Making Sense of Nutrition Labels

When it comes to choosing the right foods for your family, the nutrition label can be your best friend. Learning to read and understand the information offered by the label will help you to find the foods that offer the most nutrition with the least extra ingredients your body doesn’t need.

The Basics of Food Labels

The standard food label offers certain basic information about the calories, vitamins and minerals, sugars, fiber, and fat that the food offers. The first thing to pay attention to on the label is right at the top: the serving size. A food may seem to be low calorie until you realize that the label quote calories per serving and not for the entire package. Some packages may contain ten or more servings. The label will also tell you what a serving size is, and this is what all of the nutritional information on the label is based on.

Food labels will then list the number of calories per serving, and the number of calories in the food that come from fat. Below that, the label will list the Total Fat, followed by a breakdown of saturated and trans fat. Next, you will see the amounts of Cholesterol, Sodium, and Carbohydrates, which will be broken down into dietary fiber and sugars. Finally, you will see a listing for Protein.

Beneath this main information, you will see a list of the vitamins and minerals in the food. The main four that appear on all nutrition labels are Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. If the food does not contain any of these, you may instead see a message to this effect.

Next to each of the listed components of the food, there will be a number in grams followed by a percentage. The percentage tells you what percent of the recommended daily value of each item a serving of this food provides. Bear in mind that this is based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, and may not necessarily reflect what percentage of your daily intake the food provides. Especially for young children, whose calorie intake is much lower than an adults, these numbers can be misleading.

Finally, you will see an ingredients list that shows everything that went into the food, listed in order of how much of each was added. You will also see a warning regarding any potential allergens in the food.

What to Look for in a Healthy Food

The numbers that should really concern you when reading food labels are those under fat, sugar, sodium and fiber. Depending on the food you are choosing, fiber may be one of the most important considerations. Watch for foods that contain no trans fat, low saturated fat, and low sodium. You will also want low sugar, but high fiber. Not every food will contain a lot of each vitamin or minerals, but some foods are naturally high in certain nutrients, while others have been enriched with extra nutrients.

When reading the ingredients list, you might not be able to pronounce everything you see. Obviously, the less ingredients, the more natural the food and the healthier it is likely to be. Not every food additive is dangerous and some are even natural, but the more additives and preservatives in a food, the less healthy it is likely to be.

Of course, the healthiest foods don’t even have labels – fresh fruits and vegetables provide a great source of nutrition, so choose as many of those foods as you can for the freshest, healthiest source of good nutrition.

A Closer Look at Sweet Potatoes

Although sweet potatoes don’t spend nearly as much time on the average American plate as their paler cousins, they deserve a second look. Packed with nutrition, this traditional Thanksgiving food is a great choice any time of year.

With a yellow to orange colored flesh, sweet potatoes are often confused with yams; in fact, many people believe they are the same thing. They actually differ, with true yams being a little more rare in American supermarkets. Most of what people serve as yams are actually sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have a sweeter, moister flesh than that of the yam, which is not actually grown in the United States, but is imported from Caribbean countries. Yams don’t have the same nutritional value as sweet potatoes, so you are better off with the more common version.

Although traditional sweet potato pies and casseroles are often seen at a Thanksgiving feast, there is a lot more that can be done with this healthy root vegetable.

The Nutrition in Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are full of Vitamin A, providing an incredible amount in every serving. They are also high in Vitamin C and B6 as well as a good source of dietary fiber, iron, and potassium.

Sweet potatoes are also a source of antioxidants that are known to fight all kinds of diseases including cancer. Low in calories and fat, sweet potatoes offer a whole lot of nutrition for the small bite they take out of your daily calorie intake.

Cooking with Sweet Potatoes

You have probably heard of sweet potato pie, and may also have encountered a sweet potato casserole or two, but those two options barely scratch the surface of the sweet potato’s culinary usefulness. Good with the same spices you would use to cook pumpkin, such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves, sweet potatoes make delicious desserts. They can be added to all kinds of batters, including pancakes and waffles and baked into cookies, quick breads, and muffins.

Sweet potatoes also have plenty of savory applications. For starters, you can replace your same old French fries with sweet potato fries for a burst of color, and extra kick of nutrition, and an entirely new flavor. The sweet potato can also be prepared in many other ways you might serve regular potatoes, from mashed to roasted. They can even be baked whole and served with just a little butter for an easy and delicious side dish.

