Patient Information

Iron diet sheet


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This is for anyone who wants to know how much iron they need in their diet and which foods are good sources of iron.

Why do I need iron?

You need iron to help form red blood cells and avoid anaemia (which means a lack of red blood cells). Symptoms of anaemia include any of the following:

  • tiredness
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • lack of appetite.

Iron is especially important during weaning (when a baby begins to eat solid food). Iron is also essential to help young children grow.

How much iron do I need?

The recommended daily intakes of iron are as follows:

GroupAgeIron per dayNumber of iron stars
(1 star = 1 mg of iron)
Babies4 to 6 months
7 to 12 months
4 stars
7 to 8 stars
Children1 to 10 years6.9 to 8.7mg6 to 8 stars
Boys11 to 18 years11.311 stars
Men19 years plus8.7mg8 to 9 stars
Girls and women11 to 50 years14.8mg14 to 15 stars
Womenover 508.7mg8 to 9 stars
  • Vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk of becoming iron deficient. It is important that they try to eat iron rich foods every day.
  • Eating foods rich in vitamin C with or after meals helps to absorb iron. Give your child fruit or fruit juice as part of their meal.
  • Tea and coffee reduce the absorption of iron. They are not suitable drinks for children.
  • Do not add bran to food as this can reduce iron absorption. However your child can eat bran-based breakfast cereals.
  • If your child has been prescribed iron supplements they must continue to take them. Ask your GP for advice if they cause constipation.

Animal sources of iron

Iron is better absorbed from animal sources. The richest sources of iron are liver, kidney, red meat and sardines.

FoodAmountIron stars (1 star = 1 mg of iron)
Liver (cooked)1 slice (25g)***
Mince beef, stewedaverage portion (60g)
Liver pâtémedium layer on bread (50g)***
Beef, lamb (roast)1 slice (30g)½
Pork, chicken (roast)medium average portion (60g)½
Ham5 thin slices (50g)½
Sausages2 x 30g*
Sardines (canned, in brine, drained)½ small tin (50g)* ½
Egg1 (large)*
White fish (baked)½ small fillet (60g)½
Tuna (baked)1 serving (60g)½
Tuna (canned, in brine, drained)1 small can (100g)
Salmon (grilled, baked)½ average steak (60g)½
Scampi (coated in breadcrumbs, baked)5 pieces (60g)
Fish fingers (grilled, baked)3 fish fingers (90g)½
Chicken nuggets5 chicken nuggets (80g)½

Vegetable sources of iron

Iron is less well absorbed from these foods. The richest vegetable sources are wholegrain cereals and breakfast cereal fortified with iron (this is always noted on the packaging). Other richest sources are pulse vegetables, dark green vegetables, nuts and dried fruit.

FoodAmountIron stars (1 star = 1 mg of iron)
Cheerios, Bran Flakes3 tablespoons (30g)*** ½
All Bran, 1x Weetabix, Rice Krispies3 tablespoons (30g)**½
Shreddies3 tablespoons (30g)**
Bread, wholemeal1 large slice (40g)*
Bread, white1 large slice (40g)½
Chapatti, wholemeal½ serving (60g)*
Pasta, brown, boiled150g serving**
Lentils, green/brown (cooked)1 large tablespoon (30g)*
Vegeburger100g**** ½
Baked beans½ small tin (100g)* ½
Kidney/black eyed beans, chickpeas2 tablespoons cooked*
Hummus¼ of a pot (50g)*
Tahini paste1 tablespoon (15g)* ½
Tofu, fried50g portion* ½
Peas (frozen, boiled)50g portion*
Broccoli (cooked)3 to 4 tablespoons (80g)*
Spinach60g portion
Raisins15g snack box½
Dried apricot (ready-to-eat)3 to 4 apricots (30g)*
Dried prunes (ready-to-eat)3 prunes (30g)*
Cashew nuts30g* ½
Mixed nuts30g*
Peanut butter1 tablespoon (15g)½
Milo powder3 teaspoons (approx 15g)**
Pumpkin seeds1 tablespoon (15g)* ½
Ovaltine powder25g sachet*** ½
Nesquik powder3 tsp (13.5g serving)** ½
Nesquik powder, reduced sugar3 tsp (13.5g serving)***½

Some menu ideas

Image of food

These are just a guide. Speak to a dietician if you need tailored dietary advice.

BreakfastBreakfast cereal with added vitamins and minerals (for example Special K or Weetabix) and fruit
Egg on wholemeal toast
Mid-morning snackHummus and carrot sticks or breadsticks
LunchHam or tuna wholemeal sandwich
Baked beans on wholemeal toast
Mid-afternoon snackSmall handful of dried apricots or cashew nuts
DinnerSpaghetti Bolognese
Lentil stew with spinach
Before bedGlass of full fat milk with Nesquik powder

This dietary advice was produced using the most up to date knowledge available at the time. Every care has been taken to give correct and up to date information.

More information

NHS logo
NHS information on iron-deficiency anaemia
QR code for NHS info on iron deficiency anaemia

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Iron diet sheet - Kingston Hospital Download PDF


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