Iron is a nutrient most Indian kids are deficient in, especially if they’re vegetarian. Here are 8 Vegetarian Foods to Increase Iron Levels in kids.

We’ve often heard of the fact that iron is an important nutrient, especially for growing children. We are aware that we need iron for hemoglobin and for proper oxygen transfer throughout the body’s cells and tissues. However, there are many more aspects of this nutrient that we need to look more into.

For starters, while we know that a lack of iron can cause anemia, we may not realize that the symptoms only appear when the body’s iron stores are significantly low. These symptoms can include constant tiredness, headache, lack of concentration and a pale appearance. According to the Government of India’s National Family Health Survey, the prevalence of anemia among children aged 6-35 months is a massive 79%.

The main causes of iron deficiency anemia are low iron stores at birth, iron loss as a result of parasitic infestations, and most commonly, an insufficient amount of iron intake in the diet. So it goes without saying that we need to put most of our focus in ensuring our children have a diet with lots of iron-rich foods.

Coming to iron-rich foods, they can be either animal sources (heme) or plant sources (non-heme). Vegetarians will obviously have to rely on non-heme sources for iron. However, non-heme iron is less easily absorbed by our bodies, due to which vegetarians and vegans need to take in about 1.8 times the required daily intake as those who eat heme iron foods. Here is a look a the recommended daily intake for children by age, according to AIIMS guidelines:

  • 0-6 Months – 46 mcg/kg/day
  • 6-12 Months – 5 mg/day
  • 1-3 Years – 9 mg/day
  • 4-6 Years – 13 mg/day
  • 7-9 Years – 16 mg/day
  • 10-12 Years – 21 mg/day (boys), 27 mg/day (girls)
  • 13-15 Years – 32 mg/day (boys), 27 mg/day (girls)

Babies are born with enough iron stores that’ll last them for six months. After that, however, they need to get iron in their diet. And if you’re a vegetarian household, you’ll need to pay special attention to the foods to ensure they’re absorbed completely. Here are the best vegetarian foods to increase iron levels in babies and kids.

Iron is a nutrient most Indian kids are deficient in, especially if they're vegetarian. Here are 8 Vegetarian Foods to Increase Iron Levels in kids.

We know that oats is a good source of fiber and carbohydrates, but it’s also a great source of iron. One cup of cooked oats contains 3.4 mg of iron. When you use organic oats that hasn’t been grown with pesticides or fertilizers, you can be confident that your little one gets all the benefits of oats.

What’s more, oats is also rich in magnesium, folate and zinc – all important nutrients. The fiber in oats is a kind called beta-glucan, which has several health benefits including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, while improving gut health. These organic oats can be prepared in any way you like, and is the perfect option for babies just starting solids to get their required iron.

Recommended for babies over 6 months.

A common source of protein in vegetarian households is soya beans in some format, either soya chunks or soy milk or tofu. Along with being rich in protein, soy beans are also a good source of iron, with 100 g of soy beans containing 15.7 mg of iron. And it’s not just protein and iron; soy is also rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

This Banana Soya Cereal is ideal for babies since it contains lots of protein and iron from the soya, along with good carbohydrates and potassium from the banana. The banana also adds a natural sweetness to the cereal, and improves the taste. It can be easily prepared by mixing 2 tablespoons of the powder to 1 cup of water and cooking on a medium flame for about 15 minutes.

Recommended for babies over 6 months.

Khichdi is a popular choice for baby food in Indian homes, and lentils form an important part of this dish. Lentils are a great source of protein but they’re also a superb source of iron. Just half a cup of cooked lentils gives 3.5 mg of iron. This is along with lots of protein, antioxidants, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates.

Khichdi is the easiest way to include lentils in a baby’s diet, and this Instant Khichdi Mix makes it easier. The mix is made of rice, toor dal, pepper and jeera. The spices help in making the khichdi more easily digestible. Just add 100 ml hot water to 4 tablespoons of the powder and cover for 5 minutes.

