As the mom of 3 competitive swimmers, their everyday nutrition becomes more important and I work each day to make sure that they are receiving most of what they need – I use the word “most” because this feeding thing is hard, especially for kids who eat all.the.time.
It is a challenge and sometimes, I dare say, struggle to make sure they are getting enough calories, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3s….and iron. I now have a teenage daughter and for her, I worry about iron.
Sure, I could have her pop a multivitamin everyday, but I would much rather have her get her nutrients from food. There is so much more to a food than single nutrients. Multivitamins are strictly used in our house as an insurance policy. If I can remember, my kids will take one probably once a week.
Multivitamins last so long in our house, that the iron starts coming out and my kids give the face when I tell them to take it (you know the face). If you are using strictly gummy multivitamins – make sure you are looking at that label. Not all gummy vitamins have iron, calcium, and vitamin D – 3 super important nutrients for kids.
So, if you have a child in sports, why is iron so important? The answer is actually pretty simple. Iron is part of red blood cells that help deliver oxygen to muscles.
Not enough iron? Your athlete will be tired, may get sick easier, and they won’t perform as well – those are the dreaded 3 in sports.
How Much Iron?
So first, how much iron does your child need? Here’s the breakdown…
Girls – 8 mg
Boys – 8 mg
Girls – 15 mg
Boys – 11 mg
Obviously, this is dependent on development, so take these numbers and adjust according to your child. This specifically applies to girls who have started their period, that’s when iron needs go up.
Food Sources of Iron
Now that you know how much iron your child needs, where do you get it? You can get iron from both plants (non-heme iron) and animals (heme iron). Heme iron is absorbed better than non-heme iron, but adding something with vitamin C in it (strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc) can help their bodies absorb iron better.
I’m a huge advocate for getting more bang for your buck, so anytime you can increase their body’s ability to absorb the iron, go for it.
- White Beans (1/2 cup cooked) – 4 mg
- Spinach (1/2 cup cooked) – 3 mg
- Lentils (1/2 cup cooked) – 3 mg
- Lean Beef (3 ounces) – 2 mg
- 1 medium potato – 2 mg
- Cashews (18 nuts) – 2 mg
- Hard boiled egg – 1 mg
- Fortified cereals – varies, but sometimes you can get 100% of your needs from this
*Never give your child an individual iron supplement without first speaking with their pediatrician – they may not need it.