Parenting: Popeye the Sailor Man was right

August 8, 2012 7:49:55 AM PDT
Remember the children's cartoon from way back, Popeye the Sailor Man? He always ate spinach straight from the can to get the iron for his big muscles.

Turns out, we should be doing the same for our children. According to pediatricians more and more kids ages 1 to 3 are not getting enough iron.

Little ones need 7 milligrams a day. Their bodies use iron to make red blood cells which deliver oxygen throughout the body.

If they're low on red blood cells, that can cause growth deficiencies, learning problems and behavior issues.

Most pediatricians check a toddler's iron levels with a simple blood test between ages 6 months and 18 months. If your doctor hasn't done this yet, ask for it.

This is especially important if your child is overweight. The child may be eating a lot, but very little food that contains iron.

Symptoms of iron deficiency include: anemia, pale skin, fatigue, frequent headaches, dizziness, irritability, cold hands and feet.

Your pediatrician may suggest an iron supplement in the form of drops, cutting back on milk so your child is more likely to eat foods with iron, and varying their diet more.

What iron-rich foods might be a hit with kids? There are two kinds heme iron and non-heme iron - both types are worth eating.

Heme iron which is the most easily absorbed, is found in meat. Some heme iron foods include:

  • Lean beef
  • Lean pork
  • Poultry
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Eggs

    Some children don't like meat so there's also the non-heme iron found in plants. Some non-heme iron foods include:

  • Figs, prunes
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans (black, kidney, lima, pinto)
  • Tofu, hummus
  • Broccoli, greens, kale
  • Oatmeal, cream of wheat
  • Enriched breads, pastas, cereals
  • Raisins

    My toddlers need more iron in their diets. So I'm upping the meats and lowering the milk. I may even try sneaking some pureed kale in our next batch of brownies.

    Let's make it a healthier summer.

    Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.


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