Although it’s less popular than pumpkin pie, at least in most of the country, sweet potato pie is a delicious treat that packs a powerful nutritious punch along with the sweetness. Sweet potatoes are also often paired with pecans in a pie, and don’t require as much sugar to sweeten the mix as the less sweet pumpkin does. Instead of adding more refined sugar, the sweet potato makes use of natural sweetness.

Like pumpkin, cooked sweet potatoes can be frozen for later use, which is more economical than buying canned. They can later be thawed for use in a variety of recipes.

Bring the sweet potato into your regular menu for a tasty, nutritious and economical side dish, or even a sweet treat. You might find your kids like it even more than the regular potatoes they usually eat. With a burst of color and a sweeter flavor, they are sure to become family favorites.

Creative Cooking with Cauliflower

Although it’s actually a member of the same family as broccoli, most cauliflower lacks the familiar green color shared by its relatives because it is shielded from the sun during growth by the leaves of the plant. In spite of the absence of chlorophyll, which is what gives broccoli, cabbage, and other green vegetables their color, cauliflower is still an incredible source of nutrients. Although traditionally seen in white, there are actually green, orange and also purple varieties of this vegetable. With a milder, almost sweet flavor, it might be easier to get your kids to give it a try.

On its own or mixed with other vegetables, cauliflower offers a flavorful, nutrition packed serving of healthy vegetables your family will love.

The Nutrition in Cauliflower

Just like broccoli, cauliflower contains enzymes and compounds that are known cancer fighters. These phytonutrients common to cruciferous vegetables help to eradicate free radicals and eliminate carcinogens from the body. New research on these incredibly healthy vegetables is uncovering more health benefits all the time, but there is already enough known to make them a must-have on your plate.

Cauliflower is packed with nutrients. It is an incredibly good source of Vitamin C, and also a good source of Vitamins K and B6 as well as folate. Cauliflower also provides dietary fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. It also offers a number of other vitamins and minerals.

How to Serve Cauliflower

Cauliflower makes a great side dish simply oven roasted with a little garlic, but it can also be cooked and served in a number of different ways. It’s great added to a salad or even served on a vegetable platter with dip. It can be cooked and mashed just like potatoes, or even mixed in with potatoes. Cauliflower is also delicious with a cheese sauce – instead of macaroni and cheese, try serving baked cauliflower and cheese with a crumb topping for a delicious and very healthy twist on a kid’s favorite dish. They might even like it better than the original!

Cream of cauliflower soup is a delicious new twist on the same old cream soups you eat all the time – try it instead of cream of mushroom. Cauliflower is also a great addition to a stir-fry instead of or right along with broccoli.

Because it bakes up very nicely, cauliflower works wonderfully in casseroles. It’s especially good with creamy sauces and pairs very well with chicken, eggs and pork. Add some to fettuccine alfredo to boost the nutritional content and compliment the creamy taste. Because it has a mellower taste than broccoli, it won’t overwhelm delicate flavors in your favorite dishes. Try it in an omelet with cheese, or in a quiche.

Because it has a similar flavor and texture to potatoes, without the starch, cauliflower makes a great replacement for them in a number of dishes. You can cook cauliflower in just about any manner you would potatoes. They’re a great change to the same old meat-and-potatoes meals!

For a versatile food that offers an incredible number of nutrients and health benefits, cauliflower just can’t be beat. Because it’s generally at its best during the cooler months, it also translates into a great comfort food for a cold winter’s day; but it’s equally at home at a summer picnic in a fresh tossed salad or all by itself!

Adding Leeks to Your Menu

Leeks are a little known but very flavorful cousin of the onion that deserve a place in modern cooking. With a mild flavor that lends itself well to all kinds of recipes, this delicious and healthy vegetable offers a great deal of nutrition. Although they appear to be a larger version of the green onion, a green onion actually has a much stronger taste. Leeks are a great choice for the onion flavor without overwhelming other elements of your food.

The Nutrition in Leeks

Leeks are a fantastic source of Vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate, which is essential to brain and eye development in young children. They are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. Leeks are low in fat and sugar, and provide dietary fiber.

How to Cook with Leeks

Unlike other members of the onion family, leeks aren’t particularly well suited to eating raw, and are usually cooked and used to flavor a variety of dishes.

