Eating food with iron in it will keep you and your family strong, healthy, and feeling good. Everyone needs iron for:
- strong blood to carry oxygen to the whole body
- preventing colds and flu
- keeping energy levels up
- growing well
If your blood is low in iron, you have anemia. Anemia can make you or your child:
- look pale, feel tired and weak, act cranky
- eat poorly
- not grow well
- get sick more easily, get infections and headaches
- have trouble learning, and do poorly in school or work
- if you are pregnant, your baby could be born too soon or too small
- Breastfeed your baby. Breastmilk has everything your baby needs! If you give you baby formula, always use formula with iron. Wait until about one year to give your baby cow’s milk.
- At about 6 months, start baby cereal with iron, mixed with breastmilk or formula. Keep feeding your baby the baby cereal until one year old. You can mix it with other cereals or fruits. You can even make cookies with baby cereal!
- From 6 to 9 months, start mashed fruits and vegetables, baby meats, mashed beans, or tofu. If you use baby meats, choose plain meats instead of meats mixed with vegetables, rice, or noodles. You can also good ground meat and mash it for your baby. Give your baby a vitamin C fruit or vegetable at least once a day. See the list for some ideas. Babies do not need juices.
- Start reaching your baby to use a cup around 6 months. Then stop giving your baby a bottle at around one year. Many children who use a bottle after one year drink too much milk, juice, or other liquids. They are not hungry at mealtime.
- After your child’s first birthday, 3-4 small servings of milk or milk products a day (16 ounces) is enough, and only 4 ounces of juice.
Children and Adults:
- Eat 2 to 3 foods that are high in iron every day.
- Eat Vitamin C foods when you eat iron foods.
- Drink milk, juice, or water with meals. Coffee and tea can make you take in less iron from the food you eat. If you drink coffee or rea, drink them between meals.
- If you are pregnant, be sure to take your prenatal vitamins. They have extra iron. If you have low iron, ask your doctor about taking iron pills. After your baby is born, you may still need to take prenatal vitamins or iron pills.
- If you baby or child has low iron, their doctor might give you iron drops for them. Be careful to give the right amount or iron drops, and not too much!
Some tips to get more iron in your diet:
- Add a little bit of meat to other foods.
- Cook foods in cast iron skillets, pots, or pans (heavy black ones).
- Soak dry beans for several hours in cold water before you cook them. Pour off the water and use new water to cook the beans.
Eat Vitamin C foods with iron foods. Vitamin C helps your body use iron. Eat a vitamin C food when you eat iron foods, or cook them together.
- Drink a glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal.
- Cook your beans with some tomatoes.
- Have some salsa on your taco.
- Give you baby some fruit with her cereal.
High vitamin C foods are:
- bell pepper
Watch for allergies to these. Come babies can be allergic to tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, or strawberries.
Foods High in Iron:
- turkey, chicken, fish, pork
- WIC cereals, enriched cereals
- beans, dried peas
- prune juice
- bread and tortillas, enriches
- rice, pasta and cooked cereal, enriched
- leafy greens: collards, chard, kale, mustard
- dried fruit
Some babies may be allergic to pork, seafood, tofu, or corn.
Sample menu for you or your child:
- Breakfast: Enriched cereal with fruit and milk, orange juice, toast
- Snack: crackers with peanut butter, fruit
- Lunch: Soft tacos with beans and meat, lettuce, tomatoes, and milk
- Snack: tuna sandwich
- Dinner: chicken with rice, broccoli and carrots, fruit and milk
- Snack: cheese and a fruit popsicle