A diet high in iron for children

This information is intended for parents of children who have had advice from a Health Care Professional that their child requires a high iron diet.

What is iron?

Iron is an essential mineral that is obtained from the food we eat. It has several important roles in the body, including helping to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body. A lack of iron in our diet can cause iron deficiency anaemia.

Children who are anaemic may have the following problems:

  • Tiredness
  • Pale Skin
  • Lethargy & lack of concentration
  • Poor weight gain & growth
  • Poor appetite Iron is particularly important in children's diets from 6 months of age.

It is important to eat plenty of iron-rich foods to prevent anaemia. Milk Breast milk or formula milk should be given to children under 1 year as the main milk drink in the diet. Follow-on Milk may be used from 6 months of age, alongside an increasingly varied diet as solid foods are introduced. Cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk should not be given to children under 1 year as the main milk drink, because they do not contain enough iron and other nutrients to meet young babies’ needs.

DO NOT GIVE more than 1 pint milk (600ml) per day - as it reduces the appetite for food. Supplements Vitamin drops are available from your local Baby Clinic and can be used until 5 years of age. Iron supplements may be prescribed by your doctor and should be given at the same time as foods high in Vitamin C.

Improving iron absorption

INCLUDE: Foods and drinks rich in Vitamin C at each meal as Vitamin C helps to absorb the iron from food.

Good sources of Vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits - oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, tomato.
  • Fruit juices - citrus fruits and other juices, drinks with added vitamin C, e.g. blackcurrant squash.
  • Vegetables - cook for as short a time as possible in a minimum of water or eat raw.

AVOID: Tea - contains tannin which slows down absorption of iron.


Table of foods high in iron

Who should I contact if I have a problem or question?

The Dietetic Department, Hillingdon Hospital, tel: 01895 279416

What should I do in case of an emergency?

If your concern is related to your diet please contact us on 01895 279416. Otherwise please contact your GP or NHS 111.