Because leeks grow up out of the ground and have many layers like onions, they tend to collect a good bit of dirt and sand in between the layers. One of the first things you will need to do with fresh leeks is to wash them thoroughly. Make sure to get through all the layers to remove all of the dirt. The best way to do this is to cut through the middle of the leek and fan it out under running water. Discard the dark green portion of the leek and cook with the white and light green parts for the best flavor.

There are many soups that use leeks, some of them quite famous, including cock-a-leekie soup, a Scottish dish made from leeks and chicken stock, and the French-named vichyssoise. Although this leek and potato soup is often thought to be of French descent, it likely has its roots in America, and may be one of the best known uses for leeks. As one of the national symbols of Wales, the leek appears in a number of traditional Welsh dishes as well.

You can use leeks in just about any recipe where you might use onions, but be aware that it will change the taste. This can be a good thing if your kids aren’t a fan of the strong taste of onions, adding the nutrition without the overpowering flavor. Leeks are also a great choice for a lightly flavored dip for vegetables or even chips (go for vegetables for a healthier choice, though!).

Add leeks to stews, or throw some into the slow cooker with a roast or chicken. They are also a great addition to quiche, again offering a more mellow flavor than onions. Consider mixing leeks in with mashed potatoes to add a kick of savory flavor as well as extra nutrition. They are an excellent substitution for green onions (also known as scallions) or chives.

With a delicious mild flavor that is kid-friendly and a good dose of important vitamins and minerals, leeks are a great addition to your cooking routine, and will add new flavor to old dishes. Easy to find in most supermarkets, be sure to give leeks a try the next time you are looking to add a little more taste and a lot more nutrition to simple meals like soups or stews.

The Healthy Perks of Pumpkin

If you have never thought about pumpkin beyond your jack-o-lantern or Thanksgiving pie, you are missing out on a great ingredient that brings more nutrition to the party than you’d think. Cooked pumpkin has a number of great culinary uses in more than just pie. It is surprisingly versatile, and easy to use.

Although most people buy pumpkin canned, it’s very easy to cook your own from a fresh pumpkin. Pumpkins are a fall crop, but cooked pumpkin puree freezes wonderfully to be used any time you need it. Canned pumpkin is a quicker option, however, and still offers all the nutritional benefits, so don’t skip pumpkin just because you don’t have time to cook and puree it!

The Nutrition in Pumpkin

Pumpkin is an incredibly good source of Vitamin A, and also provides Vitamins C and E as well as many B vitamins including folate. It also offers calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

Low in fat and cholesterol, pumpkin adds a lot of nutrition for very few calories, making it a great food for those looking to fill up on a calorie-restricted diet.

How to Cook with Pumpkin

Look beyond your pumpkin pie; cookies, muffins, quick breads and scones are all a great place to use pumpkin. You will turn a sweet treat into something with a much bigger nutritional value simply by adding pumpkin to the batter. Baked goods involving pumpkin are often less sweet than other choices because pumpkin pairs so well with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, which add a lot of taste without a lot of calories.

That’s not all you can do with pumpkin, though! Make a delicious pumpkin soup or stew, or add pumpkin to chili – it will work great with the spices and adds creaminess and a distinct flavor. Add pumpkin to pasta sauces and use it to top noodles or layer in a lasagna. It makes a great addition to vegetarian lasagnas, adding flavor and texture without meat.

Pumpkin is also perfect in risotto and other creamy dishes; a smooth pumpkin puree gives substance and thickens a sauce. It brings a nutritional boost to dishes not always known for being healthy!

Although any pumpkin will do for cooking, there are certain pumpkins you should look for depending on what you are planning to make. Pie pumpkins are the best choice for pumpkin pie of course, but also better for baked goods due to a smoother texture and slightly sweeter taste. Most supermarkets will have them, as well as farmer’s markets. They are smaller than the pumpkins used for carving jack-o-lanterns.

Pumpkin is great at breakfast too! Try pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin oatmeal. With the right spices, you will think you are eating pumpkin pie for breakfast – and so will your kids!

Pumpkin doesn’t always have to be pureed. You can use chunks of pumpkin in much the same way you might use other types of squash. Roast it and mix it with other vegetables, or add it to a skewer with meat heading to the grill.

With its bright orange color, distinct flavor, and versatility, pumpkin can liven up many dishes and also add a great dose of vitamins and minerals. Keep some on hand in the freezer so you will have it available whenever inspiration strikes! Take pumpkin beyond Halloween and Thanksgiving for a great tasting, nutrition packed option that is perfect any time of the year.

