In this complete guide to iron-rich foods, we will go over everything you need to know about what iron is, how much baby, toddler, and kids need in their diets, lists of the best iron-rich foods, plus over 50 easy iron-rich recipes that contain both animal and plant-based iron sources.

Graphic for Post- iron rich foods baby, toddler and kids - complete guide and over 50 recipes. Images are in a grid on colorful kids plates with iron rich foods.

Medically reviewed and co-written by Jamie Johnson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Iron Rich Foods for Baby

Confused about what iron is and why your child needs it? Then you have come to the right place!

Iron is essential for growing babies, toddlers, and kids, as it helps with brain development. It’s also essential for producing red blood cells, which sends oxygen from our lungs to different parts of the body. While babies are born with enough iron stores to last them until 6 months of age, it is important to make sure you are providing enough iron in their diets after their iron reserves are depleted.

In this complete guide to iron, we will go over everything you need to know about what iron is, how much baby, toddler, and kids need in their diets, lists of the best iron-rich foods, plus over 50 easy iron-rich recipes that contain both animal and plant-based iron sources.

Check it out! Looking for even more great recipes for your little one, then be sure to check out my best-selling cookbook for even more information and recipes.

Iron Rich Foods Video

Watch to see what iron-rich foods are best for your baby or toddler.

Why is Iron Important?

Iron plays a role in many different functions in our body. Most notably, it is important in producing red blood cells, which carry oxygen from our lungs to different parts of the body. Iron helps support the immune system and helps regulate body temperature. It’s also needed for brain development and maintaining healthy hair, skin, and nails, and making hormones. 

What is Iron Deficiency?

Iron deficiency anemia happens when there is not enough iron in the body to properly make red blood cells. This can affect brain growth and development in children, which can lead to learning and behavioral problems. Some side effects of iron deficiency anemia are fatigue, weakness, irritability, pale skin, fast heartbeat, cold hands and feet, more frequent infections, brittle nails, headaches, poor appetite, or cravings for non-food items like ice or dirt. 

Babies who drink cow’s milk before the age of 1 (which is not recommended) and toddlers who drink too much cow’s milk are at risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia because it can interfere with iron absorption. Ensure your toddler is not drinking more than 16-24 ounces a day of cow’s milk. 

Signs of Iron Deficiency in Babies

  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Poor appetite or craving non-food items (like ice or dirt)
  • Brittle nails

Most infants are usually screened for iron-deficiency anemia by 12 months of age, but if these symptoms sound like they are describing your baby, please contact your pediatrician.

Does my Baby or Toddler need an Iron Supplement?

Babies usually have enough iron stores to get them through their first four-six months. If your baby is breastfed, it is important to give baby iron-rich foods when they are ready to start solids or give a supplement. This is because breast milk lacks iron. On the other hand, most infant formulas are fortified with iron, so this is not as much of a concern for these babies. In many cases, a diet full of iron-rich foods can raise iron levels to where they need to be. But your baby may need an iron supplement if her iron is low enough to warrant one, and your pediatrician feels that diet alone may not be enough to raise it. Your pediatrician may also recommend a supplement if your baby is premature, has a low birth weight or has a health condition that affects iron absorption.

How Much Iron Does my Baby or Child Need?

Infants 0-6 Months: need .27 mg a day, which is usually met through breastfeeding or iron-fortified infant formula. After six months, natural iron stores are depleted and iron needs increase due to rapid growth of your child. 

Infants 7-12 Months: need 11 mg a day, which can be met with complementing breast milk or formula with iron-rich foods or an iron supplement.

Best Iron Rich Foods for Babies

Fortunately, there are a ton of great iron-rich foods that are great for your baby as a puree or as a finger food if you are doing baby-led weaning.

Note: heme iron, most concentrated in animal sources, will be better absorbed by the body, as opposed to nonheme iron, which is mostly found in plant sources. If you do not follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, try to serve a mix of animal and plant sources of iron to your baby. 

Favorite Iron-Rich Recipes

With thousands of views, these recipes are our reader’s favorite recipes.

white bowl full of apple and kale baby food puree.

Apple + Kale Baby Food Puree

5 stars (6 ratings)
This smooth and sweet baby food puree is a fun and easy way to introduce mighty kale to your little one.
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How to Serve Meat to Baby: Chicken Meatballs

5 stars (12 ratings)
These soft and tender chicken meatballs are a great finger food for babies. Plus, this post has 5 more simple meat recipe ideas for baby – puree, mashed into a chunky puree, served on the bone, shredded, or served in strips as a finger food or for baby-led weaning.
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Teal plate with breakfast for baby - scrambled eggs, avocado and chopped strawberries.

Scrambled Eggs for Baby

5 stars (5 ratings)
These Easy Scrambled Eggs are the perfect finger-food for baby – soft, fluffy and delicious! Great for Baby-Led Weaning!
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Homemade Quinoa Baby Cereal (4+ months)

4.59 stars (58 ratings)
This smooth and creamy Homemade Quinoa Baby Cereal has an earthy and robust taste and is loaded with protein, fiber, iron, folate and magnesium. It’s great served as a meal itself or mixed with baby’s favorite fruit or vegetable puree.
Get the recipe
Small white bowl with spinach apple puree inside with baby spoon resting on top.

