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?
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 Foods for Toddlers – Meats, Fish, Poultry & Eggs
|Iron Rich Animal Products||Serving Size||Iron (mg)||Informational Source|
|Egg||1 egg||.9 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Cooked Ground Beef||1 oz||.7 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Light Canned Tuna in Water (drained)||1 oz||.5 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Ground Turkey (93% lean, 7% fat)||1 oz||.3 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Wild Atlantic Salmon||1 oz||.3 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Farmed Atlantic Salmon||1 oz||.1 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Cooked Chicken Breast (boneless, skinless)||1 oz||.1 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
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
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 Vegetables||Serving Size||Iron (mg)||Informational Source|
|Spinach||1/4 cup cooked spinach||1.6 mg iron||Eat This Much|
|Sweet Potatoes||1/4 cup mashed sweet potato||.85 mg iron||My Food Data|
|Peas||1/4 cup frozen peas||.5 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Kale||1/4 cup cooked kale||.3 mg iron||Eat This Much|
|Broccoli||1/4 cup cooked & chopped||.25 mg iron||My Food Data|
Dark Leafy Greens – Spinach & Kale
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.
Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Fruits
|Iron Rich Fruits||Serving Size||Iron Content||Informational Source|
|Dried Apricots (unsweetened)||1/4 cup dried||1 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Figs||1/4 cup dried||.75 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Raisins||3 tablespoons||.56 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Dates||1/4 cup dried||.4 mg iron||Nutrition Value|
|Prunes||1/4 cup dried||.375 mg iron||Nutrition 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.
Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Grains
|Iron Rich Grains||Serving Size||Iron (mg)|
|Happy Baby Organics Oats & Quinoa Iron-Fortified Cereal||3 tablespoons||5 mg iron|
|Natural Grocers Whole Wheat Bread||1 slice||.5 mg iron|
|Quaker Rolled Oats||1/4 cup||.75 mg iron|
|O Organics Quick Cook Quinoa||1/4 cup dry||1 mg iron|
|Chosen Foods Organic Chia Seeds||2 teaspoons||.73 mg iron|
Whole Wheat Bread
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.
Kodiak Buttermilk Flapjack & Pancake Mix
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!
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.
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.
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 Legumes||Serving Size||Iron (mg)||Informational Source|
|Lentil Beans (canned, no salt added)||1/4 cup||1.3 mg iron||Westbrae Organic Lentil Beans No Salt Added|
|Red Beans (canned, no salt added)||1/4 cup||1.1 mg iron||Westbrae Organic Red Beans No Salt Added|
|Navy Beans (canned, no salt added)||1/4 cup||1.05 mg iron||Eden Organic Navy Beans No Salt Added|
|Tofu (firm)||1/5 block (79 grams)||1 mg iron||O Organics Firm Tofu|
|Black Beans (canned, no salt added)||1/4 cup||.95 mg iron||Eden Organic Black Beans No Salt Added|
|Garbanzo Beans (canned, no salt added)||1/4 cup||.7 mg iron||Eden Organic Garbanzo Beans No Salt Added|
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 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
Peanut, Almond & Cashew Butters (Creamy, No Salt Added)
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.
Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers – Packaged Snacks
|Packaged Snacks||Serving Size||Iron (mg)|
|Happy Baby Organic Kale & Spinach Puffs||1/4 cup||.45 mg iron|
|Cheerios||1/4 cup||2.1 mg iron|
|Happy Tot Organic Apples & Spinach Soft-Baked Oat Bars||1 bar||1 mg iron|
Happy Tot Organic Apples & Spinach Soft-Baked Oat Bars
Happy Baby Organic Kale & Spinach Puffs
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.
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 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 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
- 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 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!
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!