Recommended for babies over 6 months.

Homemade Mixed Nuts Powder (with Walnuts)

Nuts are an easy way to increase iron in one’s diet, since they’re very rich in iron and they’re also quite versatile, as you can add it to sweet or savory dishes. 100 grams of almonds contain about 3.4 mg of iron, while 100 grams of cashews contains up to 6.7 mg of iron. What’s more, nuts are packed with protein, calcium, healthy fats, antioxidants and loads of essential vitamins and minerals.

However, it can be tricky feeding nuts to babies and young children, owing to their choking hazard. That’s why this mixed nuts powder is so helpful. It comes in a handy powdered format, containing almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, pistachios, saffron and turmeric. It can be added to any baby cereal or puree, or in any dish served to older kids.

Recommended for children over 1 year.

We’ve seen that soy beans are an excellent source of iron, even for little babies. In fact, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that “soybeans appear to be a good source of nutritional iron in marginally iron-deficient individuals.” All foods derived from soy beans have the same benefits as soy, which means that they’re good sources of iron too.

If young children are fussy about including soy in their diets, you can try offering them more kid-friendly versions, like these soya noodles. These noodles are made with soya flour, fortified wheat flour and millet flour, making them a fiber-rich, nutritionally dense way to get more protein and iron in their diet.

Recommended for children over 1 year.

apple protein milkshake

Yes, this protein delight powder is rich in protein, but it’s also very high in iron! This mix is made with oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds. All these are very good sources of iron, making this powder mix an iron super food. 100 grams of pumpkin seeds contain 3.3 mg of iron, while 100 grams of sunflower seeds contain 5.3 mg of iron. Flax seeds lead the pack, with 100 grams containing 5.7 mg of iron.

There are several other benefits of including seeds in your child’s diet, since they contain many antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This protein delight powder makes it easy for kids to get all these benefits in one go. Just mix 2 tablespoons of protein powder with 1 cup of hot milk and serve.

Recommended for children over 1 year.

Sprouted Sathumaavu powder for babies sprouted homemade cerelac for babies

Sprouted Sathumaavu contains a huge array of ingredients, and they read like the who’s who of iron-rich foods! These include lentils like roasted gram, green gram, black gram and horse gram, as well as nuts like almonds, ground nuts, cashew nuts and pistachios. Besides these, the mix also contains dried beans like cow peas and chickpeas.

Just 100 grams of chickpeas contain 6.2 mg of iron, making them an ingredients that gives the others a good run for their money. Chickpeas are also a good source of dietary fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates as well as minerals like folate, manganese and potassium. This sprouted Sathumaavu mix uses sprouted grains and lentils, which means the nutrients are more bio-available.

Recommended for babies over 6 months.

With viruses on the rampage, it's crucial to ensure that your family has the best defenses. Here are the Top 10 Immunity Boosting Foods Kids Need NOW.

We’ve listed out many foods that are good sources of iron and can be easily included in a vegetarian diet. The Choco Immunobooster Mix includes the best of this list in its ingredient list – oats, almonds, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and cocoa.

100 grams of sesame seeds contain a whopping 14.6 mg of iron while dark chocolate is another unexpected source of iron with 100 grams containing a massive 11.7 mg of iron. The 100% natural cocoa used here also contains many antioxidants. When all these come together in one mix, it becomes a super drink mix. Just mix 2 teaspoons of powder in 100 ml of hot milk and sweeten with a natural sweetener, if needed.

Recommended for children over 1 year.

Iron is a nutrient most Indian kids are deficient in, especially if they're vegetarian. Here are 8 Vegetarian Foods to Increase Iron Levels in kids.

While including these foods in your diet, try pairing them with Vitamin C-rich foods and lysine-rich foods so that the iron is better absorbed. Opt for sprouted and fermented grains and lentils as far as you can to increase the bio-availability of iron. When cooking, use a cast iron pan, so that the food cooked in it retains some of the iron.


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