As you introduce a variety of foods to your child, it is essential to ensure that the food is rich in nutrients and energy. Iron is a mineral essential for the synthesis of haemoglobin—a protein in our red blood cells that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Without enough iron, less haemoglobin is produced, making oxygen supply to the tissues difficult.
Children need iron in different quantities depending on their age. You can prevent iron deficiency by ensuring that your child gets enough iron in their diet. In this article, we'll talk about iron deficiency in kids, its effects, and some preventative measures.
What are the common symptoms of iron deficiency?
Iron deficiency can affect several body functions. The following symptoms appear as haemoglobin levels dip gradually:
- Loss of appetite
- Pale skin
- Shortness of breath
- Reduced immunity
- Delayed growth and development
- Koilonychia (thin nails that become flat and spoon-shaped)
- Irregular/fast heartbeat
- Stomatitis (sores on the tongue, lips, and mouth)
- Pica (craving for inedible things such as clay, ice, salt, or cardboard)
Iron-deficiency anaemia is also associated with impaired physical and mental functions. It affects a child’s brain development, learning ability, attention span, social and emotional development, and overall growth. Iron deficiency in kids can be easily prevented with the right nutrition and care. Here is everything you need to know about iron deficiency.
What causes iron deficiency?
Various factors that result in iron deficiency are as follows:
Low iron stores
Decreased intake or absorption of iron caused by:
- Newborns receive iron from the mother when they are in the womb, so anaemia in the mother causes depleted iron stores in babies.
Loss of iron due to:
- Delayed introduction of solid foods into the baby’s diet
- Diet with poor iron content
- Impaired absorption of iron
- Prolonged infection or diarrhoea
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Hookworm infestation
- Stomach ulcers
- Bleeding disorders
How can I prevent iron deficiency in my child?
Certain dietary changes can help prevent an iron deficiency in kids. Here are a few tips for you to follow as your child grows.
Include iron-rich foods in your child’s diet. A few examples of iron-rich foods in different food groups are as follows:
- Cereals: Bajra, quinoa, ragi, and amaranth seeds
- Pulses: horse gram (kulith), Bengal gram (chana), rajma, soybean, moth beans (matki), and lentils (masoor)
- Leafy vegetables: Amaranth, betel leaf, Bengal gram leaves, cauliflower leaves, cowpea (chawli) leaves, mint (pudina), mustard leaves, radish leaves, dill leaves (shepu), beet greens, and methi leaves
- Fruits: dried dates and black raisins
- Nuts and oilseeds: Gingelly (til), garden cress, niger, and sunflower seeds
- Non-vegetarian foods: organ meats (chicken liver) and egg yolks
Include vitamin C-rich foods as they aid in iron absorption. Berries, lemons, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, capsicum, and cabbage are rich in vitamin C.
Offer solid foods at mealtime and don’t allow your kid to fill up on liquids between meals.
Consult your doctor promptly to treat intestinal worms and diarrhoea.
If your child is a fussy eater, seek your doctor’s or dietician’s advice to manage the diet.
Here are a few iron-rich vegetarian food recipes:
1. Mixed millet laddoo:
Ingredients: Jowar and pearl millet (bajra) flours, rawa, ghee, sugar, cardamom powder, and dry fruits.
- Roast sorghum (jowar) and bajra flour and rawa in ghee.
- Add chopped dry fruits, cardamom powder, and sugar.
- Add milk or ghee and roll into balls.
2. Ragi kheer
Ingredients: ragi vermicelli, dry fruits, milk, ghee, and cardamom powder.
- Roast ragi vermicelli and dry fruits in ghee separately
- Add the roasted ingredients to the milk and boil for a few minutes. Add the cardamom powder and serve chilled.
3. Iron-rich antioxidant mix
Ingredients: Bengal gram and black gram dal, bajra, maize, ragi, garden cress seeds, pepper, rice flakes, beet greens, and garlic.
- Shadow dry 2 grams each of bajra, maize, ragi, Bengal gram and black gram dal, garden cress seeds and pepper, and 10 grams of roasted Bengal gram dal and rice flakes.
- Shadow dry two grams of beet greens and garlic.
- Powder all the ingredients and mix them together to prepare a ready mix.
You can cook the ready mix in water to make a porridge for your baby or roast it in some ghee and add jaggery to make a nutriball for your toddler.
4. Palak masoor dal soup
Ingredients: 1/4 cup spinach, 2 tbsp masoor dal, 1/2 tsp ghee, 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, 1 pinch asafoetida, 2 tbsp onions, 1/4 tsp ginger-garlic paste, 1 pinch each of turmeric and chili powders, and salt to taste.
- Soak masoor dal overnight and cook it.
- In a pan, crackle cumin seeds in ghee and add asafoetida. Add chopped onions and ginger-garlic paste and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add chopped spinach, a pinch of turmeric, and chill powders and cook for a minute.
- Add cooked dal and mash well. Add 1/4 cup of water, mix well and cook for a few minutes.
- Serve warm.
5. Mint rice
Ingredients: 3/4 cup rice, 1 cup mint leaves, a handful of coriander leaves, 1 large onion, 1 small finely chopped green chili, 2 cups water, and salt to taste. For tempering, 1 tbsp oil, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, urad dal, and 8 cashews.
- Cook the rice.
- Chop coriander and mint leaves, 1/2 onion, and green chilies and grind them with a little water to a fine paste.
- In a pan, crackle cumin seeds in the oil and saute other tempering ingredients until the cashews and urad dal turn brown. Chop the remaining onion and saute in the oil till it turns golden brown.
- Add mint paste and salt to the pan, cook for 5-7 minutes and switch off the flame.
- Mix in the cooked rice carefully. Rest for 15 minutes and serve.
6. Date and almond balls
Ingredients: 1.5 cups chopped black seedless dates, 2 tsp ghee, 1/4 cup finely chopped almonds, 1/4 tsp cardamom powder, and 3 tbsp dessicated coconut.
- Heat the ghee in a pan, add the dates and cook on a low flame for a few minutes.
- Add almonds and cardamom powder after switching off the flame. Mix well and allow to cool.
- Divide into 15 equal parts and shape them into round balls.
- Roll and evenly coat the balls in the desiccated coconut.
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.
If you feel your child may not be getting enough iron and needs iron supplements, talk to your paediatrician.
For more such wholesome food recipes for your growing child, visit the BabyG App today!
KidsHealth. Iron .
BetterHealth Channel. Iron deficiency - children .
Vikaspedia. Recipes from mixed millets. Mixed millet laddoo 
Vikaspedia. Recipes from ragi. Finger millet vermecilli kheer 
Tarladalal. Palak masoor dal for babies and toddlers. .
Gkfooddiary. Mint rice recipe for toddlers and kids. .
Tarladalal. Date and almond balls. .