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Good Iron Sources for Picky Eater Kids

But if you have a picky eater, you may worry that he is not getting enough iron in his diet at all. Broccoli and spinach are not the only sources of iron — there are lots of other ways of providing him with this nutrient.

Fruits and Vegetables

If your picky eater does not like green iron-rich vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, try sweet potatoes instead. This versatile vegetable can be made into chips, soup, mashed or roasted with a drizzle of honey. Peas are another source of iron that can be made more appealing on a pizza, mixed with mayo or another favourite sauce or swallowed up in a pasta dish. Strawberries contain iron and if your child does not like eating them whole, try pureeing them into a sauce or turning into a fruit smoothie with bananas.

Meat and Fish

Beef is a good source of iron, and meatballs can be a way of making it softer and more child-friendly. If your picky eater is not keen on meatball sauce, serve them with a sweet and sour sauce or on cocktail sticks with a favourite dip. Turkey is another good source of iron, and you can turn turkey mince into burgers or even lasagne. Haddock contains iron, too. You can make this dish more palatable by dipping the fish in egg and then wholemeal breadcrumbs mixed with grated Parmesan before shallow frying or baking.

Bread, Pasta and Cereal

Whole wheat bread is a good source of iron but if your picky eater only likes white bread, you can buy this fortified with iron. Oats are a way of getting iron into your child and do not have to be served as a bowl of porridge. Try making oatmeal cookies, flapjacks or a fruit crumble topping, or dip strips of chicken in beaten egg and then oats before baking. If your picky eater likes pasta, you can buy pasta that is fortified with iron and serve it with her favourite ingredients, hot or cold.

Other Foods

Eggs contain iron and are a versatile food that can be easily disguised if need be. Find a pancake recipe containing eggs, or dip bread in beaten egg before shallow-frying. Try mixing scrambled egg with some rice and peas for a fried rice-style dish. Lentils are a source of iron — cook them with the vegetables your child eats and puree to make soup. Chickpeas and other canned beans provide iron and can be liquidized with garlic to make hummus or other dips for your picky eater.

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Iron and Toddlers: How to Make Sure Your Child Is Getting Enough

Is your toddler pumping enough iron through her veins? You might want to take a look at your tot’s iron intake. That’s because iron is an essential mineral that’s needed to make red blood cells — and red blood cells are essential because they deliver oxygen throughout the entire body. If your tot is low on iron, there’s a chance she’ll also be low on red blood cells — and that can lead to growth deficiencies, learning problems, and behavior issues. To guard against iron deficiency (which is on the rise among one- to three-year-olds, by the way), check out these ways to make sure your child gets the iron she needs.

Serve iron-rich foods. Toddlers ages one to three need 7 mg of iron per day. Depending on the food, your toddler could get her daily dose of iron in one serving (for instance, one cup of Corn Chex has 8 mg) or a few servings (for example, three ounces of lean beef has 2 to 3 mg of iron, and one slice of whole-wheat bread has 1 mg). The most easily absorbed iron — called heme iron — is found in meat. The other form of iron — called non-heme iron — comes from plant sources, but because of its chemical structure, it’s not as easy for the intestines to absorb. Still, both sources of iron are worth eating. In fact, heme iron helps improve the absorption of non-heme iron, so eating food sources of both forms of iron at the same time (like turkey on whole-wheat bread) is ideal. Try to fit some of these iron-rich foods into your child’s diet each day:

Heme iron-rich foods: 
Lean beef 
Lean pork 
Poultry (dark meat, in particular) 

Non-heme iron-rich foods: 
Prunes and prune juice 
Peanut butter 
Beans (black, kidney, lime, pinto) 
Leafy green vegetables such as turnip greens, kale, and broccoli 
Oatmeal or cream of wheat 
Enriched breads, pastas, and cereals

Mix and match with other nutrients. Vitamin C helps iron absorption, so increase the amount of iron that your toddler’s body gets from plant sources by pairing iron-rich foods with foods chock-full of vitamin C. Good match-ups include:

  • Iron-fortified cereal and orange juice
  • Iron-fortified oatmeal with strawberries or kiwi
  • Hummus with sliced tomatoes and red peppers
  • Iron-enriched pasta with broccoli

Consider a supplement. If your toddler doesn’t eat much meat or other iron-rich foods, you may need to offer an iron supplement. But talk with your paediatrician first so you don’t accidentally end up overcompensating. Another way to get some iron onto your child’s plate: Cook food in cast-iron pots and pans — some of the iron in the cookware will end up in your food.

