Fussy eaters can be a worry to parents who are trying to ensure their children receive a healthy balance of vitamins and minerals for proper growth and development. One area of concern for many parents is serving iron rich foods that their kids will actually eat. Iron is found in many foods that are common in our diets, but the diets of fussy children will frequently present a challenge for caregivers who want to ensure that their children get enough.

Iron’s Role 

Iron is an important mineral in the body because it plays a role in oxygen transportation around the body, helps store oxygen in muscles, helps enzymes produce energy and perform other cell functions, and supports a healthy immune system.

Not enough iron in your body can cause a general lack of energy and tiredness. It can also affect concentration and motivation.

Types of Iron

There are two different types of iron that come from different dietary sources haem and non-haem iron. Both haem and non-haem can be found in animal sources, but plant sources only have non-haem iron. Our bodies absorb haem iron better than non-haem, so animal-derived foods rich in iron are best.

Common foods that are high in haem iron are red meats, poultry, and fish. Non-haem iron can be found in legumes like kidney beans and chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, nuts and dried fruits, and eggs.

Pairing Iron

However, the type of iron is not the only thing that affect the absorption of the iron in from the food. There are complementary foods that increase the uptake of iron in the body, and other foods that inhibit it. For instance, foods that are high in vitamin C can help the body absorb more iron. That means that citrus and tropical fruits, berries, and some vegetables can be paired with iron-rich foods to increase iron absorption. 

Some good pairings of absorption-boosting foods and iron rich foods for kids are porridge or whole grain cereals with berries on top, meat and vegetable stir frys, and vegetable sticks with hummus dip. 

Other foods can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb iron. Calcium and zinc can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb both haem and non-haem iron from food. Other iron blockers include tea, coffee, unprocessed bran, and some soy proteins. In turn, high levels of iron can affect the body’s absorption of calcium and zinc. 

Iron Ideas for Fussy Eaters 

Here are some ideas for serving iron rich foods for kids:

-        Offer red meat several times a week in small portions in foods that kids like. Put it in a meat pie or serve as meatballs over pasta.

-        Many fussy eaters love to snack, so offer them dried fruits and nuts.

-        Nut spreads also work so try them on whole grain toast or crackers, or scooped into a stick of celery.

-        Throw in a handful of lentils to a soup to boost the iron content.

-        Opt for whole grain breads and cereals instead of white.

-        Serve fruit like berries or 100% fruit juice with iron-fortified foods like cereal for breakfast.

-        Explore hummus dips that come in different blends to find one that your fussy eater will enjoy with veggies that are high in vitamin C, like tomatoes, celery, and broccoli.

Iron Supplements

It’s always best that we can get our vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet. Iron supplements can help children during times of occasional fussy eating and phases of rapid growth. Always use supplements as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare provider.