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HealthInfo Canterbury

Iron & your child

Te Whiringa kai rino o tāu tamaiti

Iron is a mineral essential for children's growth and development. It helps to carry oxygen in the blood from their lungs to their brain and muscles. This helps keep children physically and mentally strong.

If children don't have enough iron in their blood, they may:

How much iron do children need?

Children need different amounts of iron at different ages.

Infants and toddlers

mg per day

Children

mg per day

0-6 months

0.2

4-8 years

10

7-12 months

7

9-13 years

8

1-3 years

9

14-18 years, boys

11

 

 

14-18 years, girls

15

Iron in food

Iron-rich fruitIron is found in many foods and comes in two forms: haem and non-haem.

Haem foods: beef, chicken, lamb, kidney, pork, seafood.

Non-haem foods: bread, breakfast cereals, beans and lentils, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds.

The body absorbs haem iron more easily than non-haem iron.

Vitamin C helps absorb both types of iron. At meal times offer vitamin C rich foods such as berries, kiwifruit, mandarins, oranges, tomato, broccoli, capsicums.

Some foods and drinks prevent iron being absorbed. Don't give wheat germ, wheat bran, tea or coffee at meal times.

Haem iron

Non-haem iron

Food

Iron (mg)

Food

Iron (mg)

Beef stewing steak, ½ cup cooked (130 g)

1.6

Egg, 1 boiled

1.0

Beef mince, ½ cup cooked (85 g)

2.3

Tofu, ½ cup

7.0

Lamb, 1 slice leg roasted (42 g)

0.9

Baked beans, ½ x 420g can

2.5

Lamb kidney, ¼ cup cooked

4.5

Red kidney beans, ½ cup cooked

2.1

Chicken, 1 leg grilled (42 g)

1.0

Chick peas, ½ cup cooked

1.6

Pate, chicken liver, 1 Tbsp – limit liver to 3 tsp a week for infants

1.3

Split red lentils, ½ cup cooked

1.8

Pork, 1 grilled loin chop (68  g)

1.2

Falafel, 1 patty (17 g)

0.6

White fish, 1 baked fillet (70 g)

0.17

Wholemeal bread, 1 medium slice

0.5

Salmon, ½ cup red canned

1.7

Rusk, 1

3.1

Tuna, ½ cup canned in spring water

1.1

Marmite, ½ tsp

1.4

Sardines, 3 (36 g)

1.0

Peanut butter, 1 Tbsp

0.3

Mussels, ½ cup green steamed (115 g)

8.6

Tahini (sesame seed paste), 1 Tbsp

0.8

Children need a variety of foods

Eating a variety of foods is the best way for children to get enough iron. Choose foods from each of the main food groups daily:

  • bread and cereals
  • vegetables and fruit
  • milk and milk products
  • red meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.

Baby rice cereal, 1 Tbsp dry

0.8

Fortified breakfast cereals, ¾ cup

(for example Weet-Bix, Special K, Ricies, Cornflakes, Light 'n' Tasty, Cheerios, Just Right, Sultana Bran)

3.0

Milo, 3 heaped tsp

3.8

Sultanas, ¼ cup

0.8

Dried apricots, 10

1.1

Dates, 10 (35 g)

1.1

Pumpkin seeds, 2 Tbsp (30 g)

4.4

Sunflower seeds, 2 Tbsp (15 g)

0.6

Sesame seeds, roasted 2Tbsp (17 g)

1.3

Pine nuts, 2 Tbsp

1.8

Walnuts, 10 (50 g)

1.7

Brazil nuts, 10 (38 g)

1.0

If you are concerned your child is not getting enough iron in their diet, talk to your general practice team.

Written by dietitian liaison, Canterbury Initiative. Endorsed by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated October 2016.

Page reference: 80962

Review key: HIHEC-62690