One of the main reasons why it’s important to start weaning at six months is because babies’ stores of iron begin to run out. They will get a lot of their daily iron requirements from their breast milk/formula but it is important to ensure we are also offering iron rich foods.
This can be a concern for many parents who choose to baby led wean because more often that not, a lot of the food we offer doesn’t end up being consumed: it’s dropped on the floor or flung at the walls.
This post highlights the types of food which are high in iron and describes some ways of offering these types of food, including links to a few recipes. I’ve purposefully left beef off the list here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the iron content depends on what type of beef you are using (minced, shoulder, loin etc) and secondly, duh, everyone knows beef has high iron content. I wanted to write about something different here.
I have measured the iron content of each food at mg per 100g to keep it equal. Obviously with the majority of these foods you are not going to be offering a 100g portion so just work it out as a percentage if you decide you want to count how much iron baby is getting in a day/week.
Not the type of food that you eat everyday, however it is cheap to buy and FULL of iron. It tastes a bit like beef but is much softer and easily chewed. For me, the easiest way to serve it, is to chop it up finely and place in an omelette. Alternatively, you could add it to stir fries, pasta dishes, curries or serve traditionally with onions. You could also try paté, which is made predominately from liver, and spread it on crackers or toast. Of course, pate is very fatty so I wouldn’t recommend eating it everyday.
Iron content: 17.9mg per 100g
Cheerios (or own brand equivalent)
I avoided cereals for the longest time as I was concerned about salt and sugar content, but I have started to relax a lot since he has hit nine months. I found an own brand version of Cheerios in my local supermarket which has only 0.17g of salt per 30g portion (and I don’t offer Dex a full portion anyway). What’s more there’s lot of other added nutrients such as Vitamin B12, B6, B1, folic acid and Niacin. Cheerios are a great way to get baby to practise using his pincer grip. They are small enough not be a choking hazard and in any case, become nice and soggy as soon as they are mixed with baby’s drool. I offer them dry, but you can also soak them in milk for a few minutes before serving.
Iron content: 12mg per 100g
Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds which is really iron rich. We spread it on Ryvita crackerbreads as a snack, or spread it on toast in the mornings. You could also smear it on apples or pears. Tahini is also used when making hummus, so instead of buying the paste, you could try some store bought hummus. They do a wide range of different flavours now: lemon, piri piri, sweet chilli, red pepper; offering baby the chance to experience some new tastes.
Iron content: 9mg per 100g
Chickpeas are the other key ingredient when making hummus. I like to spread it on bread, crackers or use it as dip alongside some yummy, crunchy veg sticks. You can also throw chickpeas into a curry to bulk it out or use it in a Moroccan tagine alongside some lamb and dried apricots. (Incidentally, dried apricots are also a good source of iron, containing 2.7mg per 100g)
Iron content: 6.2mg per 100g
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables include spinach, kale, watercress, Swiss chard and pak choi. I love how versatile spinach is and the fact that when you cook it, it reduces to hardly anything, meaning you can jam pack it into loads of stuff. I throw it into pastas, curries and use it in omelettes as standard. Kale is another one of those superfoods which can be finely chopped and put in a range of meals. I usually find it to be cheaper than spinach as well.
Iron content: 2.7mg per 100g
Poultry is a good source of iron, especially the dark meat. I like to purchase chicken thighs and drums and throw them in the slow cooker. It creates delicious, moist meat which falls off the bone. (Or you could buy de-boned thighs). Chicken is so versatile and can be added to practically any dish to give an iron boost.
Iron Content: 1.3mg per 100g
Eggs are a good source of iron and there’s so many ways of serving them. I offer scrambled eggs, hard boiled eggs and I make omelettes and eggs muffins too, meaning I can jam pack more leafy green iron rich veg in there too. Eggs are my ultimate food. They’re filling, versatile and delicious, no matter how they’re cooked.
Iron content: 1.2mg per 100g
Eating some of these foods alongside some high Vitamin C food will increase the amount of iron absorbed into baby’s system. Avoid drinking tea which contains tannins and can limit iron absoprtion. (Realistically though, what baby is having a cup of tea with his meal?!)
Foods high in Vitamin C include:
I hope this has helped you to think about incorporating more iron into your baby’s diet. Any high iron foods that I’ve missed?