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So what's the deal with iron? We learned in our live interview about starting solids with Dr. Lindsay Moore-Ostby of Indy Direct Docs that iron is the building block of heme which is the building block of hemoglobin which is the building block of red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to your brain and body. That's why at the one and two year old check up, your pediatrician might do a finger prick to check your child's hemoglobin. Iron deficiency effects growth and brain development.
When talking about iron, it's important to understand the difference between heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is only found in animal proteins like meat, poultry, and seafood. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens. Heme iron is better absorbed by the body than non-heme iron.
Whether you're looking to add more iron into your baby's diet or your pediatrician just told you that your toddler's iron levels are dangerously low, here are some easy foods to work into your child's diet.
Beef is a good source of protein, B vitamins and iron. Choose a lean cut to keep it digestible for tiny stomachs. Top sirloin steak is a good choice in this respect. Choose organic or grass-fed beef if you can: this type is higher in omega-3 fats than corn-fed beef. You can get Baby Beef Stew on our Chewies (7-9 Months) or Chompies (10+ Months) menus.
Watermelon is a good source of vitamin A, which is important for Baby's developing eyes and immune system. It's also rich in vitamin C, another immune system booster and a nutrient that's involved in iron absorption.
Not only are green peas a great source of vitamin A, B1, B6, K, and vitamin C, they are also rich in minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorus. Peas also help in building strong immunity, relieving constipation by improving digestive health and building strong bones. You can find Pretty Peas on our Spoonies (4-6 Months) menu.
Chicken is a rich source of protein which is essential to promote the growth of muscles in Baby. Chicken also enhances the circulatory system by aiding in the production of red blood cells and boosts immunity through micronutrients like zinc and magnesium. You can find Chicken and Broccoli and Apples and Chicken on our Chewies (7-9 Months) or Chompies (10+ Months) menus and Zucchini Chicken Nuggets on our Grabbies (10+ Months) menu.
The yolk of an egg is naturally high in iron and choline, which helps to promote normal cell activity. Choline also helps with liver function and transporting nutrients to other areas throughout the body. It may even help with your baby’s memory! A whole egg contains around 70 calories and six grams of protein. You can get our famous Sunshine Muffins on our Grabbies (10+ Months) menu. Traditionally, pediatricians have advised parents to not serve eggs until the age of one due to allergic reactions. That advice has now changed, and some experts believe that eggs should only be delayed only in families that have a history of allergies. Be sure to check with your pediatrician.
Broccoli is a true superfood for Baby, thanks to high amounts of vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, potassium, and fiber. Boiling broccoli cuts its vitamin C content in half, so it's best to steam or microwave it (this is why we steam all of our produce at Café Baby). If your baby doesn't favor the taste of broccoli, mix it with a sweet-tasting vegetable, such as sweet potato or butternut squash. You can find Broccoli and Apple Blend on our Chewies (7-9 Months) menu.
Oats have a long list of health benefits for Baby. Oats can help ease constipation since they are full of fiber. Many infants are born with congenital type-1 diabetes and can benefit from regular consumption of oats as it reduces insulin resistance. This means that Baby’s body can use injected insulin better and ward off adverse effects of diabetes. Oats also help to fortify Baby's immune system and are a great option for babies with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Oatmeal is believed to be a healthy and safe version of thickening food for such babies. You can find Oatmeal Cereal on our Spoonies (4-6 Months) menu and Blueberry Oatmeal on our Chewies (7-9 Months) menu.
Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C to support Baby's immune system. Vitamin C also plays a key role in the absorption of iron, so consider pairing iron sources like meat or beans with a side of strawberries. Strawberries are packed with fiber, which can help with constipation. An extra bonus is that they are water-rich, which means they help to keep toddlers stay hydrated.
Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are great sources of iron for Baby. You can sauté them in coconut oil and purée them with other cooked vegetables or meats to enhance taste. You can also hide them into fruit smoothies, especially for your toddler who you can't get to eat anything. You can find spinach in our Green Baby Cakes and Baby Bolognese on our Grabbies (10+ Months) menu.
Beans are a good source of important micronutrients like potassium, magnesium, folate, iron, and zinc. They are also a good source of protein and are high in fiber. Additionally, beans are one of the only plant foods that provide the essential amino acid lysine, which is needed to help make protein and to break down carbohydrates and fatty acids.
11. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes provide potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and beta-carotene, an antioxidant that prevents certain types of cancer. Most babies prefer sweet potatoes over other vegetables because of their naturally sweet taste. You can find sweet potatoes all over our menus, from our Sweetest Potatoes on our Spoonies (4-6 Months) menu to Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potatoes on our Chewies (7-9 Months) menu to Sweet Potato Stew on our Chompies (10+ Months) menu to Lentil Sweet Potato Tots on our Grabbies (10+ Months) menu.
12. Green Beans
Green beans are rich in vitamin A, which supports eye health, vitamin K, which plays a key role in blood clotting, and vitamin C, which supports immune health and enhances iron absorption. Green beans also contain folate, a B vitamin that Baby’s body needs for cells to grow and divide. Green beans deliver a healthy dose of fiber, helping relieve constipation. Get Greeny Beans on our Spoonies (4-6 Months) menu or Green Bean and Pear Blend on our Chewies (7-9 Months) menu.