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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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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.

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How to Teach Toddlers Healthy Eating Habits

  • Don’t let meals become a battleground. If you are tense, your toddler will pick on this. A way of reassuring yourself that a toddler is consuming enough is to keep a weekly — not a daily — chart of what they have eaten. It may well pleasantly surprise you. Above all, never use junk food as a bribe for eating the healthy items. This sends out all the wrong messages to your child.
  • Make mealtimes a fun, family time. Eating is not only about refuelling, it’s a social activity. If your toddler associates meals with talking and laughter he may start to enjoy what you put in front of him. Look out for the Fred & Friends Mr Food Face plate and the Constructive Eating utensil set which make a game out of eating.
  • Let them make healthy choices. In the food store ask the toddler, “Apples and mangoes or bananas and kiwi fruit? You choose.” Allow them to handle the items, and praise their decision.
  • Make regular times for meals and snacks if you can. Toddlers respond positively to rhythm and order, and it will teach his stomach to expect food at specific times. Irregular meal times and snacking on the go tend to encourage bad choices.
  • Get active together. Exercise makes you hungry! After a run around with your toddler have them put their own healthy sandwich together, or let them drop fruit in the blender to make a smoothie.
  • Keep perspective. The toddler stage is short, and your persistence and patience will pay off. In the meantime, celebrate each triumph.
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    Vegetables for Toddlers

    Not only might these options slide down the hatch, they’ll provide an alphabet of vitamins and tons of fibre too.

    Get a daily dose. Try to give your child at least three (and preferably five) servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. Keep in mind that toddler servings are pretty small (about one tablespoon for each year of age for most cooked veggies), so a little goes a long way! 
    It takes a garden. To encourage eating a wide variety of veggies, make them available at every meal.  Cooked asparagus, broccoli, and peas are all good “green” options to add to the spread. For additional variety (and colour), serve mashed sweet potatoes, carrots, red bell peppers, and unsweetened pumpkin puree.

    Be a good role model.Your own (positive) attitude about vegetables will go a long way toward getting your toddler to eat them up. If he sees you (or an older sib) snacking on carrots, chances are he’ll want some too.
    Factor in fruit for toddlers.Great news for mothers of veggie-hating tots: Fruits offer many of the same nutritional benefits, but often don’t evoke the same yuck factor. Fruits also come in a rainbow of colours: Think of green kiwis (a good source of vitamin C), yellow bananas (potassium), and orange cantaloupe (fibre-rich and vitamin C–filled) and apricots (vitamin A).  And don’t forget about smoothies — just throw some fruit in the blender with milk or yogurt and serve (preferably with a silly straw!)

    Article derived from: What to expect, Pregnancy and Parenting, every step of the way.

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    Why Do Children Lose Their Appetite?

    There are kids out there who do not want to eat no matter what time of the day it is and there are those who only wish to eat their favorite foods. The problem is that most of these foods are not healthy and a lot of children lose their desire to eat specifically when it comes to nutritious foods. When a child does lose his appetite, this can cause weight loss and lack of energy. This can prove to be quite alarming for the parents, especially if the child seems small for their age. It could lead to eating disorders or it may be an indication that the child has some kind of sickness.

    A lot of kids are picky eaters. If they do not see something appealing on the table in front of them, they would rather go without than eat it especially if it is green and leafy. On the other hand, if you offer them a neat package of prepared junk foods, their emotions will change immediately because they are excited to eat this stuff. Another tactic that they will use is to tell you that they are hungry before dinner in hopes that you will give them a snack that will probably be junk food. This is a great way to ruin their appetite especially if it is close to dinner time. Knowing this, you can adjust your meal times if needed and if they want a snack, provide them with a nutritious one that will increase their appetite. Do not make the mistake of shoving them full of junk food before mealtime.

    One of the most common reasons why kids lose their appetite is influenza or flu. That is because when they have this, they do not feel well and have less energy and they lose their ability to taste food. A child will not eat if they cannot taste the food or if their stomach does not feel well. If your child has a sudden loss of appetite, then you should check their temperature, as they could be coming down with the flu. Try to give them soups and natural fruit juices if they are sick and do not force them to eat full solid meals. It is also okay to let then eat their favorite snack once or twice as this will help them to get their mind off from sick.

    Too much pressure or stress is another reason for appetite loss in children. This can take away their desire to eat. There are signs that you can look for such as aloofness, sadness or irritability in your child. If he is having problems in school such as bullying or is fighting with his siblings or best friend, this could be the reason for his appetite loss. Make sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your child to eat and do not force feed them as this can lead to severe eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. The best thing that you can do is to start feeding your child healthy foods at an early age and that way, they will get used to eating and liking them and they will not crave junk foods as they get older.

    Distractions are also a major factor that can keep children from mealtimes. Two of the most distracting ones are that of television and computer games. If they are capable of distracting adults from their work or doing other important things, think of the impact that they have on children during mealtimes. Our kids are followers and if they see a bad example being set in front of them, then chances are, they are going to take the lead. This is why it is very important to encourage your whole family to sit down together and eat as a family unit. It is okay to let them get away with eating in front of the television once in a while, but do not make a steady habit of it as it can take away your child’s needed nutrition.

    These are just a few of the reasons for appetite loss in children. Make sure to keep a close eye on your children so they will eat the right foods and develop healthy eating habits.