Combating Low Iron
Combating low iron
Pre Christmas my 10-year-old, Evie took a bad bout of tonsillitis. She was poorly (as was half of the UK) over the entire Christmas and New Year period. The actual tonsillitis cleared up in about a week after a course of antibiotics but the worst part for her was the on-going fatigue, which seemed to last for weeks and weeks. Now seeing, my usual energetic, full of life daughter so tired and sleepy was upsetting and worrying – you always fear the worst, so we took her for some blood tests and discovered she was suffering from low iron.
The doctor prescribed us Galfer Syrup, a liquid iron supplement which Evie took twice a day. It started making a difference fairly quickly, but we also made, and continue to make, real efforts to increase her iron levels in other ways. Here I’m giving some of my personal experience, along with some tips from other experts on how to get enough iron into our active girls.
What is iron and why do we need it?
Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the part of our red blood cells that carries oxygen to the lungs. Iron gives hemoglobin the strength to carry oxygen in the blood so the oxygen gets to where it needs to be. Without enough iron, the body can’t make hemoglobin and makes fewer red blood cells. This means tissues and organs won’t get the oxygen they need. Many teen girls are at risk of iron deficiency, especially if they have heavy periods and young athletes (like ours) are also very prone. Kids aged 4-8 need 10 milligrams while older kids aged 9-13 need 8 milligrams daily.
Good old-fashioned lentil soup
Lentils are packed full of iron and thankfully there’s nothing Evie loves more than a bowl of soup, so we made a big pot every week and made sure she tucked in as often as possible. If you’ve never made lentil soup before, it couldn’t be easier. My recipe is; a leek, plenty of carrots, a few stalks of celery, a potato to thicken it up, lentils and stock. And of course, it has to be served with crusty bread and thick butter!
Meatballs for days….
Over the past few years we’ve tried to decrease the amount of red meat we’ve been eating, given the environmental benefits, but since red meat is such a rich source of iron, red meat was firmly back on the table. We stuck to the usual favourites, bolognaise, meatballs and chilli and ate it at least twice a week to build her up. Fun fact – iron from animal sources is more easily absorbed than iron from plant sources.
Another favourite of Evie’s is tuna, and it’s a really good source if iron. There’s just less than 2mg in a tin so it’s a great option for lunch, and most kids love it. We popped it into sandwiches and wraps and made baked potatoes for dinner. Baked potatoes are also a great source of iron – but only if you eat the skin. One medium potato with the skin as more then 3mg of iron.
We’re not big dried fruit eaters in this house, but things like dried mango and raisins are high in iron. A box of raisins has about 1mg of iron which is not bad for a little snack. They are also high in potassium and a great source of B vitamins. Things like dried apricots and dates are also a great option.
Not the first vegetable that comes to mind when you think of kids but there’s a reason popeye loved his spinach – it’s an amazing source of iron. Now there is no way Evie was going to eat spinach on its own so I turned to one of our favourite family meals – Pinch of Nom’s Creamy Tuscan Chicken. If you haven’t tried it then you really should give it a try. It’s a delicious creamy chicken with fresh tomatoes and the spinach his subtle enough for kids to enjoy.
Thankfully Evie now seems to be back to her old-self but we are making sure her iron levels stay topped up by really trying to include iron rich foods in her diet. The getting to bed early is another story….