When preparing meals at home, do you consider its nutritional value? Or do you just prepare meals according to your family’s preferences? When grocery shopping, do you often stop for a moment to read the label, or do you just grab the usual products you purchase? Feeding problems are very common, especially in very young children. However, parents need to keep on encouraging kids to eat well-balanced meals, so that certain health conditions can be prevented.

Young children can be very difficult to feed, and when they don’t get enough iron in their bodies, they may get iron-deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia, and the majority of cases in children are due to a diet low in iron. Iron is needed by the body in order to form hemoglobin, or the blood component responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. When iron is deficient, it can lead to mental, motor and behavioral problems in children.

Children are prone to developing iron-deficiency anemia, and it helps to know that full term babies are born with iron stores, which can only last for 5 or 6 months. Most babies develop iron-deficiency anemia if they are not breastfed or given iron-fortified formula before they reach one year old. Check with your doctor whether iron supplements are necessary, after a child turns six months old. When starting to feed your child solids, check the label and make sure it is iron-fortified. With your doctor’s approval, you may also serve pureed meats, and other food items that are high in iron.

After a child’s first birthday, he should already eat food from the different food groups. A one year old child only needs 16 ounces of milk each day. If your child still relies on milk as his primary source of nutrition, it may not be enough to provide him the necessary nutrients needed for his age.

Taking in too much milk or juice may lead to anemia because these can take the place of food, which can provide the necessary iron that a child needs. When your child asks for more sweetened drinks or beverages in between meals, it may be best to offer water instead. Remember, children get most iron from the food they eat, and when they are full before mealtimes, they may no longer eat well.

You may also serve iron-fortified cereal, but it has to contain at least 45% of the daily value (DV) for iron in each serving. Serving cereal to toddlers may be good because they are always on the go, and cereals actually go beyond being just a breakfast food for many active kids. Plan your meals at home, and include good sources of iron in your menu like meats, poultry, fish, whole grains, dark green vegetables, legumes, prune juice, and enriched bread, pasta or cereal.

Aside from ensuring that your child is eating iron-rich foods, it is also important that he consumes enough Vitamin C in his diet. This is essential because Vitamin C helps increase iron absorption. Good sources of Vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, cantaloupes, watermelons, broccoli, tomatoes and other green leafy vegetables.

The nutritional needs of a child may vary depending on his developmental stage. Thus, it is very important to keep well-baby check-ups, so that you can be guided in terms of providing the right nutrients for your growing child.