Feeding toddlers can feel like a juggling act – except instead of the simplicity of navigating balls or knives, you’re calculating vitamins, minerals and all things nutritious.
That cliche desire for a parenting handbook with all the answers has never looked so good. A lot of parents don’t realise how common low iron stores are in toddlers, though.
It turns out, since cows milk offers no iron, many toddlers fill their bellies up with milk, instead of foods that offer more of the essential vitamins and minerals. Mum guilt never felt so strong, right?
After finding out my toddler’s iron stores are low, I’ve done what many of us are guilty of: obsessing. After nurturing an unhealthy addiction to Google searches, I came up with a list of ever-so-slight alterations to the boring, bland tastes of my toddler’s palette that are providing him with his daily iron needs. Adding iron to my kids’ food is not an easy feat.
Of course, take my experience with a grain of salt. I’m not a nutritionist, a doctor or any form of expert in the field. I’m just a mum, standing in front of her toddler that lives off chicken nuggets, asking him to eat some darn iron-rich foods.
Milking the iron
Most parents cringe at the thought of cutting out bottles of milk. A nice warm bottle of milk is often your ticket to a couple of hours of peace and quiet at bedtime. Try a milk fortified with iron. While this milk can’t be a complete source of your toddler’s dairy intake, 1 cup of it equates to around 32% of the recommended daily iron intake. Pop 250mL of this bad boy in your kid’s cereal and you’re already a third of your way to reaching their daily iron needs!
Making a toast
One thing we all learned pretty quickly is that toddlers love bread. Bread with butter, bread with spread, bread with absolutely nothing on it. Bread in toast form, bread in all its soft, fresh glory. As long as it is bread, you can’t go wrong. So try swapping this staple up with an iron fortified bread. Feeding your toddler 2 slices of Wonder White’s Smooth Wholemeal + Iron makes up around 37% of their recommended iron intake for the day.
Sweet treats full of energy
Since there isn’t a prize for the most sugar-free, instagram-able parents around, a bit of guilt-free sugary chocolate custard won’t deem you incompetent or neglectful. Try these Milo pouches to satisfy around 39% of your child’s RDI of iron.
The right cereals
While a lot of adults manage to achieve most of their recommended daily iron intake first thing in the morning, toddlers aren’t always as understanding when presented with a nutritious and terribly healthy breakfast offering. Your best bets here are Nutrigrain or Corn Flakes (a cup of either makes up around 25% of their RDI of iron), or Weet-Bix (2 Weet-Bix equals around a quarter of your iron RDI).
Finding the right bits and pieces
I was rapt to find these rice cakes were high in iron, as they are an awesome snack to take out for my 12-month-old to nibble on. Just 3 of these tiny rice cakes equate to around 12% of his iron RDI. Between that and finding creative ways to trick the kids into eating hummus, roasted chickpeas, lentils (soup, anyone?) and chicken liver, I sometimes feel like I may have become obsessive over just how many milligrams of iron my kids consume each day.
But to be fair, I’m pretty sure I’m equally obsessed with their vitamin C intake, too!
Looking for other lunchbox ideas? Try this easy mini-quiche your kids will love!