Spinach Apple Baby Puree (Stage Two)

4.76 stars (45 ratings)
This Spinach Apple Baby Puree is high in iron and a perfect food to introduce to baby around 6 months. With the addition of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, this stage two combination puree tastes amazing!
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A colorful muffin tin with spinach muffins against a white background with a purple navigating.

20 Minute Spinach Muffins for Kids & Toddlers

4.78 stars (40 ratings)
Nourishing, veggie-filled muffins coming right up! These homemade Spinach Muffins are easy and quick to make with the help of a high-powered blender. They’re made with fresh spinach, applesauce, and no refined sugar—they’re a great option for breakfast, a healthy snack, and perfect for school lunch boxes, too! Great for 9+ months and up!
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Best Iron Rich Recipes for Babies

Best Iron Rich Recipes for Baby-Led Weaning

How Much Iron does my Toddler or Child Need?

Children ages 1-3 need 7 mg a day
Children ages 4-8 need 10 mg a day
Children ages 9-13 need 8 mg a day

For reference, here are some of the top foods my kids eat and how much iron they have:

  • Peanut Butter: 0.6 mg
  • Cereal (iron-fortified): 3.4 mg
  • Chicken: 1.8 mg
  • Eggs: 0.6 mg
  • Spinach Smoothie: 2.7 mg

Thankfully there are plenty of good sources of iron in easy-to-find and low-cost foods that can be found at most grocery stores. And chances are you are probably already serving some iron-rich foods to your child. An easy way to make sure they are getting enough iron is to aim for them to eat 2-3 servings a day of any of the foods listed below.

While that may seem like a lot, remember that toddler and child portions are generally smaller than you would think, and it may be possible they are already eating the recommended amount.

Serving Sizes for Toddlers and Kids

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these are the recommended serving size for a child between:

1 and 3 years of age

  • Grains: 1/4 – 1/2 slice of bread, 1/4 cup of cereal, pasta or rice
  • Vegetables: 1 tbsp for each year of age
  • Fruit: 1/4 cup canned or 1/2 piece of fresh
  • Dairy: 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 oz cheese, or 1/3 cup of yogurt
  • Protein: 1 oz (equal to two 1-inch cubes of solid meat or 2 tbsp of ground)
  • Eggs: 1/2 any size, yolk and white
  • Beans: 2 tbsp

4 and 6 years of age

  • Grains: 1/2 slice of bread, 1/3 cup of pasta or rice, 1/2 dry cereal
  • Vegetables: 1/4 cup cooked or 1/2 cup salad
  • Fruit: 1/3 cup canned or 1/2 piece of fresh
  • Dairy: 1/2 cup of milk, 1oz cheese, or 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • Protein: 1oz (equal to two 1-inch cubes of solid meat or 2 tbsp of ground)
  • Eggs: 1 egg any size, yolk and white
  • Beans: 1/3 cup cooked

7 and 10 years of age

  • Grains: 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of pasta or rice, 1 cup dry cereal
  • Vegetables: 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup salad
  • Fruit: 1/3 cup canned or 1 piece of fresh
  • Dairy: 1 cup of milk, 1oz cheese or 3/4 cup of yogurt
  • Protein: 2-3oz of meat
  • Eggs: 1 or 2 eggs
  • Beans: 1/3 cup cooked

Best Iron Rich Foods for Toddlers and Kids

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb
  • Dried Fruit: apricots, raisins, prunes, dates, etc
  • Dark Greens: spinach, kale, collard green, etc
  • Lentils
  • Eggs
  • Chicken, Turkey
  • Quinoa
  • Beans, Lentils and Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Peanut Butter
  • Fish and Shellfish
  • Iron-Fortified Grains: such as cereals, bread or tortillas

Best Iron-Rich Recipes for Toddler + Kids

Foods with Vitamin C

To achieve maximum absorption, it is important to serve foods with vitamin C alongside foods with iron. Here is a list of foods that are high in vitamin C.

  • Red and Green Bell Peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Pineapple
  • Cauliflower
  • Mango
  • Peas
  • Tomatoes

Some great combinations would be to add in chopped red or green peppers while cooking ground beef or chicken, adding in oranges to a spinach smoothie, cooking broccoli and egg cups, serving a piece of fortified bread with peanut butter with a side of pineapple chunks as a snack, etc. There are plenty of easy options that allow you to get both vitamin C and iron into your child’s diet.

Graphic for Post- iron rich foods baby, toddler and kids - complete guide and over 50 recipes. Images are in a grid on colorful kids plates with iron rich foods.

Get the recipe: Best Iron-Rich Foods for Baby, Toddler & Kids: Broccoli Egg Cups

5 stars (5 ratings)
These wholesome iron-rich Broccoli Eggs Cups are filled with eggs, broccoli and cheese and are filled with iron for your baby.


  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk, regular, almond, coconut, hemp, etc
  • 1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste, optional


  • Prep: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 8 muffin tins with silicone muffin molds or generously spray with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
  • Whisk: In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together.
  • Stir: Add in the broccoli, cheese, salt and pepper and stir until combined.
  • Pour: Carefully pour the egg mixture into the muffin tins until 3/4 the way full.
  • Bake: place the muffin tin in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until eggs have set and the cheese is golden brown.


Age: 6+ months
Storage: in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Reheat Frozen: to reheat the frozen egg cups, simply place on a microwave-safe plate and microwave in 30-second intervals until warm.

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