Patient Information

Iron diet sheet


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 may 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
Important information graphic
  • Vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk of becoming iron deficient. It is important they try to eat iron rich foods every day, ideally with every meal.
  • If your child has been prescribed iron supplements, they should continue to take them as advised by your GP. Ask your GP for advice if the supplements cause constipation.
  • Some milks such as Arla Big Milk or Alpro Growing Up Milk (oat or soya) are fortified with iron. They may be a helpful addition, especially for children with a restricted diet.
Tips to help iron absorption
  • Have your iron rich food with fruit and vegetables high in Vitamin C (such as citrus fruit, fruit juice, vegetables). Vitamin C helps us absorb more iron from plant based foods.
  • Include animal and plant based food in the same meal to help boost iron absorption from plant sources.
  • 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.

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)
Egg1 (size 2 or less than 50g)*
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

Plant based sources of iron

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

FoodAmountIron stars (1 star = 1 mg of iron)
Cheerios, Ready Brek3 tablespoons (30g)*** ½
Cornflakes, Bran Flakes, Rice Krispies3 tablespoons (30g)**½
All Bran original40g*** ½
Bread, wholemeal1 large slice (40g)*
Bread, white1 large slice (40g)½
Kingsmill 50 50 vitamin boost1 slice**
Chapatti, wholemeal½ serving (60g)*
Pasta, wholewheat, boiled150g serving**½
Lentils, green or brown (cooked)1 large tablespoon (30g)*
Vegetarian burger100g**½
Baked beans½ small tin (100g)
Kidney beans or chickpeas2 tablespoons cooked (20g)½
Black eyed beans2 tablespoons cooked (20g)
Hummus¼ of a pot (50g)*
Tahini paste1 tablespoon (15g)*
Tofu, fried50g portion**½
Peas (frozen, boiled)50g portion*
Broccoli (cooked)3 to 4 tablespoons (80g)½
Spinach60g portion
Raisins15g snack box½
Dried apricot (ready to eat)3 to 4 apricots (30g)*
Dried prunes (ready to eat)3 prunes (30g)½
Cashew nuts ++30g**
Mixed nuts ++30g*
Peanut butter1 tablespoon (15g)½
Milo powder +6 teaspoons (approx 30g)*****
Pumpkin seeds1 tablespoon (15g)
Ovaltine powder +5 teaspoons***½

+ = Consider age appropriate options.

++ = Whole nuts are not recommended before the age of 5, due to risk of choking.

Over the counter iron supplements

Here are examples of over the counter supplements that may be helpful.

Brand nameTypeSuitable age (see packaging for dosage)
Boots A to Z Kids Daily HealthChewable3+ years
Health4AllKids tabletsChewable4 to 13 years
Wellkid Smart ChewableChewable 4 to 12 years
Wellkid MultivitaminLiquid4 to 12 years
Feroglobin Baby drops
4 to 24 months
3+ years
SpatoneLiquid sachets2+ years
Nature’s Aid iron mini dropsDrops3 months to 5 years
Nutrigen VitamixinSprinkles2 years to 12 years
Nutrigen Ferromixin SachetsSprinkles6 months to 12 years

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

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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


Paediatric Admin Team, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm 020 8934 6403

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