The Many Uses for Mushrooms

While the most common mushroom in American kitchens is the white button mushroom, these staples of many world cuisines come in various forms from shitake to portobello. With a wide variety of flavors, sizes, and culinary uses, mushrooms are easy to add to many dishes.

Although mushrooms grow in the wild, there are many species that are poisonous. It’s best to stick to mushrooms purchased from your local grocer or farmer’s market to be on the safe side, unless you happen to be a mushroom expert! The poison in mushrooms can be fatal, so don’t take any chances.

The Nutrition in Mushrooms

Because there are so many varieties, the nutritional value of a mushroom can change depending on the type. Most types however, offer a wide variety of nutrients, including B Vitamins, potassium, iron, zinc, folate and Vitamin C. They are also a good source of dietary fiber and protein as well. Mushrooms contain a good dose of selenium as well, which makes them great immunity boosters.

New growing methods using ultraviolet lights infuse some mushrooms with a good dose of Vitamin D, which can be hard to get from other food sources. This tends to darken the mushroom’s skin, which might be a help in identifying mushrooms high in Vitamin D.

Mushrooms are low in fat and cholesterol and generally low in calories, making them a great way to fill up without adding a lot of empty calories to a meal.

How to Serve Mushrooms

Mushrooms are used around the world in any number of popular recipes. They can be eaten raw either whole or sliced into a fresh salad. They can also be cooked in a variety of ways, adding an earthy flavor to many dishes.

The type of cuisine can determine the type of mushrooms you would like to use, or vice versa. White button mushrooms are versatile enough to use in just about any dish where mushrooms are called for. Add them to soups, stews, rice pilaf or risotto. Cooked mushrooms make a great topping for a burger or a steak, with or without a sauce. Mushrooms are also a great addition to any gravy, as they go perfectly with both red meat and poultry too.

Cream of mushroom soup is a one of the most popular cream soups on the market, and is used in all kinds of recipes from casseroles to sauces. You can purchase it in cans, or even make your own at home for a fresh, healthy flavor.

Mushrooms are great tossed with pasta no matter what kind of sauce you are using, from tomato based sauces to alfredo, to even pesto. Try different species of mushrooms for variations in flavor. Mushrooms are a favorite topping for pizza – instead of ordering out, top a homemade pie with freshly sliced mushrooms.

Add mushrooms to breakfast by scrambling them with eggs and cheese, or adding them to an omelet. They also work great in other egg-based dishes such as quiche.

At just about every meal, fresh, healthy mushrooms can find a place. The uses for them are nearly endless, as they compliment so many flavors and add their own special taste without overwhelming a dish. At breakfast, lunch, or dinner, mushrooms pack a powerful nutritional punch along with great flavor that is like nothing else.

Add Apples for Good Health

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so the old saying goes – and for once there might just be something to the old wisdom. Apples are packed with nutrition and will help keep everyone in your family healthy.

With so many varieties of apples to choose from, the hardest part might be picking your favorite. Luckily, you don’t have to! Although some apples are better for certain culinary uses, choosing an apple to munch on as a snack can provide a new taste every time as you try all the different types on the market.

The Nutrition in Apples

Apples provide a good source of Vitamin C as well as dietary fiber. They also offer small amounts of many other vitamins including B vitamins. As most of the vitamin content is found in the skin, it’s best to eat the apple with the skin, and to cook with the skin intact as often as possible.

Because they are high in fiber, apples will help to keep you full, preventing overeating and helping to keep a healthy diet on track.

How to Enjoy Apples

Apples are a perfect snack to eat fresh and raw, either whole or cut into slices. They also pair beautifully with a sprinkling of cinnamon, or a delicious vanilla yogurt dip. Apples are easily portable and make a wonderful addition to a bag lunch or just a quick snack. Sliced apples are great in tossed salads, especially with a slightly sweeter dressing, and make a tasty addition to a chicken salad sandwich. Try apple slices instead of potato chips as a side dish to any sandwich for a crunch that’s healthier and more flavorful too! Raw apples, once sliced, are subject to the process of oxidation, which causes the flesh to turn brown. Eat them right away, or simply toss them in a small amount of lemon juice to stop the oxidation process.

Apples can be cooked in many different ways, both for sweet desserts and also savory dinner dishes. Of course the apple pie is a famous American favorite, and with only a little sugar and spice, it can actually be one of the healthier pie choices you can make. Skip the pie crust in favor of a crumbly topping mixed with oats for an apple crisp instead to bring down the calorie content a little.

