Making sure children get enough iron every day, throughout the day, will help them concentrate in school and perform better in sports. Ask your doctor how much iron your active child needs, then map a strategy if he needs more. Here’s what you need to know:

Heme and Non-Heme Iron

Poultry, fish and meat contain heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed two to three times faster than non-heme iron, which is found in plant- based foods. An easy way to increase absorption of iron from plant-based foods is to eat them along with foods that are high in vitamin C, or to drink orange juice with iron rich foods. Avoid drinking tea or coffee while consuming iron-rich foods – they decrease iron absorption.

Choosing Iron Fortified Cereal

Iron percentage in cereal is calculated based on the nutritional needs of women of child bearing age. The U.S. recommended dietary allowance for women of child bearing age is 18 mg, which is too much iron for children and adolescents. Serving sizes vary with cereal brands and products. Be sure to read the serving size on the nutrition facts panel.
You can choose to give your child a smaller serving, or choose cereal that indicates on the nutrition facts panel that it has 50 percent to 75 percent of the daily value of iron. Remember that cereal contains non-heme iron, which is not absorbed fully by the body, so the amount absorbed will probably be less than the percentage indicated on the box.

Getting Enough Iron is Easy

Choose iron-rich foods from the list to add up to the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) of iron for your child’s age group. You will help your children do better in academics, on the playground, in the arts and in sports.

 – Sarah Yale

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