How much iron do kids need (plus kid-friendly iron rich foods)

How much iron do kids need (plus kid-friendly iron rich foods)


At HNK we often receive messages from parents who are worried about their child’s iron intake, especially when kids are rejecting meat (common - check out my post on meat rejection).

Firstly, it can be helpful to understand that there are two different types of iron available in food:


The iron found in meat, fish and poultry. This iron is mostly easily absorbed.


The iron found in plant foods and some animal foods. This iron may require assistance to be absorbed effectively. Serving non heme iron with vitamin C or eating alongside a heme-iron source helps us absorb more iron.

When planning a child’s day of eating, we want to aim to include an iron rich food at as many meals and snacks as possible. The bonus is that many iron rich foods are a source of protein.

If you choose to consume red meat, note that the WHO and Cancer Council Australia recommend sticking to small portions a few times per week and limiting or avoiding charred, burnt and processed meats.

If you're wondering how much iron do kids need, here's the current guidelines (NRV):

1-3 years: 9mg iron/day
4-8 years: 10mg iron/day

Below you’ll find a few examples of how your child can get heme and non-heme iron. This is just a fraction of iron-containing foods (note, amounts are approximate and should not be used for clinical purposes).

Heme iron

  • Chicken liver (50g - around 1/3 cup) - 5.5mg iron - note chicken liver is high in vitamin A and should be limited to once per week, if you choose to offer it.
  • Beef (50g - around 1/3 cup) - 1.75mg iron
  • Salmon (50g - around 1/3 cup) - 0.64mg iron

  • Tinned tuna (95g tin) - 1.02mg iron
  • Hard boiled egg (1 large egg) - 0.8 mg
  • Chicken mince (50g - around 1/3 cup) - 

    0.35 mg iron

Non-heme iron

(consume with a source of vitamin C and ideally avoid serving with calcium-rich foods).
  • Weetbix (30g) - 4.2mg iron
  • Tofu (100g) - 2.96mg iron
  • Red Lentils (25g dried weight) - 2.28 mg iron
  • Sourdough bread (1 medium slice) - 2.3mg iron

  • Cooked spinach (50g) - 1.79 mg
  • Rolled oats (50g) - 1.75 mg
  • Chia seeds (20g) - 1.54mg iron
  • Chickpeas (1/2 cup) - 1.35mg iron
  • Dried apricot (30g) - 0.93mg iron
  • Wholemeal bread (1 slice) - 0.7mg iron
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup) - 0.43mg iron
  • Peanut butter (20g) - 0.34 mg

If you’re worried about your child’s iron intake or absorption at any time please chat to your doctor. If needed, IRON SUPPLEMENTS SHOULD ALWAYS BE PRESCRIBED AND MONITORED.

If you want to learn more about the foods that contain iron, protein, calcium, sugar, sodium, and nutrients to support immunity (to name a few) as well as how to get your child to actually eat these foods, check out my online course Meal Time Success



This article is for inspiration and educational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or dietician first before making any changes to your or your child’s diet or physical activity. The ideas, information and suggestions in this guide are purely those of the author and are not substitutes for consulting with your personal health care provider. The author will not accept responsibility for any action, or claim, resulting from the use of information contained in this article. 


Eat for Health, Aus Dietary Guid, guidelines.pdf, 2013 (accessed 12 Jan 2021).

E Whitney, SR Rolfes, T Crow, A Walsh. Understanding Nutrition, Australia, 4th edn., 2019.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Iron, aspx, 2019

Nutrient Reference Values, Iron,