Don’t overdo it on milk. As important as milk is to a growing toddler, there can be too much of a good thing. In fact, it’s common for toddlers to fill up on milk (which has no iron) and then not have an appetite for any other nutrient-rich foods. Why do kids get stuck on milk? Toddlers are used to drinking lots of milk from their recent baby days, and some kids are simply slow to transition away from their liquid diets. Plus, parents of milk lovers often think that if their kid doesn’t eat lunch or dinner, it’s not so bad because at least their tot’s getting nutrients from milk. The problem is that if your toddler overdoes it on milk (or eats too much of any one food), she may end up missing out on iron. So have your toddler stick to two to three cups of milk each day so that she has room in her tummy for a variety of foods.

Check with your paediatrician. Most paediatricians check children’s iron levels between six and 18 months of age, but if your doc hasn’t yet, ask for a blood test (all it takes is a simple finger or toe prick). This is especially important if your child is overweight. Research shows that overweight children are more likely to be iron deficient (they may be eating a lot, but the foods they eat are often not high in key nutrients). Also, make sure your child’s iron levels are checked if she has any of the following symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia: pale skin, fatigue, frequent headaches, dizziness, irritability, or cold hands and feet. If your child’s iron levels do turn out to be low, talk with your paediatrician about whether you should revamp your toddler’s diet or consider an iron supplement


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How to Make Children Eat a Variety of Food

If she is involved with the purchases, she is more likely to try them.

  • Grow a vegetable garden in your yard or a pot. Tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes grow easily in small planters with soil. Start your own herb garden. Ask your child to help you plant the seeds and water daily. If your child helps grow the food, he will want to try the vegetables when they are ready to be picked.
  • Prepare broccoli, carrots and peas with your child. Younger children can place the vegetables into the pot and older children can cut up the broccoli and carrots with a dull knife on a cutting board. Working on meals and snacks together helps children become interested in the food and eating.
  • Place the different vegetables on a tray with lots of compartments. Add cooked meat in bite-sized pieces or sliced hardboiled eggs. Add cheese cubes and sliced fresh fruit. Cut whole grain toast into strips and add them to the tray. Offering a wide variety of foods will allow your child to eat a little of each item.
  • Offer dips such as hummus, peanut butter or cottage cheese. Many children, especially toddlers, enjoy dipping their food. Choose healthy dips and vegetables. Toast and pita bread can also be dipped.
  • Arrange the variety of food into a funny face. For example, spoon hummus on a plate and arrange egg slices as eyes and carrots as a nose. Use the broccoli as the hair. Offer toast and pita bread and more vegetables to dip. Most meals can be turned into this kind of food artwork.
  • Cut cooked vegetables or sandwiches with cookie cutters to create new shapes. For example, cut a bread, tomato and cheese sandwich into a star shape with a cookie cutter. Some children will eat a variety of food if it’s cut into different shapes.
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    Hiding Food in Your Picky Eater’s Favourites

    This sneaky strategy has many pros and cons you should weigh before you give it a try.

    Pros of Hiding Food in Your Picky Eater’s Favorites

    1. Less Stress at Mealtime for Both of You
    Feeding a picky eater feels like a form of punishment. Your child has probably clamped his mouth shut, screamed, cried, thrown the food to the floor, spit it out and turned his head in an angle that resembles Linda Blair inThe Exorcistjust to get away from the menacing fork with the offensive food on it.

    Mealtime shouldn’t be stressful for either of you. Hiding food in your child’s favourites could be a welcome change from this daily drama.

    Add vegetables he refuses to eat to a tomato sauce. Make avegetable beef soup recipethat’s too yummy for kids to resist. Chop veggies finely and see if he’ll nibble on them. Bake the vegetables in with your casseroles and lasagnes. If you get really desperate, you can even puree vegetables and add them in to some of the sugary treats you bake him like cookies and cupcakes.

    2. Hello New Foods
    Although you’re not outright demanding your child try broccoli, you are giving him a somewhat-disguised introduction to it. Don’t overpower his palate by adding too much of the foods he finds disgusting to his favourites or you’ll soon have a new problem on your hands (seeBusted!below).