Apples are also a top choice for mixing with oatmeal, as they cook nicely into soft bites and work well with the brown sugar and cinnamon flavors often added to hot cereals. They can also be added to muffins and quick breads.

Applesauce is a favorite first food for babies and also a healthy snack for older kids. You can easily make your own at home, and it freezes well for later use. Applesauce is often paired with pork chops, and a homemade chunky applesauce will always beat anything that comes from a jar!

Apples also go great with sweet potatoes, carrots, rice and raisins, opening up a whole new world of side dish possibilities. There is much more you can do with apples than just slice and eat, so be creative and bring apples to the dinner table more often. Adding their sweet flavor will have kids asking for seconds!

An apple a day may not be enough to keep you healthy, but it sure does help, so make apples a regular part of your diet.

Cooking with Cranberries: Healthy Treats

Although cranberries don’t get the same kind of buzz as other fruits, they are nutritional powerhouses that deserve a second look. Many people pass up cranberries due to their tart taste, which can make it difficult to convince children to eat them. But the tart flavor is perfect for taking the sweet edge off of other berries and fruits, and makes a great addition to a number of recipes your kids will love.

The nutrition in Cranberries

Cranberries are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, K, and E. They also provide calcium, potassium and phosphorus. They are low in fat and provide a good source of dietary fiber. Compared to many other fruits, they are low in sugar as well. Cranberries are one of the best sources of antioxidants, which are known to fight cancer, offer anti-aging properties, and generally promote good health.

Cranberry juice has long been popular as a preventative as well as a treatment for urinary tract infections, as it helps to fight the bacteria that cause the infection and prevent them from sticking to the inside of the urinary tract.

Great Ways to Eat Cranberries

While raw cranberries are by far the best choice, the most popular format for consuming cranberries is via cranberry juice, or the sweetened, dried version of the berry. Use caution with either of these last two options, as they will usually have extra sugar added, especially the dried version. Cranberry sauce or jellied cranberries are particularly popular around Thanksgiving as they are usually served with turkey.

100% cranberry juice is a good source of all the nutrition cranberries have to offer, but kids might find it too tart. Try a mixed juice like cran-apple or cran-grape, as long as it is still 100% juice and doesn’t have added sugar. Remember that one serving of juice per day is enough for a child.

Sweetened dried cranberries can be used anywhere you might usually use raisins. Add them to hot cooked cereal like oatmeal or cream of wheat, or simply offer a handful as a snack. Remember that they do have added sugar, however, so use them in moderation.

Raw cranberries are a very versatile berry, and the tart flavor compliments many other fruits in baked goods. Cranberries are a great addition to berry smoothies, and can also be added to muffins, pancakes, and other baked goods. For a delicious treat, an apple-cranberry pie can’t be beat.

Cranberries are also a wonderful addition to applesauce that can be served with pork or even just eaten as a snack. Use raw cranberries to make a homemade cranberry sauce you can serve not only with your Thanksgiving turkey, but with chicken or other poultry at any time of the year. You can also make cranberry preserves at home, for a tasty and healthier alternative to store-bought jams.

Adding cranberries to your diet as well as your child’s will add a real punch of nutrition with a unique flavor that is versatile in both sweet treats and with meat dishes. The tart cranberry is a great way to steer your child away from foods that are too sweet and full of sugar. Although they are probably too tart to eat the way you would other berries, by the handful, they compliment many other flavors and are well worth the effort for the incredible health benefits they offer.

Sweet and Healthy Cherries

Cherries are such a delicious treat; it’s hard to believe they are so good for you. Their bright red color is the result of powerful antioxidants that offer a number of important health benefits, and they are also a great source of vitamins. Available in sweet and sour (or tart) varieties, cherries offer something for everyone. Whether you eat them raw or bake up a special treat, you can’t go wrong with cherries for nutrition and taste.

Although they have a short growing season, cherries freeze well, making them available year round for cooking and baking.

The Nutrition in Cherries

Anthocyanins, the pigment that makes cherries red, have recently been shown to reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and also fight free radicals to prevent cancer. Research into the health benefits of cherries continues to uncover new information.

Cherries are a good source of Vitamins C and K as well as dietary fiber, potassium and magnesium. They are low in fat and cholesterol, and although they contain sugars, the fiber makes up for the simple carbs with more complex carbs too.

