Can vegan kids get enough iron in their diet or do they need to take supplements? Yes and no, it depends on a few factors.
We’re answering all the iron-related questions in today’s article, so keep reading!
A common misconception
Many of us have been raised to believe that we need to get our iron from red meat and that it’s the best source of it. But, the truth is, there are many vegetable sources of iron that will help your kid meet their daily needs.
But, it is a good idea to get your vegan kid an iron supplement, and here’s why.
Iron supplements for vegan kids
Plant-based iron is harder for the body to absorb, so it’s a good idea to take vegan supplements to help raise the levels of the daily intake and to make sure your kid does indeed meet their daily needs of iron.
When choosing a vegan-friendly iron supplement, it should contain iron and vitamin C, as it helps the absorption of iron. Our iron & vitamin C supplement is a great choice, as it comes in gummy form and it’s cherry flavoured.
For the picky eaters, on the other hand, taking multivitamins or iron supplements is crucial. If your child doesn’t want to eat various foods, it is highly likely that he or she will develop iron anaemia (deficiency).
How much iron does my vegan kid need?
Daily iron needs for children are divided by age groups. So, the recommended children’s daily intake (RDA) of iron is:
- 0.27 mg - from birth to 6 months
- 11 mg - from 7 to 12 months
- 7 mg - from1 to 3 years
- 10 mg - from 4 to 8 years
- 8 mg - from 9 to 13 years
- 11 mg - from 14 to 18 years
Symptoms of iron deficiency
There are quite a few symptoms that can hint your child has an iron deficiency before you take him to do the blood work.
Some of the symptoms include behavioural issues, moodiness, a poor appetite, tiredness, repeated infections, and uncommon food cravings (pica).
Uncommon food cravings are when your child craves non-food matter such as dirt or paint.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should call your family doctor and schedule a blood test for your child to determine if iron anaemia is causing it.
Causes of iron anaemia in kids
There are many factors that might cause iron deficiency in kids. Premature birth or low birth weight are the earliest ones, as well as low iron intake when the child is still in the womb.
If the child older than 6 months is breastfed only and no solids are introduced, that might also cause iron deficiency.
The most common cause is the low intake of iron through foods, as the kids are often picky. In vegan kids, iron deficiency is often caused by a poorly balanced diet, so you should make sure their meals include a variety of iron-high sources, as well as vitamin C.
Vegan kids can develop various deficiencies if their diet is not properly balanced, so make sure their blood levels are regularly checked. You can always implement a vegan supplement in their diet as a precautionary measure.
Vegan sources of iron for kids
If your kid eats a vegan diet, it doesn’t mean you need to buy expensive foods to meet their daily iron needs. There are quite a few delicious iron sources that your child will love.
First, let’s start with plant-based foods that are rich in iron. Leafy greens such as salad, spinach, kale and cabbage should be often in your kid’s diet, and not only because of their iron levels.
Tomato products like sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste and tomato sauce are also a good iron source, and you can prepare it in many different ways.
Peas, beans, legumes and whole grains are also high in iron, and adding them to a colourful stew is a fun and delicious way to implement iron into your kid’s diet.
Some other plant-based iron sources are seeds, nuts, dried fruits, tofu and soybeans.
Another way to increase iron intake in your kid’s diet is to add iron-fortified foods such as iron-fortified cereal, which we’re sure they will love.
And last, but not least, we suggest adding an iron supplement that is based on natural ingredients; always look for a vegan-friendly brand.
Tips for getting enough iron for vegan kids
Every parent in this world worries if they are feeding their child right, and that’s entirely understandable. But, all it takes is for you to be informed and be a good example to your kid by teaching them the value of food and why it’s important.
Also, there are a few tips we’d like to share with you that will help you make sure your kid is taking enough iron.
Iron is better absorbed when it’s spread out in smaller meals. That means, implementing iron-rich foods throughout their days, including in snacks.
As we already mentioned, vitamin C is crucial for the absorption of iron. Try mixing foods that are high in iron with those high in vitamin C in one meal.
No need to stress out
Instead of focusing on the exact amount of iron that your child needs to eat, rather focus on providing a variety of healthy meals.
A cast-iron skillet
It has been shown that the food cooked in an iron-cast skillet increases the amount of iron in your food. Foods like applesauce and tomato sauce that are acidic tend to absorb more iron from the skillet.
Calcium is really important for a developing child, not only for their bone growth but for the absorption of iron too. Too much calcium can cause the ability or iron absorption to decline, so if your child takes calcium supplements, talk to your paediatrician to make sure it doesn’t affect their ability to absorb iron.