    But you can use this approach to help him develop a taste for foods he wouldn’t normally eat if it was on a plate by itself. When it is time to introduce those foods, do it slowly without making him stare down a heaping portion and make the dish as kid-friendly as possible. For example,broccoli with cheese sauceis a lot less intimidating to him than strange-looking green trees in a pile all by themselves.

    3. Peace of Mind
    In at least one point of your life, you’ve been told to “Eat your vegetables!” It’s no secret that vegetables are full of nutrients we all need, especially children who are growing every single day.

    If you feel like your picky eater isn’t going to budge, sneaking veggies into his other favourites may give you peace of mind. You’ll know he’s getting the proper nutrients because you’ve slid them right into his meal without him realizing it.

    Cons of Hiding Food in Your Picky Eater’s Favorites

    1. Busted!
    One major pitfall of hiding food in your picky eater’s favourites is that you could get busted. If your child finds a disgusting carrot in his beloved mashed potatoes, you could be in for a major meltdown and outright refusal of eating anything more (at least for now).

    He’ll trust you again eventually but don’t be surprised at his next mealtime if he runs his fork through everything to make sure you’ve served him food that’s on the up and up. In other words, if the hiding food strategy backfires, you’ll be on probation in his eyes at every meal.

    2. His Palate Says No
    Another con of hiding food in your child’s tried and true favourites is that, even if he doesn’t see the foods he hates, he may still be able to taste them. Over time, his love of that particular food will wane because he’s noticed something’s not quite right.

    While you may be able to trick him a few times, he could eventually turn on you and decide that his once-favourite food is now on his personal “do not eat” list. Instead of celebrating your victory that you got him to eat veggies without him knowing it, you’ll both end up sulking at the defeat … he’s lost the love for one of his favourite foods and now you’ve got one more food that he won’t touch.

    3. Short-Term Success
    You may want to do a little dance when you see your child unknowingly gobbling down those peas he once proclaimed you would never, ever get him to eat. But hiding food really isn’t a long-term solution to conquering the picky eater.

    You want him to eat and you want him to be healthy but hiding the foods he doesn’t like won’t help him form long-term healthy eating habits. What you can do is use multiple strategies to help your child grow into a healthy eater.

    For example, start hiding food if you decide this method is right for you. Don’t use it too long before you graduate to theone-bite rule. Build upon each strategy to find a solution that works for your family and transforms your child from a picky eater into a healthy eater.

    However, if your picky eater is downright refusing to eat, talk with your child’s paediatrician. He may recommend anumber of alternativesthat will pick up the slack of the nutrients lost from your child’s picky eating habits. He may also have his own set of strategies he can draw on from his years as a doctor and even as a parent who undoubtedly dealt with his own picky eater!

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    Children & Phases of Picky Eating

    Most babies love rice cereal right away because it has a very mild taste that is similar to formula and breast milk. When you are ready to move to pureed fruits and vegetables, anticipate that your baby will need some time to get used to the tastes. Try feeding him each fruit or vegetable at least three or four times before assuming that he doesn’t like it.


    Toddlers are notoriously picky. If your toddler turns down a new food, it might be because it is too mature for her taste or simply because she is in the mood to say no. When it is time to introduce a new food to your toddler, give her choices to promote her independence. Offer a choice of carrot sticks or peppers, vegetable soup or applesauce, chicken or fish. Toddlers also love to feel grown up by imitating the adults or older siblings in their lives, so eating something healthy yourself is a wonderful way to get her to eat healthy.

    Young Children

    Young children tend to eat only when they are hungry. Don’t be worried if your child eats an adult-sized meal one night and barely touches his plate the next. Look at his nutrition over the week as a whole rather than each day. Young children might also be picky if they are not used to certain foods since they thrive on the familiar. Package new foods in appealing ways, such as putting chicken on kebob skewers, wrapping vegetables in a large lettuce leaf or blending fruits into a milkshake.

    Older Children

    Older children are more aware of social pressure than young children and might choose to eat or not eat certain foods based on what their friends are doing. At this stage, her sense of taste is also more developed and it will be harder to introduce a food that she has never eaten before. Sneak vegetables into your menu by adding sweet potatoes to a blended soup, mushrooms to a lasagne or serving meatballs over spaghetti squash instead of regular spaghetti. Ask your child to plan the menu with you: the sense of pride she feels for the meals will give her added incentive to eat what you serve.