamb, liver, and clams as animal products with the highest iron content, these aren’t exactly foods we eat on a regular basis in our house. Or ever really. 
 
So we opt for other good iron options like ground turkey, chicken, beef, tuna or salmon for our toddler.
 
1 oz serving of fish in a small dish
1 oz of wild atlantic salmon (.3 mg iron)

Eggs

Like meats, eggs are also a source of heme iron and readily absorbed by the body. They’re also so easy to prepare as a scramble or omelet. And when my toddler is being picky about his eggs, sometimes a little squirt of ketchup motivates him to finish a plate!

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Vegetables

Iron Rich VegetablesServing SizeIron (mg)Informational Source
Spinach1/4 cup cooked spinach1.6 mg ironEat This Much
Sweet Potatoes1/4 cup mashed sweet potato.85 mg ironMy Food Data
Peas1/4 cup frozen peas.5 mg ironNutrition Value
Kale1/4 cup cooked kale.3 mg ironEat This Much
Broccoli1/4 cup cooked & chopped.25 mg ironMy Food Data

Dark Leafy Greens – Spinach & Kale

While my toddler would never pick up plain kale or spinach, he will eat them when they are finely chopped or blended into other foods. For example, my toddler will eat finely chopped kale in pasta or quesadillas. And he loves smoothies, so that’s another easy way to incorporate dark leafy greens into his diet.

Broccoli

We have yet to get my toddler to eat plain steamed broccoli florets, but he will eat broccoli if it’s mashed and mixed in with rice. Or, mixed in with a little applesauce.
 
small bowl of 1/4 cup serving size of broccoli
1/4 cup cooked chopped broccoli (.25 mg iron)

Peas

Somehow my 2 year old loves peas. He has recently taken to pretending they are balls and saying “boing” as he puts them in his mouth. So, introducing a little play into meal time can be a good way to get toddlers eating.

handful of 1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup frozen peas (.5 mg iron)
I like to make sure the peas I serve him are really soft so that they don’t pose any sort of choking hazard. And when he was younger, we would just squish peas before serving them.

Sweet Potatoes

The sweetness and soft texture of cooked or steamed sweet potatoes can make them a toddler favorite! And they are so easy to prepare. I peel, dice and steam sweet potatoes and my toddler loves them! He will just eat them plain, or with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.  

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Fruits

Iron Rich FruitsServing SizeIron ContentInformational Source 
Dried Apricots (unsweetened)1/4 cup dried 1 mg ironNutrition Value
Figs1/4 cup dried.75 mg ironNutrition Value
Raisins3 tablespoons.56 mg ironNutrition Value
Dates1/4 cup dried.4 mg ironNutrition Value
Prunes1/4 cup dried.375 mg ironNutrition Value

Dried Apricots, Figs, Raisins, Dates & Prunes

Dried fruit is a sweet and tasty treat for toddlers. My toddler loves chopped up dried apricots, figs, raisins, dates and prunes mixed into finely chopped salads, oatmeal, cheerios, puffs or just plain on their own. Since dried fruits contains a lot of sugar we try not to go too wild with them, but they are definitely a regular part of my toddler’s diet.

handful of 3 tablespoons of raisins
3 tablespoons of raisins (.56 mg iron)

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Grains

Iron Rich GrainsServing SizeIron (mg)
Happy Baby Organics Oats & Quinoa Iron-Fortified Cereal3 tablespoons5 mg iron
Natural Grocers Whole Wheat Bread1 slice.5 mg iron
Quaker Rolled Oats1/4 cup.75 mg iron
O Organics Quick Cook Quinoa1/4 cup dry1 mg iron
Chosen Foods Organic Chia Seeds2 teaspoons.73 mg iron

Whole Wheat Bread

Most toddlers LOVE bread. And my 2 year old is no exception. He loves PB & J sandwiches and occasionally tuna fish sandwiches. Peanut butter and tuna also have a little bit of iron, so those types of sandwiches help bump up his iron intake for the day. 

Quinoa

While not a huge fan of quinoa by itself, my toddler will eat a bowl if it has the right fixings. For him, this means some chopped up dried fruit (usually raisins or dried cranberries). So as long as that dried fruit is in there, I can also throw in some finely chopped chicken or fish and brocolli and he will polish off a bowl.

Rolled Oats

My toddler will happily eat a bowl of oatmeal if there are blueberries or raisins mixed in it, along with some cinnamon sprinkled on top.

small bowl of 1/4 cup serving size of dried oats cooked
1/4 dried oats cooked (.6 mg iron)

Kodiak Buttermilk Flapjack & Pancake Mix

Waffles are another breakfast favorite for my toddler. We use the Kodiak Cakes Buttermilk Flapjack & Waffle Mix, and it’s so easy to make a quick waffle. A 1/2 cup of mix makes 1 waffle, and my toddler will eat an entire waffle for breakfast, so that’s an easy 1.7 mg of iron for him. Plus, you can add an egg into the mix for even more iron. 
 