Serving Up Cherries

The most popular method of eating cherries is fresh and uncooked. Use caution when serving them to your children, however, as they do contain pits that could present a choking hazard. Fresh sweet cherries while in season are so tasty, your kids will think you are serving up candy, and they will certainly never guess how healthy they are!

Dried cherries are a great addition to trail mix, hot cooked or cold cereal, and pancakes. They’re also a great snack all by themselves. You can also use dried cherries anywhere you might use raisins, from oatmeal cookies to scones. Dried cherries also work great as a sweet touch to dinner recipes like risotto or pasta. The sweet fresh taste of dried cherries is fabulous in tossed salads too.

Use cherries as a replacement for blueberries in your favorite recipes, like cherry muffins instead of blueberry ones. You can also use sour cherries wherever cranberries are called for. Try a delicious cherry sauce in the place of cranberry sauce with turkey or other poultry dishes, or even with pork.

Cherries make a great smoothie – mix them with yogurt all by themselves, or add other berries such as strawberries or blueberries for a more complex flavor and even more extra nutrients. Cherry juice is a great beverage as well, filled with healthy antioxidants and a quick serving of fruit.

There is no way to talk about cherries without a mention of cherry pie. While not a low-calorie choice, if you are going to have dessert, you might as well make it a choice filled with healthy and delicious fruit like cherries. Make your pie filling from scratch with fresh cherries rather than using a filling from a can, to preserve nutrients and keep control of the sugar that is added. Tart or sour cherries are the best choice for pies and other sweet baking applications, as they won’t taste overly sweet when sugar is added.

When using frozen cherries, be aware that the machines that pit the cherries sometimes miss a pit, so look them over just in case, to avoid a painful tooth or choking hazard.

With an incredible flavor and a long list of benefits for your health, there is no reason not to add cherries to your diet. Look to them as a fresh snack or a great way to make baked goods healthier.

Help Your Baby Get More Iron

Iron is one of the most important minerals for health, growth and development in babies and toddlers. In recent years the incidence of iron-deficiency anemia in babies has gone down due to iron-fortified infant formulas and supplementation, but the risk is still very real. Especially in the second year of life, after your baby has been weaned from the breast or from formula feedings, getting the right amount of iron is of vital importance.

Why Does Baby Need Iron?

Iron helps the body to create new red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body to keep organs and muscles growing and functioning. Without enough iron, your baby’s body can’t grow and develop normally. When iron stores are depleted, your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen in the bloodstream, which can result in fatigue, poor weight gain, poor appetite and changes in heart rate. There are long term effects as well to severe cases of anemia, which could even lead to hospitalization and blood transfusions.

What Baby Foods Provide Iron?

The best sources of iron in your baby’s diet are fortified infant cereals and meat. Continuing infant cereal into the second year of life can help to prevent iron deficiency anemia in your baby. Meat and poultry are also great sources of iron, but many babies and toddlers don’t eat much of these foods because they can be difficult to chew. You can mix meats with fruits or vegetables to make them more appealing, or try meat in a soup, where it has been cooked in broth and become very tender and easier to chew. If your baby isn’t interested in meat, try eggs, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, beans, peas, and whole grain bread. Choose fortified foods whenever you can to add extra iron.

One of the major causes of iron deficiency anemia in older babies is drinking too much milk. Make sure that your baby is not drinking more than 24 ounces of milk a day. Milk in large quantities can block the absorption of iron and also cause bleeding in the stomach lining, leading to iron loss. Milk is a healthy and important part of your older baby’s diet, but it is possible to drink too much and do damage to your baby’s body, so keep on eye on baby’s intake.

What About Iron Supplements?

Most multi-vitamins for children contain iron, but it is always a good idea to double check. The vitamin drops used for babies should clearly state on the label that they contain iron. Follow the manufacturer’s and your doctor’s instructions for dosage, and do not mix vitamin drops containing iron in with milk, as it blocks the absorption of iron. If you can’t get your baby to take it directly, which is not unusual as it has a strong smell and taste, mix it with a small amount of fruit juice, or add it to food. Just make sure when adding it to food that it is a portion you are certain your baby will finish eating, in order to get all of the supplements.

Children who have developed anemia may need a stronger iron supplement to recover the stores their bodies have lost. Your doctor will discuss this with you if it becomes necessary. Luckily, iron deficiency anemia is entirely avoidable in most cases, as long as you make sure to add extra iron to your baby’s diet early on.

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