Blog, Feeding Littles

My Kid Doesn’t Eat (Much) Meat …

You guys are in for a real treat. My good friend and fellow dietitian Caitlin is taking over the blog today. I am beyond thrilled to have her on Nurture and Nourish Nutrition because she is a mom – just like me and you. But beyond that, she is a plant-based momma. I know so many of you can relate to her from choosing a non-meat based diet to struggling with a child who just straight-up refuses meat. So without further ado….

My Kid Doesn’t Eat (Much) Meat

As a mom who is raising a vegetarian child, I often have non-vegetarian mom friends voice concern over their child rarely eating meat when it is offered. They’re usually concerned about their child’s iron intake from not eating enough meat and for good reason too. Iron deficiency (which means your body doesn’t have enough iron) can result in a more serious condition called anemia. When iron deficiency anemia happens, there is a reduced number of red blood cells which then lowers the amount of oxygen that can be carried throughout your the blood. This can cause a range of issues including mental fog, fatigue, and even behavioral and cognitive delays.1 Insufficient iron intake is so common with serious consequences that it is one of Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) top nutrients of focus for their clients.

Iron Deficiency and Anemia

Did you know that the risk of developing iron deficiency actually peaks during the toddler years?2 While there is a focus on iron intake around 6 months, due to depletion of iron stores, iron should remain a nutrient of concern for years to come.  

Iron Sources and Absorption

There are two types of iron – heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in meat and the form your body most readily absorbs. Non-heme iron, or iron found in plants, is best absorbed when eaten with foods high in vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Offering items from each non-heme iron and foods high in vitamin C can improve iron intake if your child may not choose to eat the meat option offered or if no meat is being offered at all. Caitlin has put together a FREE download graphic for you guys so you can take the complete list on-the-go or post it on your fridge!

See below for some pairing ideas!

Non-meat Iron sources

  • WIC approved cereals, iron-fortified infant cereal or other fortified grains
  • Beans and peas
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Leafy greens (like spinach, swiss chard, and kale)

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) Rich foods

  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomato
  • Strawberry
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Cantaloupe
  • Lemon and Lime juices

Additional tips:

  • Cooking acid foods like spaghetti sauce in a cast iron skillet or pan increases the amount of iron in the food
  • Avoid teas and coffee when eating plant sources of iron

Caitlin’s Favorite Quick Breakfast for Kiddos:

I love this breakfast because it is high in iron, vitamin C and fat.

  • 1-2 Tbsp iron-fortified infant oatmeal or cereal
  • 2 tsp PB2 powder
  • 1-2 tsp chia berry jam*
  • Milk (breast/formula, cows, or fortified soy) to desired consistency

*Thaw 2 cups frozen berries (triple berry mix is my favorite), add 1-2 Tbsp chia seeds, blend then refrigerate

For more awesome ideas from Caitlin follow her over at @nuggetsofnutrition


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