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Iron is an essential mineral for children’s growth and development. It plays a crucial role in carrying oxygen throughout the body, supporting brain development, and maintaining a healthy immune system. While many people associate iron with vegetarian sources like spinach and beans, there are plenty of iron-rich options for non-vegetarian children as well. Including these foods in your child’s diet can ensure they get the iron they need for optimal health and growth.

Iron-Rich Foods for Non-Vegetarian Children

1. Lean Meats

Lean meats are excellent sources of heme iron, which is the type of iron most easily absorbed by the body. Examples include:

  • Beef: Beef is a fantastic source of heme iron, with about 2.3 mg of iron per 3-ounce serving. Incorporate lean cuts such as sirloin or tenderloin into your child’s meals.
  • Chicken: Chicken, particularly the dark meat, is a good source of iron. Three ounces of cooked chicken provide around 1 mg of iron.
  • Turkey: Like chicken, turkey is a great source of iron. Three ounces of cooked turkey contain approximately 1.3 mg of iron.

2. Seafood

Seafood is another excellent source of heme iron, as well as various other nutrients essential for growing children. Incorporate these into your child’s diet:

  • Clams: Clams are incredibly high in iron, with 23.8 mg per 3-ounce serving. Try adding them to pasta dishes or soups.
  • Oysters: Oysters are also a rich source of iron, with about 8 mg per 3-ounce serving. However, ensure they are cooked properly to avoid any health risks.
  • Shrimp: Shrimp are not only delicious but also a good source of iron, with approximately 2.6 mg per 3-ounce serving.

3. Eggs

Eggs are a versatile and nutritious food that can be easily incorporated into your child’s diet. They are a source of non-heme iron, which is not as readily absorbed as heme iron but is still beneficial.

  • Egg Yolks: The yolk of the egg contains iron. One large egg yolk has about 0.4 mg of iron. Scrambled, boiled, or as an omelet, eggs are a tasty and nutritious way to boost iron intake.

4. Fortified Foods

Many non-vegetarian foods are also fortified with iron. Check the labels of the following foods:

  • Breakfast Cereals: Many breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, making them a convenient way to ensure your child gets enough of this essential mineral.
  • Bread and Pasta: Some types of bread and pasta are also fortified with iron, so check the labels when shopping.

Iron-Rich Vegetables for Non-Vegetarian Children

1. Spinach

Although most famous as a vegetarian source of iron, spinach can also complement non-vegetarian dishes, such as omelets and pasta.

  • Spinach: Spinach is rich in non-heme iron, providing about 3.6 mg of iron per cooked cup. Incorporate it into soups, omelets, or pasta dishes to boost your child’s iron intake.

2. Broccoli

Broccoli is not only a great source of iron but also packed with vitamins and minerals crucial for your child’s growth.

  • Broccoli: One cooked cup of broccoli contains around 1 mg of iron. Steamed or roasted, broccoli makes a delicious and nutritious side dish.

3. Potatoes

Potatoes are a versatile and iron-rich vegetable that kids generally enjoy.

  • Potatoes: One medium baked potato provides about 0.8 mg of iron. Serve baked or mashed potatoes as a side dish or incorporate them into soups and stews.

Tips to Increase Iron Absorption

In addition to incorporating iron-rich foods into your child’s diet, you can also take steps to maximize their iron absorption:

1. Pair Iron-Rich Foods with Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body absorb non-heme iron. Pair iron-rich foods with fruits such as oranges, strawberries, or kiwi, or vegetables like bell peppers or broccoli.

2. Avoid Foods that Inhibit Iron Absorption

Certain foods can inhibit the absorption of iron. Avoid giving your child calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, at the same time as iron-rich foods.

3. Cooking in Cast Iron Cookware

Cooking foods in cast iron cookware can increase the iron content of the food, especially if the food contains acidic ingredients like tomatoes.

Making Iron-Enriched Food Tastier for Kids

Iron-rich foods don’t have to be boring. Here are some tips to make them more appealing to your child:

1. Add Flavor

Incorporate herbs and spices to enhance the taste of iron-rich foods. For example, season chicken or beef with garlic, rosemary, or thyme to make them more flavorful.

2. Prepare Fun Shapes

Get creative with presentation. Use cookie cutters to shape sandwiches or cut vegetables into fun shapes to make mealtime more exciting for your child.

3. Make Smoothies

Blend iron-rich fruits like strawberries or kiwi with leafy greens like spinach. Add a bit of yogurt and honey to make a delicious and nutritious smoothie that your child will love.

4. Offer Dips

Kids love to dip their food. Serve iron-rich vegetables with a tasty dip, such as hummus or yogurt-based dip, to make them more appealing.


Ensuring that your child gets enough iron is crucial for their growth and development. By incorporating a variety of iron-rich foods into their diet and following these simple tips, you can help them maintain optimal iron levels and support their overall health. If you have concerns about your child’s iron intake, consult with a pediatrician or a registered dietitian for personalized advice. With a balanced and nutritious diet, your child can thrive and reach their full potential.

Remember, the key to a healthy and happy child is a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods!