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Iron in your child's diet

Your child needs iron in their diet to keep their blood healthy. Iron supports healthy growth and development.

Iron helps make new red blood cells that carry oxygen from their lungs to the rest of their body.

Babies are born with stores of iron that last about 6 months. After this, your growing child needs to get iron from the foods they eat.

Risk of anaemia

Your child may develop anaemia if they do not get enough iron in their diet. Anaemia is a lack of iron in the blood.

Recent studies found that half of Irish 2-year-olds have low levels of iron. Almost 1 in 10 suffer from anaemia because of this.

If your child has anaemia, they might have a poor appetite and seem tired and pale. They will be less able to fight infection and might be sick a lot.

Children aged 1 to 3 years who are small for their age may need extra iron. Talk to your public health nurse (PHN), GP practice nurse or GP for advice.

Sources of iron

Red meat is the best source of iron. Give it to your child 3 times a week. Beef, lamb, pork and poultry are good sources of iron.

For breakfast, give your child a porridge or cereal which has added iron. Do this most days of the week. Check the label for cereals that contain at least 12mg iron per 100g.

Add chopped berries, kiwi or orange segments. They contain vitamin C, which helps your child to absorb iron.

Other sources are:

  • well-cooked eggs
  • peas
  • beans
  • lentils
  • green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli

Vitamin C and iron absorption

Eating foods rich in vitamin C helps our bodies absorb iron.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C. For example, oranges, kiwis, strawberries and peppers.

Food portion sizes for 1 to 4 year olds

Do not give liver

Liver is not recommended for babies under 12 months of age. This is because it contains too much vitamin A for them.

Page last reviewed: 14 October 2022
Next review due: 14 October 2025