Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pump up the iron

My grandson has just turned twenty months old. He is a happy, smiley toddler; people who see him while we’re out shopping invariably want to talk to him – and he always makes them smile.

The toddler years are a period of amazing intellectual and communication learning, and while physical growth has slowed down compared to babyhood, nutrition is still key. Now is the time, between 12 and 24 months, when a toddler is adapting to eating the same foods as the rest of the family by trying out new tastes and textures (some not readily accepted, admittedly!).

After the first year of getting most of their nutritional needs from breast milk or formula, toddlers usually progress to cow’s milk. Cow’s milk provides calcium and Vitamin D, but it is low in iron – his formula and baby cereal were more than likely fortified with iron – and drinking a lot of cow’s milk can lead to iron deficiency. A child who drinks large quantities of cow’s milk is likely to be less interested in eating iron-rich foods. Milk lowers the absorption of iron, too.

Iron is required for the production of red blood cells. These are the blood cells that absorb oxygen and carry it around the body; a lesser supply of red blood cells leads to a lower oxygen supply, which can be detrimental to mental and physical development. What can you do to ensure he gets the recommended 7mg of iron that he needs each day?

  • Limit your toddler’s milk consumption to 500 – 750ml (2-3 cups or 16-24 fluid ounces) per day.
  • Provide iron-rich foods – meat, poultry, fish, beans, tofu, iron-fortified cereal, eggs, broccoli, raisins.
  • Serve foods rich in Vitamin C (which improves iron absorption) along with the iron-rich foods - tomatoes, oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, berries.
I know. Some days it’s an achievement to get a toddler to eat anything! Just stay patient and keep trying.

Never give your toddler a vitamin or mineral supplement without first checking it out with your doctor or pediatrician.



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