When we make waffles for breakfast, I usually include a fruit high in vitamin C on the side to help with iron absorption. And if you are trying to avoid a ton of maple syrup, my toddler loves unsweetened applesauce as a substitute sweetener. Makes for some soggy waffles, but he loves it!

box of kodiak flapjack & pancake mix and waffle
1/2 cup Kodiak mix makes 1 waffle (1.7 mg iron)

Chia Seeds

The Chia Co. recommends toddler eat 2 teaspoons of chia seeds daily. Just be sure those chia seeds are soaked and fully hydrated before serving them. 

4 small banana chia seed pudding cups
Banana chia seed pudding cups (1 cup has 2 teaspoons of chia seeds = .73 mg iron)

For an easy and tasty way to incorporate chia seeds into a toddler diet, you can check out this banana chia seed pudding recipe. My toddler devours this stuff and it’s incredibly easy to make (only 3 ingredients and no baking or cooking)!

Iron-Fortified Baby Cereals

If I haven’t been offering my toddler a lot of naturally iron rich foods, I give him some iron fortified oat and quinoa cereal to help meet his daily iron needs. I like the Happy Baby Oats & Quinoa cereal.

Now that my toddler is eating bigger portion sizes and a wider variety of iron rich foods as a 2 year old though, he is mostly able to meet his daily iron needs without this cereal. When he was a baby and younger toddler though and still breastfeeding (breastmilk is low in iron, while most formula is iron-fortified), iron-fortified cereals came in hand.

bag of happy tot organic oats & quinoa baby cereal
3 tablespoons (5 mg iron)

And as a side note, as important as it is that kids are getting enough iron, it’s equally important that they’re not getting too much as explained by Healthline. So if my child were eating a lot of iron fortified cereal, plus taking an iron supplement, plus eating a a lot of iron rich and iron fortified foods, I would definitely change that to prevent any sort of problems resulting from excessive iron intake.

I either give iron fortified cereal to my toddler plain with water or orange juice mixed in (it tastes surprisingly good with oj, plus he is getting some vitamin C with the orange juice to help with iron absorption), or I make a batch of these Banana Veggie pancakes and use iron fortified cereal as the flour substitute.

A Note on Iron-Fortified Rice Baby Cereals

I avoid iron fortified rice cereals since there are a lot of other options, because rice can contain high levels of arsenic. Jessica Huhn from Ready.Set.Food explains that this is because rice absorbs a lot of arsenic from pesticides and fertilizers. And Consumer Reports states that arsenic is a Group 1 carcinogen and can have harmful effects on developing brains.

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Legumes

Iron Rich LegumesServing SizeIron (mg)Informational Source
Lentil Beans (canned, no salt added)1/4 cup1.3 mg ironWestbrae Organic Lentil Beans No Salt Added
Red Beans (canned, no salt added)1/4 cup1.1 mg ironWestbrae Organic Red Beans No Salt Added
Navy Beans (canned, no salt added)1/4 cup1.05 mg ironEden Organic Navy Beans No Salt Added
Tofu (firm)1/5 block (79 grams)1 mg ironO Organics Firm Tofu
Black Beans (canned, no salt added)1/4 cup.95 mg ironEden Organic Black Beans No Salt Added
Garbanzo Beans (canned, no salt added)1/4 cup.7 mg ironEden Organic Garbanzo Beans No Salt Added

Beans

Since we don’t eat beans too often, I just buy canned beans rather than soaking and cooking raw ones myself. I make sure to buy “no salt added” cans, because according to Parents, excess sodium is hard on developing kidneys. Additionally, excess sodium can lead kids to favor high sodium foods later on in life. 

An easy way to incorporate more beans into my toddler’s diet has been to blend them up with a little yogurt, garlic powder and cheese, and then heat the mixture up to serve as a dip or quesadilla fixing. I like eating this bean dip too!

Tofu

small bowl of 1/5 block of tofu serving size
1/5 block of tofu (1 mg iron)

Tofu comes in a variety of textures, from smooth and fluffy (silken tofu) to extra firm and rubbery (extra firm tofu). As a baby, my son liked the soft silken variety; however now as 2 year old, he prefers the firmer types. So it is worth experimenting with different types of tofu, since texture is such a big part of the food experience for babies and toddlers. 

And since tofu has a pretty bland taste, it can be blended up in smoothies, eaten as is, or mixed in with cooked foods. 

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Creamy Nut Butters

Iron Rich Nut ButtersServing SizeIron (mg)Informational Source
Cashew Butter (unsalted)1 tablespoon.9 mg ironNutrition Value
Almond Butter1 tablespoon.6 mg ironNutrition Value
Peanut Butter (unsalted, creamy)1 tablespoons.55 mg ironNutrition Value

Peanut, Almond & Cashew Butters (Creamy, No Salt Added)

1 tablespoon of peanut butter on a knife
1 Tablespoon of Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter

Creamy nut butters are easy to spread onto toast or crackers for a little nutritional boost. And peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are of course a favorite with my 2 year old. Not to mention easy to pack for a picnic lunch or snack on the go. 

