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Tips to Prevent Iron Deficiency in Children
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in children. Do you know if your child is getting enough?
Signs of deficiency may include pale skin, poor appetite, lack of energy/lethargy, slow weight gain, frequent infections, poor concentration or behavioural difficulties.
Iron is a mineral found in food that is essential for formation of hemoglobin that carries oxygen throughout the body. Severe deficiencies can cause anemia, but many symptoms of low iron can appear much earlier, as the iron stores are depleting.
There are many factors that can affect your child's iron levels, including genetics, premature birth, health conditions and specific dietary concerns. For example, children who drink too much milk are at greater risk of iron deficiency. This is because high calcium intake can interfere with iron absorption, plus, children will often fill up on milk, leaving less room for iron-rich foods.
Tips to prevent iron deficiency:
• When possible, breastfeed until the age of one. Breast milk is relatively low in iron, but it is very well absorbed. If breastfeeding is not an option, give iron-fortified formula until the age of one.
• Avoid giving cow's milk or milk alternatives until after the age of one.
• After the age of six months, include iron rich foods into your child's diet.
• Offer iron rich foods with vitamin C sources to enhance absorption.
• Cook food in cast iron pots/pans as this increases the iron content of your food.
• Include food sources of iron such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs as well as plant sources such as lentils, beans, grains, nuts/seeds, dried fruit and leafy greens.
If you suspect your child could have an iron deficiency, speak with a nutritionist or ask your doctor/pediatrician for a blood test.