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Foods High in Iron for the Vegetarian or Vegan Child

Maryam Malekian • MS, Registered Dietitian • Nov 10, 2012

Iron is an important element in our body which helps with carrying oxygen in the blood, cell metabolism, and providing energy. Iron deficiency in children may lead to anemia, inability to think well, as well as an increased chance of infections.

Parents of young vegetarian or vegan should pay special attention to children's iron intake. If your child doesn't eat any fish, eggs and dairy foods, be sure to provide good food sources of iron. Unfortunately, plant sources of iron are not as well absorbed as animal sources, so care must be taken to emphasize rich sources of plant-base iron.

Plant Food Sources For Iron*:

Plant-base iron foods are:

lentils good source of iron for vegetarian children

  • lentils         
  • cowpeas also called black-eye peas
  • dried beans like kidney, lima, navy, black and pinto beans
  • spinach
  • iron-enriched breads
  • iron-enriched cereals
  • soybeans
  • firm tofu
  • broccoli
  • collard greens
  • turnip greens

Combination of these foods with good sources of vitamins C like orange juice, grapefruit and tomatoes will increase iron absorption.

Read good food sources of vitamin B12 for the vegetarian-vegan child

Iron Daily Requirements*


The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following daily iron requirements for kids and young adults:

Infants and children
  • Younger than 6 months: 0.27 milligrams per day (mg/day)
  • 7 months to 1 year: 11 mg/day
  • 1 to 3 years: 7 mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years: 10 mg/day
  • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
  • 14 to 18 years: 11 mg/day
  • Age 19 and older: 8 mg/day
  • 9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
  • 14 to 18 years: 15 mg/day



See All Our Nutrition Articles


Written by Maryam MalekianWritten on Nov 10, 2012Last updated on Oct 16, 2013



Monday, Feb 11, 2013 @ 08:56 AM

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I see spinach listed twice (although it is worth mentioning twice!). It's too bad the only real vegetable that is listed is spinach when there are so many other dark leafy greens and other more nutrient dense foods like quinoa, potatoes and apricots that could have been mentioned instead of processed foods like "iron enriched" breads. When we eat whole foods, our bodies do better at absorbing nutrients.
Nourish- Chef Solus
Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013 @ 11:53 AM

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Your right! We added a few more high iron dark green leafy vegetables. Thanks for the suggestions.

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