And I always buy the creamy variety of nut butters, as the crunchy kinds pose more of a choking hazard risk. Spreading nut butters relatively thin onto food items also helps prevent any choking hazard risks.  

Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Packaged Snacks

Packaged SnacksServing SizeIron (mg)
Happy Baby Organic Kale & Spinach Puffs1/4 cup.45 mg iron
Cheerios1/4 cup2.1 mg iron
Happy Tot Organic Apples & Spinach Soft-Baked Oat Bars1 bar1 mg iron

Happy Tot Organic Apples & Spinach Soft-Baked Oat Bars

happy tot fiber & protein bar
Happy Tot organic apples & spinach bar with 1 mg of iron
My toddler loves the Happy Tot Organic Apples & Spinach bars for an easy snack on the go. They have simple ingredients and give him an easy 1 mg dose of iron.
 

Happy Baby Organic Kale & Spinach Puffs

kale and spinach puff in a toddler bowl
1/2 cup of Happy Baby kale & spinach puffs (.9 mg of iron)
While I’m not a fan of the big plastic container these come in (it can be recycled at least), I do get them from time to time because my toddler loves them. Plus, it’s an easy .9mg of iron per 1/2 cup serving.

Cheerios

Cheerios or other fortified cereals are another easy option to increase iron intake. I try not to rely too heavily on them though since they are processed, but they sure are convenient at times. Health Line cites studies that indicate that even unsweetened processed grain products significantly affect insulin spikes and blood sugar levels.

toddler bowl of cheerios and chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup of cheerios with dry chopped cranberries (4.2 mg iron)

My son loves cheerios, and for a quick snack on the go I put them in a baggie or snack cup with some added chopped up dried cranberries or other dried fruit. This way he is getting a little dose of vitamin C from the cranberries to help with iron absorption. 

Iron Rich Breakfast Ideas for Toddlers

  • Banana Veggie Pancakes (substituting flour for iron-fortified oat cereal)
  • Scrambled eggs with toast and fruit
  • Pancakes or a waffle made from Kodiak Cakes buttermilk mix with a side of fruit
  • Oatmeal with raisins
  • French toast with whole wheat bread and fruit
  • A small smoothie with banana, berries, watered down orange juice, tofu, yogurt & spinach or kale

iron rich breakfast plate for toddlers with scrambled egg and oatmeal with raisins

Iron Rich Lunch Ideas for Toddlers

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread with side of peas and fruit
  • Tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread with side of sweet potato and fruit
  • Turkey or chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with side of fruit and sweet potato
  • Cheese and bean quesadilla with bean dip, fruit and avocado on the side

iron rich toddler lunch plate with cheese and bean quesadilla, bean dip, raspberries and avocado

Iron Rich Dinner Ideas for Toddlers

  • Pasta with ground turkey or chicken and minced cooked kale mixed in
  • Cheese quesadilla with bean dip and a side of fruit
  • Salmon or chicken with rice and broccoli

iron rich toddler dinner plate with salmon, rice with broccoli and chopped blueberries

  • Quinoa bowl with finely diced chicken/tofu/fish, sweet potato/broccoli/peas, raisins and a little applesauce to sweeten it!

Iron Rich Snack Ideas for Toddlers

  • Cheerios or Happy Baby Organic Kale & Spinach Puffs with chopped dried fruit mixed in (cranberries, apricots, figs, dates, or prunes)
  • Banana Chia Seed Pudding
  • Happy Tot Organic Apple & Spinach Soft-Baked Bar
  • Bean dip with tortilla chips
  • Diced steamed sweet potatoes with cinnamon
  • Peanut butter or almond butter spread on crackers or toast

Favorite Easy Iron Rich Recipes for Toddlers

Banana Veggie Pancakes

This Banana Veggie Pancake recipe (with the option to substitute flour with iron-fortified oat cereal) is so simple and delicious, for toddlers and adults alike! The ingredients include; a banana, an egg, a small handful of blueberries and zucchini (both optional) and about 3 tablespoons of iron-fortified oat cereal or flour. 

banana veggie pancakes and ingredients

Banana Chia Seed Pudding

I regularly give my toddler this banana chia seed pudding. It’s a breeze to make and only requires a banana, chia seeds and oat milk (or milk of your choice). You don’t need to cook or bake anything, just let it sit in the fridge overnight! 

iron rich banana chia seed pudding in toddler cup

I will be adding to this list of recipes as time goes on, check back for updates!

I hope these food tables and ideas for iron rich meals and snacks for toddlers are helpful! What iron rich foods does your toddler like? Say hi in a comment below and let me know!



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