Iron-rich food your kids will love

Written by laura vogel
Iron-rich food your kids will love
Hamburgers are a great, beloved-by-kids source of iron. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Iron is an important part of everyone's diet, but it's especially crucial for children, who need it to develop red blood cells, which deliver oxygen throughout active, growing bodies. Kids who don't get enough iron are at risk of developing anemia, which can lead to growth deficiencies, learning problems and behavioural issues. The amount of iron required differs as children grow. Children between the ages of 4 and 8 should get 10 milligrams daily, and those between 9 and 13 need 8 milligrams per day. The good news is, there's a wide variety of iron-rich foods you can easily mix into your kids' diets to guard against iron deficiency. Here are a few examples.

Blueberry muffins

Iron-rich food your kids will love
(Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Blueberry muffins can do double-duty as an easy breakfast item or a nighttime snack. And the prep time is only about 25 minutes. In a bowl, mix butter till it's creamy, then add sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Next, add eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt and mix with an electric mixer until combined. Then take a spoon and fold in flour and milk into your batter. Last, add blueberries. Spoon into greased muffin cups til the cup is about three-fourths full. Bake until golden brown.

Molasses-ginger snaps

Iron-rich food your kids will love
(Chewy Ginger Cookie image by Jaimie Duplass from Fotolia.com)

In addition to replenishing iron, molasses provides quickly assimilated carbohydrates, is an excellent source of calcium, and it's even fat-free. Now, your kids may not want to eat it by the spoonful on its own, but they'll love it inside a scrumptious ginger snap buscuit. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until combined. Next, add in eggs and molasses. Then slowly add in the dry ingredient mixture until evenly mixed. Roll the dough into small balls. Fill a small bowl with sugar, and roll each ball in the sugar until it is completely coated. Place on baking tray, and bake until lightly browned.

Pizza with veg (spinach)

Iron-rich food your kids will love
(Spinach and Portobello Mushroom Pizza image by Jaimie Duplass from Fotolia.com)

The most easily absorbed form of iron is found in meat, though leafy greens are also a stellar source. One no-brainer method of getting iron into your family's diet is via the quintessential kid favourite, pizza. This quick-and-easy recipe requires about 30 minutes, including prep time -- it's especially quick if you use pre-made pizza dough and sauce from a jar. And even quicker if you have your kids pitch in. Use one can of pizza dough (or pre-made pizza crust). Roll the dough out, then spread evenly with jarred pizza sauce. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle spinach leaves, mushrooms and other veggies of choice on top. Bake until the dough is done and the cheese is bubbly.

Egg-salad sandwiches

Iron-rich food your kids will love
(John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Egg salad is a family-pleasing treat that's a snap to prepare. There's virtually no limit to the ways it can be spiced up, but for the basic recipe, all you'll need is hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, one stalk celery (finely chopped), and salt and pepper. Peel and chop the eggs into fine cubes, mix with the remainder of the ingredients and chill. Garnish with dill or parsley. Serve as sandwiches -- whole-wheat bread is the best choice for adding extra nutrients and fiber to your family's diet.

Special burgers

Iron-rich food your kids will love
(Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Burgers offer an excellent opportunity to be a true Iron Chef. While lean beef on its own is a rich source of iron, it's also ridiculously easy to blend with other great sources of the nutrient. In a bowl, combine ground beef with shredded courgette, onion powder, garlic powder, ground black pepper, dried basil, sea salt and egg. After you've mixed the ingredients, form it into balls with your hands, then smash the balls into patties and grill until cooked. Top with sliced tomatoes, a vitamin-C-rich food that assists iron absorption.

Tuna boats

Iron-rich food your kids will love
(Cucumber image by Bartlomiej Nowak from Fotolia.com)

Not only is tuna a good source of iron, it's also high in protein and protective omega-3 fatty acids. This lunch-bag staple is also amazingly versatile, teaming up perfectly with a wide variety of veggies and fruits. It also makes a big hit served in veggies, such as with this recipe for Tuna Cucumber Boats. In a bowl, mix drained canned tuna with chopped celery, mayo, salt, pepper, chopped yellow onion and relish. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Spoon the tuna salad into the cucumbers and garnish with halved cherry tomatoes, sprouts,and a slice of cheddar cut into a triangular "sail." Kids will love the colourful -- and fun -- presentation.

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